Open source as a means of communication is a very powerful tool, and is transitioning into the world of politics. Howard Dean, a presidential candidate for the 2004 election, was the first to directly connect his campaign to the internet via his “Blog For America” and campaigning website, www.deanforamerica.com. I think that the internet will be a widely used campaign tool and resource in American politics, and it might fundamentally change how Americans relate to the democratic process.The internet will decrease the cost of campaigning and therefore allow more qualified people to run. Ken Rogerson commented that Howard Dean didn’t think he would go very far in the race in 2000 because he didn’t have the money. However, many small donations, thanks to his website, proved him wrong. Currently, it seems to me that running for President requires a higher financial status. With the ability to draw people in, collect donations, and generally spend less doing so, the internet will allow for individuals with less financial means to run. In 2004, the Kerry and Bush campaigns spent $1 on web campaigning for every $100 they spent on TV campaigning (Pew Internet and American Life Project). And clearly, web campaigning reaches the people, as 75 million individuals used the internet to get political news, email candidates, and participate in the political process in 2004. Additionally, 52% of these people said that the information they found online directly influenced their vote. (The Pew Research Center and University of Minnesota). This transition is a positive one for the entire political sector because it opens up the door for qualified yet not incredibly rich individuals to campaign.
The internet is the first mode of political communication in which American citizens can speak back. When I heard about citizens communicating via blogs and online communities my first question was, is anyone listening on the other side? Who is the modulator of this space? I disagree that not having threads prevents any “comparison.” If people can read each other’s opinions then comparisons will be done. If an individual contributes an opinion and does not receive support, then this individual may be disinclined to do it again. I also wonder if the act of posting an opinion actually improves the democratic process, or merely makes people feel more involved? Do the people participating in this discussion represent society by any degree? These questions relate back to the “Digital Divide,” and a question that Weinberger addresses in his interview. Weinberger admitted that an open source community attracts people who want to be a part of this social community, and these people are not necessary united by a desire to have a particular candidate for president. Additionally, people that cannot access the internet have no power to participate in this open source project, but this topic was last week’s discussion.
Another question that I asked was: who will be angry about this transition? Thanks to the internet, ideas and news aren’t very scarce anymore. In the past, the media had a lot of power in presenting political candidates to the public. However now, the once elevated status of journalist or writer is sinking into a sea of ordinary people. Over 75,000 new blogs are created every day (Pew Internet Research). I think that the media is definitely losing power, but they can still be very influential. In my opinion, Howard Dean lost the presidential election due to a malicious move by the media to over exaggerate an expression of his enthusiasm.
I think that online political campaigning is in infancy and will be utilized heavily in the next Presidential election. I can see the internet connecting people directly to a candidate or cause via video feeds, online discussion and voting, petition signing, interviewing, advertising, and even parodies like at jibjab.com. This online democracy works well with the idea of a “wireless Philadelphia,” as a secure wireless system could identify citizens safely and allow for online voting, leading to more of a direct democracy with a higher participation rate (slate.com). However, presidential candidates may be inclined to form their opinions based on popular opinion from their site, rendering our President nothing more than a pretty face.
When it comes down to it, interacting with real people is more valuable than interacting with a computer. However, if the internet can bring people together in the real world and influence people to participate in the democratic process, then it is valuable as well.