Neal Stephenson & J. Frederick George's "Interface"
I think that the Seattle Weekly got it right. Interface is “a Manchurian Candidate for the Computer Age.” In fact, the whole time I read the book I kept thinking that the plot had kind of been covered in that movie a number of years ago. This isn’t to say that I don’t adore Stephenson. When I finally got around to reading Cryptonomicon, thanks to the nagging of my partner, I adored it: really brilliant, enthralling, and exciting. What attracts me to Stephenson’s work is that it is Sci-Fi but not the kind of Sci-Fi with spaceships and aliens, it is a world that looks just like this one except for one little thing… and that one little thing, which always seems like a good idea at the time (i.e. brain implants for stroke victims) turns out to have huge consequences.
Stephenson and George successfully indite the media-savvy political process of the late 20th and early 21st Century. I think they’re also right about how it will be medical technology that get people to surrender at least some of their rights to a computerized network- after all, who wouldn’t want their father back from a stroke he was never supposed to have. Continue reading
Not going to lie, it was a little weird to read The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House just a few short days after Barack Obama made history. I wanted to like Garrett Graff’s book, but as with so many books about globalization and technology’s potential I found that his work fell short of a truly illuminating discussion.
Of course, part of this may be that on Nov. 4 the work was instantly dated. I believe that, though he made a few missteps along the way, President-Elect Obama’s online presence was far superior to anything Graff talks about in the book. As a testament to just how dated the book already is, Obama is only listed in the index 25 times (for a book that is 290 pages long), where as the Clintons show up over 40 times. Continue reading
Just finished Feld and Wilcox’s Netroots Rising: How a Citizen Army of Bloggers and Online Activists Is Changing American Politics and, I have to say, I think I enjoyed it a lot more than Blog Wars (which I read and blogged about last week). Unlike last week’s book, I was glad to read the account in Feld and Wilcox’s book of the Dean campaign. While the Dean campaign is universally celebrated as the first really and truly Internet campaign, Feld and Wilcox acknowledge some of the potential problems with running a campaign as an “adhocracy.”
This isn’t to say that I’m opposed to campaigns making use of fluid authority structures, but it is to say that people do need direction. Getting 100 people to show up (heck, even getting 10) is great but if they don’t know what to do, have clear direction, and simple goals having all the enthusiasm in the world won’t do you much good. Feld and Wilcox do an excellent job explaining why, even with loads of excitement, you’ve still got to have a field director, a volunteer coordinator, etc. to let people know exactly what is needed. Continue reading
David Perlmutter’s Blog Wars manages to be an excellent introduction to the world of blogging without being overly simplistic (i.e. there was precious little “this is the Internet. It is amazing“). At times I think Perlmutter falls into a “bloggers will change the world attitude” (despite his frequent asides and contrary claims)– there is a deep sense of optimism here that I’m not 100% sure I agree with. I do think that blogs probably will change the political debate, I’m just not sure it’ll be for the best.
The promise of blogging, in my mind comes from removing institutional control from the mainstream media. Its nice having multiple voices deciding what “counts” as news, the argument that bloggers are “parasitic” is pretty compelling. Even Matt Drudge, the hero of many blogs-breaking-news narratives, links to other, major media sources. Perlmutter’s book is at its best when it emphasizes the ability for blogs to amplify a story or work as an agenda setter.
Click for PDF
I just finished another IPDI report, “Constituent Relationship Management: The New Little Black Book of Politics” (available as a free PDF from their website). Like the Mobilizing Generation 2.0 book I read and blogged about a month ago, I found that the essential take away from the IPDI report is that, newsflash, people still matter. Many of the authors included in the IPDI report frequently and strongly emphasize that the emphasis in constituent relationship management (CRM) should really be on the relationship not just the data or what the data does for you.
Obviously, in the web 2.0 world campaigns need to respond to the people they’re asking to do anything– from fwd an e-mail to make a donation. Mobilizing Generation 2.0 touched on this a little too, now that we’re used to being in contact and getting feedback quickly, it seems weird (and actually downright sketchy) when we don’t get at least an auto response saying “thanks for your input, we’ll get back to you soon.”
On some level this seems really obvious, right? I mean, isn’t politics all about shaking hands and kissing babies? Every time I go out on a canvas or volunteer at a phone bank the organizer tells me that even though they have direct mail, robo calls, etc. it is still vital that the voters meet the people involved in the campaign. Continue reading
This week I tore through MoveOn.org’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country. When I first started to read this book I felt like it was all of 40 pages of content stretched into 140. It was a busy week, I wanted to (no pun intended) move on to some other assignments. However, after about the first 50 pages I got really interested and inspired. I think that it is so helpful to hear about how just one little thing really and truly does make a difference. Sure, we hear that all the time from professional speakers, campaigners, and politicians but reading about a mother of three who phone banked whenever she could is exactly the kind of story we need to hear going into the election. Continue reading