“Howard Dean 2.0”?

Oooh, this is more fun than I thought. I mean, observing the American version of e-campaigns in real time. When Howard Dean and his supporters’ use of the MeetUp site was making headlines in 2003, I was hardly excited. To me and many Koreans, Dean’s story was just an offspring of what we witnessed in the 2002 presidential election of Korea. To be harsh, his was not even a success story. Two interviewees of mine actually believed that Dean’s campaigning was modelled on our case – i.e. Nosamo, an Internet-based association of Roh’s supporters. It went all the way and managed to put a long-shot candidate like him in office. Now, that’s a success story.

What I am most interested in about the 2008 elections of the US is how candidates go about when the Internet is hardly a novelty any more. Either in the US or in Korea, it was possible for a dark horse to make a difference in use of the Internet because it was somehow a neglected niche. However, once your business turns out to be fruitful, your competitors will learn from you, benchmark themselves against your business and finally jump into your market, too. Now the Internet is so normalised and routinised (at least in the countries that I am talking about) that any candidate will surely have a separate team for Internet campaigning – possibly the biggest unit in their camp.

It seems that Obama moves quickly in terms of Internet campaigning and youth engagement. Even Facebook! Here‘s an interesting article by Sam Graham-Felsen on AlterNet, where the author describes the whole phenomenon around Obama as “Howard Dean 2.0”. I haven’t read much about Hillary Clinton yet, but I bet she is not so stupid to ignore it. Indeed, in comparison with her earlier strategies, now people are talking about Hillary 2.0. (Awww, the 2.0 hype…)

I have been asked quite a few times what I see (or foresee) will happen in the next presidential election of Korea coming Dec. I know some expect from me a Madame Soleil kind of answer as I happen to have a pile of word-of-mouth references in the department of fortune-telling 😉 ; others ask me because that’s all my research is about. My own guesses aside, most of my interviewees were directly involved in Roh’s campaigning, but their opinions are now polarised among themselves. Some firmly state things will never be the same again, while others think the Internet will bring them ‘glory’ once again. Dying to find out.

20070227_studentsforbarackobama

(studentsforbarackobama.com, a Facebook group to support candidate Obama)

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6 thoughts on ““Howard Dean 2.0”?

  1. These Obama sites have an evangelistic “feel” to them … maybe communist?…maybe excessively patriotic ?. Don’t know what exactly… But look at the Mao style pointed finger… Shudder! 🙂

  2. Hardly communistic. (Images attempting to portray Mao as a charismatic leader more often show him waving than pointing.) The Obama gesture reflects a common strategy used by US politicians when appearing in public. They attempt to generate the impression that they have a personal connection with a crowd or audience by apparently singling out some person or group within it and pointing at them.

  3. Bien sur, that would be a good example. Perhaps the more interesting speculation might be how, where images are not involved, charisma – in the original rather than the popular meaning of the term – is manifested in online communication.

  4. That’s a very interesting question you are throwing at me. 🙂 I am not sure we can say images are not involved in online communication just like that though. My observation is that the Internet is more often used to appeal to voters’ emotions than newspapers or TV is.

  5. I do not always express myself clearly in English. I did not mean to say that images are absent from online communication, but that there are forms of online communication that are based for the most part on text. On reflection I should have realised that charisma is often constructed discursively, so the issue might not arise in the way that I initially thought it might.
    How would you demonstrate that the observation you offer is a valid one?

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