Week 14

Intro / Claim:

I assert when evaluating Cohn’s optimistic view and Gladwell’s pessimistic argument of the effects of the Internet and SNS’s role in information distribution and activism in light of Dean’s and Obama’s political campaign, there is indeed support for Cohn and somewhat for Gladwell.


Cohn states that the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs is switching to a strategy, which they consider to be more proactive, including SNS because static sites no don’t do a great job of promoting the understanding of policy or increasing communication.  They have seemingly come to the realization that in order to promote awareness to the max and facilitate communication, they need to be where people already go on the web (SNS), which is especially true when trying to target youth.

This realization of the need for SNS use, as described by Cohn, was a cornerstone of the Dean campaign (Trippi).    Dean revolutionarily used the Internet as an integral tool of his campaign because he understood the massive societal trend towards online communication.  Unlike any politician before, Dean dominated the blogosphere to engage youth’s of voting age.  Due to online activism and the power of blogs, in a short period of time, Dean went from being a relatively small, unknown politician to a campaign front-runner.

Similar to Cohn, the Obama campaign specifically understood that the best way to connect with individuals was to understand where they go online, or their website visiting habits and frequency, which indeed was SNS, and to have a presence on those sites.   The Obama campaign realized it would be pointless to drive people to platforms they wouldn’t ordinarily use.  Thus, they chose 15 SNS on which they established a presence and directed people to use a SNS specific to Obama, MyBO, which was wildly successful.

The Dean and Obama campaigns seemingly align with Cohn’s argument as they each realized the next fundamental step in creatively engaging and communication with individuals, the Internet and SNS’s.


Interestingly, Gladwell seemed to try to deflect his pessimistic view of Internet / SNS activism by stating that the actual problem is the emphasis of a campaign is on “how” rather than “why”, which he claims is the most important, but lost, aspect.  Currently due to the Internet, SNS and technological advancements, society scrutinizes “how” activism is promoted, which completely overshadows “why” there needs to be or is activism.  Thus, in getting caught up with “how,” we lose sight of the “why” or importance of what’s going on.  If there is a legitimate reason for activism (or “why”), Gladwell claims that it will happen regardless of the Internet.

The Dean Campaign entirely revolved around “how” as he revolutionarily involved the Internet and SNS (specifically blogs) in his campaign to a degree unlike any other political, and “why” was lost as there was such little discussion of macro or micro politics or Dean’s actual political message.  The lack of “why” or people having no clue of exactly what his campaign stood for politically led to his failure.  Dean’s “why” shortage, which led to failure, is predictable in light of Gladwell.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign created quite a stir with “how” as they created a distinct, new social networking platform entitled MyBO, and managed to never lose sight of the “why.”  The Obama campaign was definitely noticed for mirroring Facebook’s interface to a certain degree, email blasting personalized messages, targeting individuas via SNS, and so on.  The “how” was unmistakable.  However, despite the tremendous buzz, there was political message communication on every level of the online campaign.  At no point was the “why” questionable.  Thus, the Obama campaign is in no way predictable in light of Gladwell and disproves his claims.


Do you believe Cohn and or Gladwell would or should reconsider their opinion’s / views of the Internet and SNS after evaluating their arguments in light of the Dean and Obama campaigns?  How, why, why not?

Layne Steele Paddon

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