Week 8 blog post

In “Exiting Deanspace”, Shirky explains that the questions surrounding the Dean campaign should not focus on how he lost the lead, but instead on why people believed the Dean campaign was in the lead to begin with. He mentions two theses to explain Dean’s campaign. The first Shirky calls the “mirage” thesis: that Dean’s campaign did everything other campaigns do: it raised money, garnered the attention press, and created excitement amongst citizens – but people did not vote, and never intended to. The idea of these people supporting Dean and his ideas was imagined, because these people never intended to support him in the way that matters, by voting. The second is entitled the “soap bubble” thesis: that the support for Dean was real, but vulnerable. This thesis suggests that had Dean done everything as expected, i.e., not slipped up during speeches or presented himself in any way that would offend the public, he would have found some form of success.

In “The Real Lessons of Howard Dean”, Hindman explains the Howard Dean’s history and the way in which he implemented the Internet into his campaign. Hindman explains the possibilities presented to Dean by the Internet: he had the ability to raise money, find volunteers, and attract the press. The Dean campaign furthered Internet use in politics because it proved to people that he became a front-runner in the campaign because of online activity; in other words, it demonstrated what the Internet could do for politics.
However, Hindman also mentions the reasons he believes Dean’s campaign failed: his site sought to attract the wrong kinds of voters, his campaign lost momentum, and he was seemingly unelectable.

Shirky’s reading suggests that the most important reason for Dean’s loss was nothing to do with his form of campaigning, but due to Dean himself as a candidate. This would mean that the Internet as a campaign tool was not a factor in his lack of success. Yet Hindmann believes that there are some Internet-related reasons for why Dean’s campaign was unsuccessful.

Can you think of any specific movements that were falsely predicted to be successful because of the attention they received online? Do the reasons for their failure agree with Hindman’s ideas, that the online tool is used incorrectly/attracts the wrong audience? Or, as Shirky suggests, did it have less to do with the tool and more to do with the message?

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1 Response to Week 8 blog post

  1. breahm says:

    This sounds a lot like Karpf’s argument of strategic vs. tactical uses of the internet. In that article, he cites several examples of campaigns that on the surface seemed successful but didn’t actually result in the mobilization of its target audience. Dean’s campaign is similar in that in the end, it failed to mobilize people to vote. It could be because if we believe Hinderman’s argument that the people who use the internet most are young, liberals, we must also note that these people tend to vote less also. So his campaign could have failed not from garnering a significant support base, but from failing to amass an active support base. The internet doesn’t really reach out to those people. the elderly mostly, because they’re not on it.

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