Week 7- The Internet: A Race for Resources

As Druckman et al stated, “The Internet has become a vital resource in American political campaigns” (page 21). Through Druckman et al and Bimber and Davis we see the effects of the Internet on political campaigns in terms of an increase in “unbiased” and “direct” information from the candidate, candidate control of information, and the role of funds and resources available to each candidate. In both articles there are evident pros and cons about candidates using the Internet but ultimately the use of the Internet in politics becomes a race of resources.

In “The Evolution of Candidate Communication,” Bimber and Davis explore how many technologies have changed communication means and costs dating back to the rotary press and how candidates have responded. New technologies are explained to be game changers for political candidate because candidates and voters must understand how communication affects democracy. Bimber and Davis stated, “If democracy is about election, elections are about communication, and so to understand how democracy works requires understanding how communication works and how it evolves over time” (page 17). As “news analysis” became the norm in society, candidates needed another medium to get their “direct” message out. The Internet was a helpful way to reach voters, provide an unmediated platform for them to evaluate a candidate, provide journalists 24/7 access to a candidates website (or website brochure) and utilize e-mail. Previously, the “new media forums” that candidates valued were talk shows because it gave them a lot of time to be the feature of a program and a chance to get their message out about themselves, their campaign, and their political party. The problem with the Internet when it first became popular was that there was a tiny electorate and not enough people were receiving the information. As the Internet improved, it was a “low cost” way for them to create a brochure online—it was the “direct, unfiltered communication to voters for which candidates had been searching” (page 25). One of the most interactive and effective uses of the Internet was McCain’s effort to fundraise by interacting with online users but in exchange they had to donate $100.

In “Technological Development of Candidate Web Sites” Druckman et al described how the uses of Internet seem “promising,” but the “decision to use them is far from automatic.” Through research by exploring multiple technological features found across a large and representative sample of congressional campaign web sites over two elections. Druckman et al further explain the value of interactivity by “granting users control, which simulates attention and learning” (page 24). Druckman et al also explained the “online communities” that are formed from communication through message boards, forums, live chats, etc.; a technique that McCain used in his efforts to fundraise. While Druckman et. al further investigate the functions of the Internet on political campaigns they explain the more resources available to a candidate are important when evaluating their utilization of websites and technology. They stated,  “well funded candidates may be more likely to use certain technologies—particularly complicated ones—because they can afford to pay for developing sophisticated websites” (page 26). This unfortunately could create an unfair advantage to politicians.

The question that I pose to the class is do you think that the Internet has created an unfair political environment? Or, has it just continued to maintain the environment that television created with television advertising? Do you think that this hinders the “fairness” that is supposed to be preserved throughout any type of democratic election?

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