Nielson vs. Lutz

In Nielson’s “Mundane Internet Tools, Mobilizing Practices, and the Coproduction of Citizenship in Political Campaigns”, he seeks to explain which Internet practices are most useful to a campaign.  Neilson’s argument is that “when it comes to mobilization, mundane internet tools like email and search are more important than emerging tools (like social networking sites) or specialized tools (like campaign websites)” (p.4).  Although Neilson points out arguments that these new sites do not work, his theory has been proven wrong by Obama’s successful use of specialized and emerging Internet tools in his 2008 campaign.

Nielson’s main support for his theory was from looking at two campaigns with professionally designed websites.  In his first example, he explains that a campaign with 300 people registered to volunteer through the site, only leads to about 30 people actually volunteering and that people were often quoted that they rarely use the website (which would be a specialized tool).  As for emerging tools, Nielson explains that they can be useful, but not for mobilizing.

Since it is clear that this was written after the 2008 election, I would like to argue that Nielson is behind in his writing and therefore no longer correct.  These ideas may have been true before the 2008 election, but Obama’s win has made it clear that emerging and specialized tools can mobilize people.  As Lutz lays out in the Social Pulpit tool kit, Obama’s campaign was able to get people empowered and engaged (p.2).  Neilson may point out that this did not work for Dean, but with Obama’s enthusiasm and organization, his ten-step tool kit was able to work (p.3).

One of the main points from the ten steps in the Lutz reading that Nieslon could have considered would be the eighth step: Harnessing analytics to constantly improve engagement activities (p.10).  The basis of this step is to keep improving and tailoring your sites to the people.  Maybe mundane tools are best for some people, but not for others.  Obama succeeding at using Facebook (an emerging tool) to capture a younger audience, which he could not as done as well using a mundane Internet tool.

The important point to be made is that Obama uses different tools to reach different people. Nielson does not believe tools other than mundane ones are truly successful – But Obama proves otherwise.  Are there other key facts/evidence from Obama’s campaign that go against what Nielson presents?  Do you feel Nielson is correct to some degree?

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