Toward an Intellectual Middle Ground

In “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns” by Karpf, he discusses, first, how Twitter works and how influential certain users may be. He first explains how to utilize Twitter and what goals users should have (retweets and obtaining followers). He writes about conservatives and their ideas becoming more popular on the website after Barack Obama won the 2008 election. According to Karpf, they claim their increased popularity on social media sites suggested a comeback in the making for the right wing. The author then goes on to point out that the conservatives are simply making up lost ground. I found this point particularly interesting because it leads to an increasingly important factor in political campaigns: staying ahead of the game. Logistically, it makes sense that the liberals were the first to utilize this new form of media in their campaigns. Traditionally, liberals are younger, more apt to change, and willing to embrace technology while conservatives are, as their title suggests, conservative (with respect to change, adapting new strategies, etc.) This can easily be related to Simon Columbus’s article “The New Casualties: Prisons and Persecution.” In this article, he describes many instances when governments have been threatened by activists utilizing new forms of media as an outlet for their cause. In this case, the governments would be similar to the conservative party (unwilling to immediately adapt to the changing technological sphere). Bloggers use the internet to promote their beliefs and governments need to find a way to counteract it (away from arrests- this is obviously not slowing down the growing movement on the internet). In “Digital Activism Decoded: The New Mechanics of Change” Glaisyer does point out that at least one country has used the internet to counteract their enemies’ progress. “They have built on the vigilante efforts of individuals…training them…to defend Chinese state interests…These paid web activists…post pro-government comments on social media platforms as well as report users who have written comments critical of the official line” (90). The governments are now catching up, but they are still not ahead of the game. While this war in cyberspace continues to transfer into the real world, certainly a new outlet will develop, but the important question is: who will get to it first, activists or the government?

This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Toward an Intellectual Middle Ground

  1. jessliu91 says:

    I believe that that if a new outlet develops it is much more likely that the general public will get to it first. After the public is somewhat familiar with the tool then it becomes possible for people start using it for mobilizing or political purposes. And it’s only after when the government realizes that this tool is being used for political purposes, do they start to use it themselves, either by utilizing to their advantage or censoring/getting rid of it. I believe that it is hard for the government to predict which types of digital tools can be used for political purposes and which types can’t. Along the same lines, I also don’t think that activists automatically know which tools are best of politics and which ones aren’t either. What’s more likely to occur is that the general pubic acts as a testing ground for a new digital tool and that when people first start using these tools for questionable means, the government step in. That means that it’s very possible that activists may never even get to use the tool for political purposes. The first people that start using the new tool for questionable means are probably not activists and before the activists can also use this tool for their own purposes, the government has already controlled it.

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