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Politics and Social Networking

Rod Munday | Tuesday May 05, 2009

Categories: Other Topics, Social Networking, Politics and Social Networking

Social networking sites are one of a number of peer-to-peer technologies increasingly being used to inform and shape public opinion. Winograd & Hais  predict that the ability of voters to create as well as consuming content without filtering by experts will soon become the way people prefer to get all of their information (2008, 2).

The presidential campaign of 2006-2008 in the US was the first real test of the willingness of candidates to embrace social networking technologies (ibid.). In this respect the Republicans candidates did poorly, as they had not really understood the potential of the technology to enhance their campaigns. For the democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s faired only marginally better, she embraced social networking but in a controlling way, her strategy was to manage voter interactions through staged online chats and American idol-style popularity contests where voters could choose the best campaign theme song (ibid., 3).

It was Barack Obama who fully embraced the social networking ethos of sharing content with potential voters. Even his initial decision to run for the presidency was influenced by the fact that a page created on MySpace by supporters, which was not connected to any official campaign, quickly signed up 160,000 pledges of support (Schifferes, 2008).  Obama’s web site was built on Facebook’s platform and his campaign strategy was to raise funds by using social networking technology to facilitate small donations from a large number of people, rather than soliciting big donations from a few rich patrons. This proved to be extremely successful, Obama’s presidential campaign made more money in a shorter amount of time than any other Democratic campaign in history (Winograd & Hais 2008, 3). If anything reveals the power of social networking to effect social change in our time it is this statistic.

The Obama campaign illustrates how by exploiting the principles of social networking a...

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