Saturday, February 10, 2007

My Barack Obama

Oh my. My professional world and my interest in US politics merging into one. Shining light in the American presidential elections Barack Obama has a personalisation/participation/user generated content area of his website - it's called, of course, My.BarackObama.com.

There's nothing particularly revolutionary on there - create a profile, create a blog, get told about events near to your ZIP code, join groups of other supporters, and do some fundraising for your favourite Illinoisan African-American senator. To a certain extent, it reminds me of UselessAccount.com - it's a carbon copy of a million websites where you just create a profile for apparently no reason other than to feel like you belong to that website - but it's the latest example of politics embracing the web. Have a look around the rest of the website too - there's Barack.tv as well, run via brightcove, where you can watch all his little schmultzy telly messages and watch his announcement live later today (and no doubt a million stump speeches over the next two years as well).

Looking through the other candidates websites, underdog Chris Dodd has a section of his website called The Dodd Pod - at first I thought this was podcasts, but actually it's an opportunity for you to suggest songs that he should put on his iPod. Why you might want to do that, apart from to assert your recognition that he's clearly a hip cool daddio, I don't know. Of course, he has a blog, a myspace page, a flickr page, and a facebook account as well. And don't forget to join the Dodd Squad while you're there...

Hillary C's website is a little more reserved; she still has a blog, but you can't be a human being without one of those these days. There's a shedload of video on there, but again that's one-way traffic. Maybe she's still exploring the possibilities of web campaigning, as part of her exploratory committee. Perhaps it reflects the already clear distinctions between her and her more youthful main opponent (that's Obama, by the way, not Dodd). He is appealing to the young, the politically disenfranchised, the opponents of war, the minority groups, pretty much anyone looking for a change - all groups that have turned to the Internet's democratised platform as a way to make themselves heard.

Clinton is appealing to middle America, the politically apathetic, the white middle class people who hanker after a bit of good old pre-Bush democratic politics. From 1993-2001 they never had it so good, and they are quite happy for a little bit more of the same please - though, maybe with a hint less blowing up of Americans abroad. Her demographic aren't really likely to use the web in the same ways as Obama's - more turning to it for information and updates, than to actively participate with other voters. That's not to say that Obama's will necessarily provide that, but it certainly provides the illusion of it. And as UselessAccount's irony suggests, sometimes all it takes to make you feel part of something is to create a profile, then to ignore it and forget you ever signed up in the first place.

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