Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The e-campaign comes of age?

Candidates in the primaries and the parties themselves are increasingly utilising the Internet in their bid to win the US presidency, with the Democrats leading the race in building up a community around their social networking activities according to an article published today. The activity on their open threads does not suggest a party talking to voters, but evidence that there may be strong public engagement and cross-contributor horizontal dialogue; is this the e-public sphere that many academics of public discourse suggest the Internet can facilitate? Two observations here are very important, both made by John Durham the Internet strategist behind the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Firstly that a candidate going online "needs to cede a certain amount of control for a certain amount of visibility", and when "Every vote is going to be necessary... [the] undecided group of voters [must] be reached in non-mass ways". British counterparts need to take note of this, and the level of interactivity French presidential candidates engaged in; being online is not sufficient, but creating a real dialogue and so building relationships requires a degree of openness and interactivity. If positive and fresh perceptions of politicians is to be built online then it needs to adopt a different model of political communication than the simple repeat-remind, one-way push communication! While Howard Dean did not change the face of political communication in 2004; the forthcoming contest could see the candidate with the most interactive web presence win the primary and the election - it is possible!

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