Week 10- Emerging Media Supplement Traditional Media

While Herrnson explores the strategic and structural factors that influence a candidate to have online presence, and Nielsen states that Mundane Internet tools are more effective in mobilizing people in campaigns versus emerging technologies; the impact that emerging technologies have created on elections is a supplement to traditional campaigning and the ability to have a conversation with politicians, administration, campaigns, and the voters, rather than mobilizing voters.

Herrnson has no doubt that the Internet has become an increasingly prevalent campaign tool but investigates why some candidates campaign online and others do not. With a sample of almost two thousand legislatures between 1998-2000, Herrnson assesses whether the strategic and structural circumstances, constituency characteristics, and personal characteristics have an effect on their electoral presence on the web. Even though the Internet seems to be so prevalent throughout our society, many Senate candidates, non-incumbents, and candidates in competitive races are more likely than House candidates, incumbents, and candidates in an uncompetitive contest, to use the Internet. Herrnson explores the fact that if not all candidates are on the web, how much does the Internet actually mean to candidates. The Internet is seen to reinforce messages (Bimber Davis), and therefore would add more to the conversation between candidates and voters. I think that a factor of this study is familiarity with the Internet. A lot of people still haven’t adopted the Internet at all, or not to it’s full potential, and forces candidates to use Internet as a supplement rather than a primary medium for campaigning. Herrnson found that even though state legislators have a presence online, only a small amount used the Internet to appeal to undecided voters, to recruit volunteers, or to solicit campaign donations; supporting the fact that Internet contributes to the overall campaign message and conversation rather than mobilizing people. Herrnson finds that there is a clear digital divide that influence whether candidates have an online presence or not. Despite this digital divide, strategic and structural factors have more weight in a candidate’s decision to utilize the Internet. Herrnson’s findings can relate to those of Neilson’s, comparing the fact that the Internet cannot provide a full picture for mobilizing voters; rather it creates conversation between those voters that utilize it.

Neilson examines what Internet tools are in actual use to mobilize voters to participate in campaigns. While he points out that the Internet definitely has a mobilizing potential, he researches what kinds of tools are actually effective. As Herrnson discussed, there is a digital divide and other facts that shape what voters use the Internet. Neilson found, that mundane Internet tools such as search engines, websites, and e-mail are found to be the most effective. The engagement practices of voters that are specifically analyzed are volunteers who connect with the political organization. With specific examples from campaign staffers, I agree from my experience that e-mail and the phone are more effective ways to get people to actually do something, instead of just learning about a volunteer opportunity. Emerging Internet tools do a good job at creating noise and giving people information, but not so effective at actually mobilizing people. The same goes for specialized Internet Tools. I think a lot of this has to do with the digital gap, but also with the fact that the candidates have online presence because they feel that it is the thing to do right now, rather than the most effective way of capturing undecided voters or volunteers. As Neilson suggests, an ordinary politician campaign would probably not be effective in mobilizing voters if it solely relied on new emerging tools. The Internet definitely creates conversation and news for the media outlets to report on, but the effectiveness of mobilizing people hasn’t been so great.

In the New York Times article, Republicans Embrace Twitter Hard for ’12, Steinhauer emphasizes the conversation between the Democrats and Republicans via Twitter. Twitter has definitely created conversation between Obama and the Republicans. The fact that Twitter conversation is so fast and people can hear your message all over the Internet, gives politicians an effective platform to talk and debate. This article leads me to believe that the new emerging media will lead to more of reinforcement and discussion of campaigns rather than an effective way to mobilize voters.

Do you think that the emerging media will ever transition to the mundane media that Neilson discussed; or do you think it will remain a platform for conversation and information as it is presented in the New York Times article?

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