7 thoughts on “Lauren Gelman on Internet and campaigning

  1. John,

    This article is somewhat interesting, but Gelman isn’t really addressing the role of the mass media in the election cycle. While you can criticize Dean for false steps, and he made many, it’s not possible to analyze the Dean campaign and its problems without recourse to a heavily reactionary media infrastructure that did advocate aggressively against an open campaign that it largely did not understand. The other component she missed is that the Dean campaign was largely successful in the political component; John Kerry and John Edwards sound a lot more like Dean – anti-war, anti-special interest, heavily anti-Bush – than they do themselves. Dean’s mistake was that his movement wasn’t about Dean, but about changing politics. Once enough of the politics were changed to blur the distinctions between himself and the other candidates, he wasn’t compelling anymore. Centralization versus Decentralization has very little to do with Dean’s failure, actually. The Dean folk were extremely focused on precisely this problem, probably to the detriment of focusing on other, more salient problems, like how you get your ‘1’s to the caucuses. Here’s a few more nits:

    Nevertheless, even the Dean campaign still maintains a centralized, filtered, top-down approach to electioneering. They tout the 181,555 Dean supporters who attend Meetup.com’s Meetup for Dean — but these occur only once a month, on the day the organization chooses, with the organizer receiving a script from the campaign. Similarly, the next Dean House parties will all occur during the Superbowl.

    This demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the Dean campaign. The Dean Get Local tools enabled anyone to plan a Dean event, and anyone to sign up for it. It was very successful in terms of the number of events planned, precisely because it was decentralized.

    Currently, the Dean campaign might choose a blogger who supports Dean, and put him on the Dean bus to blog about the campaign’s day. But there’s a key difference between that, and having hundreds of citizen bloggers who attend Dean events, writing their impressions–good or bad– on their own blogs. And it is the latter that’s revolutionary.

    I’m not quite sure what she means. This IS what happened. People blogged about Dean, lots of them, and not just Dean supporters. But most ‘citizen-bloggers’ aren’t confident enough in their understanding of politics to venture an opinion for public scrutiny. But Dean encouraged talk and dissent.

    In these many conversations, voters can deliberate as to campaign strategies, policies, and even candidates. A candidate’s official site will never be able to be as frank about his or her weaknesses as an independent discussion among voters can be; yet addressing these weaknesses may be the only way to convince undecideds.

    The implication here is that the Dean campaign was ‘spinning’ consistently, regulating the comments on it and on the thousands of other blogs talking about Dean. This isn’t the case; there was plenty of frank discussion about Dean to be had on his blog and elsewhere. That the internet public sphere wasn’t large enough to handle the mass media onslaught, and that Dean’s campaign critically misjudged their ‘real’ level of support among non-Dean supporters, is evidence of a lack of diverse chatter but a lack of judgment as to who to listen to at a critical time.

    The many-to-many concept used in Election 2004 is a major innovation. But it is far from all the potential the Internet offers when it comes to elections. Why? Because the discourse, debate, and artistry are still all centralized.

    If she’s talking about ABC, NBC, and CBS, then she’s right. Otherwise, this is absolute nonsense. The blogosphere, in which Dean was an eager participant, has many places to discuss all of these issues with highly intelligent people.

    More examples — from all of the campaigns, and independent sites such as Moveon.org — abound. The letter-writing campaigns to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are coordinated through a centralized resource of voter addresses. The Moveon.org-initiated movies were all sent to Moveon.org, which coordinated the voting and raised money to broadcast a single winner.

    In each case, innovation had to proceed through a centralized funnel. By comparison, think of an Internet that itself was built on proprietary protocols, where all traffic had to be routed through ATT, funneled through AOL, or okayed by Disney. Fortunately, our own Internet isn’t a funnel; it’s a “web” or “net” instead.

    I won’t get into this, except to say that it’s a heavily stretched analogy.

    Or consider it another way: In a sense, a candidate website allows millions to have one conversation. But what about the alternative of smaller groups having a million diverse conversations — with the best conversations attracting the most participants, and the best arguments convincing the most people?

    Well, gosh, what a great idea! Maybe I should start a site called the Daily Kos which gets over 130,000 visitors per day to discuss election strategies, candidate strengths and weaknesses, and political issues.

    While I recognize the value of putting something out there to counter the ‘dot com bust’ meme on campaigns, I’m surprised at the evident lack of familiarity on the subject by the author. The Dean campaign suffered not because they didn’t focus on decentralization, as she thinks, but because they didn’t focus on effective centralization. Their old media campaign was terrible, and the press just couldn’t explain what was going on without recourse to ‘anger’ to explain a legitimate populist explosion.

    At any rate, thanks for the link.

  2. John,

    This article is somewhat interesting, but Gelman isn’t really addressing the role of the mass media in the election cycle. While you can criticize Dean for false steps, and he made many, it’s not possible to analyze the Dean campaign and its problems without recourse to a heavily reactionary media infrastructure that did advocate aggressively against an open campaign that it largely did not understand. The other component she missed is that the Dean campaign was largely successful in the political component; John Kerry and John Edwards sound a lot more like Dean – anti-war, anti-special interest, heavily anti-Bush – than they do themselves. Dean’s mistake was that his movement wasn’t about Dean, but about changing politics. Once enough of the politics were changed to blur the distinctions between himself and the other candidates, he wasn’t compelling anymore. Centralization versus Decentralization has very little to do with Dean’s failure, actually. The Dean folk were extremely focused on precisely this problem, probably to the detriment of focusing on other, more salient problems, like how you get your ‘1’s to the caucuses. Here’s a few more nits:

    Nevertheless, even the Dean campaign still maintains a centralized, filtered, top-down approach to electioneering. They tout the 181,555 Dean supporters who attend Meetup.com’s Meetup for Dean — but these occur only once a month, on the day the organization chooses, with the organizer receiving a script from the campaign. Similarly, the next Dean House parties will all occur during the Superbowl.

    This demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the Dean campaign. The Dean Get Local tools enabled anyone to plan a Dean event, and anyone to sign up for it. It was very successful in terms of the number of events planned, precisely because it was decentralized.

    Currently, the Dean campaign might choose a blogger who supports Dean, and put him on the Dean bus to blog about the campaign’s day. But there’s a key difference between that, and having hundreds of citizen bloggers who attend Dean events, writing their impressions–good or bad– on their own blogs. And it is the latter that’s revolutionary.

    I’m not quite sure what she means. This IS what happened. People blogged about Dean, lots of them, and not just Dean supporters. But most ‘citizen-bloggers’ aren’t confident enough in their understanding of politics to venture an opinion for public scrutiny. But Dean encouraged talk and dissent.

    In these many conversations, voters can deliberate as to campaign strategies, policies, and even candidates. A candidate’s official site will never be able to be as frank about his or her weaknesses as an independent discussion among voters can be; yet addressing these weaknesses may be the only way to convince undecideds.

    The implication here is that the Dean campaign was ‘spinning’ consistently, regulating the comments on it and on the thousands of other blogs talking about Dean. This isn’t the case; there was plenty of frank discussion about Dean to be had on his blog and elsewhere. That the internet public sphere wasn’t large enough to handle the mass media onslaught, and that Dean’s campaign critically misjudged their ‘real’ level of support among non-Dean supporters, is evidence of a lack of diverse chatter but a lack of judgment as to who to listen to at a critical time.

    The many-to-many concept used in Election 2004 is a major innovation. But it is far from all the potential the Internet offers when it comes to elections. Why? Because the discourse, debate, and artistry are still all centralized.

    If she’s talking about ABC, NBC, and CBS, then she’s right. Otherwise, this is absolute nonsense. The blogosphere, in which Dean was an eager participant, has many places to discuss all of these issues with highly intelligent people.

    More examples — from all of the campaigns, and independent sites such as Moveon.org — abound. The letter-writing campaigns to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are coordinated through a centralized resource of voter addresses. The Moveon.org-initiated movies were all sent to Moveon.org, which coordinated the voting and raised money to broadcast a single winner.

    In each case, innovation had to proceed through a centralized funnel. By comparison, think of an Internet that itself was built on proprietary protocols, where all traffic had to be routed through ATT, funneled through AOL, or okayed by Disney. Fortunately, our own Internet isn’t a funnel; it’s a “web” or “net” instead.

    I won’t get into this, except to say that it’s a heavily stretched analogy.

    Or consider it another way: In a sense, a candidate website allows millions to have one conversation. But what about the alternative of smaller groups having a million diverse conversations — with the best conversations attracting the most participants, and the best arguments convincing the most people?

    Well, gosh, what a great idea! Maybe I should start a site called the Daily Kos which gets over 130,000 visitors per day to discuss election strategies, candidate strengths and weaknesses, and political issues.

    While I recognize the value of putting something out there to counter the ‘dot com bust’ meme on campaigns, I’m surprised at the evident lack of familiarity on the subject by the author. The Dean campaign suffered not because they didn’t focus on decentralization, as she thinks, but because they didn’t focus on effective centralization. Their old media campaign was terrible, and the press just couldn’t explain what was going on without recourse to ‘anger’ to explain a legitimate populist explosion.

    At any rate, thanks for the link.

  3. John,

    This article is somewhat interesting, but Gelman isn’t really addressing the role of the mass media in the election cycle. While you can criticize Dean for false steps, and he made many, it’s not possible to analyze the Dean campaign and its problems without recourse to a heavily reactionary media infrastructure that did advocate aggressively against an open campaign that it largely did not understand. The other component she missed is that the Dean campaign was largely successful in the political component; John Kerry and John Edwards sound a lot more like Dean – anti-war, anti-special interest, heavily anti-Bush – than they do themselves. Dean’s mistake was that his movement wasn’t about Dean, but about changing politics. Once enough of the politics were changed to blur the distinctions between himself and the other candidates, he wasn’t compelling anymore. Centralization versus Decentralization has very little to do with Dean’s failure, actually. The Dean folk were extremely focused on precisely this problem, probably to the detriment of focusing on other, more salient problems, like how you get your ‘1’s to the caucuses. Here’s a few more nits:

    Nevertheless, even the Dean campaign still maintains a centralized, filtered, top-down approach to electioneering. They tout the 181,555 Dean supporters who attend Meetup.com’s Meetup for Dean — but these occur only once a month, on the day the organization chooses, with the organizer receiving a script from the campaign. Similarly, the next Dean House parties will all occur during the Superbowl.

    This demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the Dean campaign. The Dean Get Local tools enabled anyone to plan a Dean event, and anyone to sign up for it. It was very successful in terms of the number of events planned, precisely because it was decentralized.

    Currently, the Dean campaign might choose a blogger who supports Dean, and put him on the Dean bus to blog about the campaign’s day. But there’s a key difference between that, and having hundreds of citizen bloggers who attend Dean events, writing their impressions–good or bad– on their own blogs. And it is the latter that’s revolutionary.

    I’m not quite sure what she means. This IS what happened. People blogged about Dean, lots of them, and not just Dean supporters. But most ‘citizen-bloggers’ aren’t confident enough in their understanding of politics to venture an opinion for public scrutiny. But Dean encouraged talk and dissent.

    In these many conversations, voters can deliberate as to campaign strategies, policies, and even candidates. A candidate’s official site will never be able to be as frank about his or her weaknesses as an independent discussion among voters can be; yet addressing these weaknesses may be the only way to convince undecideds.

    The implication here is that the Dean campaign was ‘spinning’ consistently, regulating the comments on it and on the thousands of other blogs talking about Dean. This isn’t the case; there was plenty of frank discussion about Dean to be had on his blog and elsewhere. That the internet public sphere wasn’t large enough to handle the mass media onslaught, and that Dean’s campaign critically misjudged their ‘real’ level of support among non-Dean supporters, is evidence of a lack of diverse chatter but a lack of judgment as to who to listen to at a critical time.

    The many-to-many concept used in Election 2004 is a major innovation. But it is far from all the potential the Internet offers when it comes to elections. Why? Because the discourse, debate, and artistry are still all centralized.

    If she’s talking about ABC, NBC, and CBS, then she’s right. Otherwise, this is absolute nonsense. The blogosphere, in which Dean was an eager participant, has many places to discuss all of these issues with highly intelligent people.

    More examples — from all of the campaigns, and independent sites such as Moveon.org — abound. The letter-writing campaigns to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are coordinated through a centralized resource of voter addresses. The Moveon.org-initiated movies were all sent to Moveon.org, which coordinated the voting and raised money to broadcast a single winner.

    In each case, innovation had to proceed through a centralized funnel. By comparison, think of an Internet that itself was built on proprietary protocols, where all traffic had to be routed through ATT, funneled through AOL, or okayed by Disney. Fortunately, our own Internet isn’t a funnel; it’s a “web” or “net” instead.

    I won’t get into this, except to say that it’s a heavily stretched analogy.

    Or consider it another way: In a sense, a candidate website allows millions to have one conversation. But what about the alternative of smaller groups having a million diverse conversations — with the best conversations attracting the most participants, and the best arguments convincing the most people?

    Well, gosh, what a great idea! Maybe I should start a site called the Daily Kos which gets over 130,000 visitors per day to discuss election strategies, candidate strengths and weaknesses, and political issues.

    While I recognize the value of putting something out there to counter the ‘dot com bust’ meme on campaigns, I’m surprised at the evident lack of familiarity on the subject by the author. The Dean campaign suffered not because they didn’t focus on decentralization, as she thinks, but because they didn’t focus on effective centralization. Their old media campaign was terrible, and the press just couldn’t explain what was going on without recourse to ‘anger’ to explain a legitimate populist explosion.

    At any rate, thanks for the link.

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