Now that the dust has settled on the US election, with a clear and confident victory for Barak Obama and IMHO the US people in general, I thought I’d take a little look at my personal experience of election day, which, if you know me you’d be aware, was conducted entirely online.
Even today I received a tweet that the Obama campaign chose Apple and are very technologically aware. Gone are the days when modern heads of state can consider online communications something aides and secretaries and PAs do and stay personally removed from it. It is very interesting to hear Republican pundits talking about Obama’s “bottom up” approach and him being an “open-source” candidate.
Alex Castellanos cites the book The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which, without going into too much detail, discusses the difference between older, Industrial-Age models of “top-down” approaches versus more modern (some might say “older and more historically successful”) models of “bottom-up”, collaborative, inclusive and flexible ways of getting things done.
That’s the place I was in while watching the election; although “watching” is a very loose description, as I was in a way, immersed in it, alongside the other activities I was involved in (coding, email, music, etc.). What was fascinating for me that day was what was happening in the twitterverse and how so many people were sharing not only the experience, but disparate online resources, to share facets of the election experience together.
I don’t need to list them all but to give you a flavour, there were people sharing links to live electoral maps of varying quality and scope, quoting and referencing mainstream news sources alongside more esoteric, specialist, independent or underground news, redistributing, retweeting and republishing opinions, facts, vids and images from the past two years, all relevant to the November 5 elections; all in their own way, personal. One tweep even corroborating a previous comment with three sources, one, an email from his aunt in the states, who got a text from Illinois. Horse’s mouth indeed! It really did exemplify what a friend called “a public conversation”.
I was also reminded of the discussions in campaigning circles these past few years about the effect of the internet on any political campaign, worried about embarassing information coming out. One tweet reminded me that YouTube was launched (Feb-May-Dec 2005) AFTER the last US election and is now already a mainstream information channel (as well as a place to watch idiots riding their bikes of of suburban rooftops) for many people. A few minutes (minutes!) after Obama was declared the winner there were compilation videos and tributes available on YouTube and uStream announced they were the official streaming partner of the campaign, ready with a video stream of his acceptance speech.This at a time when it was discovered (we knew it before they did!) that McCain staff had turned off TV displays with the live information people there were wanting.
And I am certain that even the politically unaware have heard of the Palin/Sarkozy telephone prank or the video of Palin attempting to deny she previously thought Africa was a country. Google it yourself if you haven’t.
But this is exactly the “bottom-up”, bazaar world we are now in, where news travels as fast as one can hit the return key and a million people can be reading each other simultaneously and that comments from very different sources (trad news/actors/friends/colleagues/strangers) can all have a place for us and WE do the aggregating ourselves. If you want to talk about grass-roots politics we the people are doing it for ourselves and I m very hapy to see that there is a plac e for free and open conversation, real conversation in the twitterverse.