Unless you live under a rock, you’re aware that today is Election Day here in the United States. I hope that each and every one of you who are registered voters are going out and performing your civic right and duty to cast a ballot for our next President.
I’m no historian when it comes to presidential campaigns, but I would be willing to bet that, just as in this campaign, media has played a huge role. From pamphlets distributed in the pre-bellum era to blog postings published moments ago, our votes are impacted in some way by media. The trick for the candidate is in the strategy for creating his/her own media image, and in the response to media produced by the opponent. Given that, it is worth noting for a second the power of new media which has reached a new height with this election cycle.
The online presence of both candidates has been much discussed already, but let’s do a quick recap: Barack Obama picked up where Howard Dean left off, and rallied a good many of his troops through online social networks. A visit to his website will bring you to 16 social networks where he is registered, while videos are posted to BarackTV–which is divided into eight channels, each of which are filled with dozens of videos. After his win in South Carolina in January, online donations poured in at the rate of $500,000 per hour. John McCain has also designated a portion of his website to multimedia, but he has not ulitized social networks nearly to the extent that Obama has. A search on his website for Facebook turns up nothing. I was unable to locate figures for how much McCain has raised online, but he should get an honorable mention for having raised $2.2 million online during the week he won the New Hampshire primary…back in 2000. For a side-by-side comparison of online activity related to each candidate, be sure to check this out. It should be clear that more and more, democracy is taking place online.
Politics aside, one must respect the staggering number of people who used new media to learn about or campaign for a candidate. It reminds us that it is time to rethink the innumerable ways people interact with media, and the ways in which new media in particular is changing how we do…well, everything. Like how we teach our children, or what skills we need to be competitive in a modern workforce. Media literacy addresses both of these things and much more, and is imperative to an increasingly digital society. If you or someone you know ever doubted the power and importance of new media, it’s time to wake up. As they say, attention must be paid.
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