In Mundane Internet Tools, Mobilizing Practices, and the Coproduction of Citizenship in Political Campaigns, Rasmus Kleis Neilson explains that there are a plethora of Internet tools available that can be used to increase political participation and ultimately the active exercise of citizenship through volunteering for political campaigns. His
argument centers on the idea that, “specific mundane Internet tools (like email) are much more deeply integrated into mobilizing practices today than the emerging tools (like social networking sites) and specialized tools (like campaign websites),” (2). In his discussion, he says that emerging and specialized tools may one day become mundane and familiar like email, but they have not become useful in this way because they are still too new and foreign.
Neilson explains that tools are ever changing and what is seen as an emerging tool will one day be viewed as a mundane tool. With that in mind, I think we can say social networking sites are as widely used and familiar as email was back in 2008 – thus pushing them towards the mundane category. Yet, as far as mobilizing people to get involved in an electoral campaign, I am still unsure if social media actually has an impact on how people act as citizens.
When thinking about Clay Shirky’s discussion of the over-estimated the success of the Dean campaign in Existing Deanspace, it is clear that this particular campaign put strong emphasis on the use of emerging tools. The Dean campaign can be looked at as tactically successful, but not strategically successful. Neilson states, “people are simply much more likely to work for a campaign if someone asks them to,” (6). If we think about this, then we can further understand why the Dean campaign failed strategically, and why mundane tools like email may be more effective in mobilizing voters. Clearly the use of emerging tools in the Dean campaign was unsuccessful, leading me to believe emerging and specialized tools might be more tactical and as a result not successful in strategically increasing political participation.
As emerging and specialized tools become more and more mundane, does this necessarily mean they will all be equally as successful in getting people involved? Just because social media is familiar, is it still as effective as other mundane tools? Or are we simply over-estimating the success of social media as a strategic tool – similar to what was done in the Dean campaign?