The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

A prophecy fulfilled

While reviewing Dan Gillmor’s We The Media for my comprehensive exams, I came across an interesting prediction about the 2008 campaign.

Gillmor had just spent pages talking about the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, how his choice to open up the lines of conversation using Web tools helped fuel his rise from a nobody to the front runner by the end of 2003. The grassroots organization that happened via social networking became an engine for activism, volunteerism, and fund-raising.

While many looked at Dean’s subsequent implosion as a sign that all of the Web activity was merely a bubble, Gillmor rightly said those critics are off base. His fall from the top of the heap isn’t a sign the movement wasn’t sustainable; it was a sign that using interactivity on the Web can turn an unknown into a contender. What Gillmor noted is it takes the right kind of candidate to lead that kind of a movement. Dean wasn’t it, but they do exist.

Then he closes the discussion with this, written in 2005:

Open-source politics is about participation – financial as well as on the issues of policy and governance – from people on the edges. People all over the world work on small parts of big open-source software projects that create some of the most important and reliable components on the Internet; people everywhere can work on similarly stable components for a participatory political life in much more efficient ways than in the past. … A safe prediction: Net-savvy campaigning will be the rule by 2008, and it will be lower-level candidates who do the next wave of innovating.

Sound like anyone we know? It’s hard to believe, but a year ago Barack Obama was given no chance at the Democratic Party nomination. But I continue to believe one big reason for his success is he understood the Internet better than any other candidate. It isn’t just fundraising; his Web site is fully interactive and implements social networking tools that allow people to connect to one another. This allowed people “on the edges” (as composed to people at “power centers” who control all decisions; this is a big concept in Gillmor’s book) to get his message out. Eight years ago, it’s hard to imagine Obama finding success using the old template.

Crossposted at Creative Destruction


July 18, 2008 Posted by | Jeremy Littau | Leave a comment