Images Can Be Deceiving

Political campaigns have become a lot trickier today with new technologies like the Internet.  Like in the case of Howard Dean, a 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, there was an overwhelming sense that he was going to win the nomination when, in fact, he was behind the other candidates.  Clay Shirky talks about Dean’s downfalls during his campaign in “Exiting Deanspace”.  Dean and his team were great at making him seem like he was in the lead the whole time to themselves and the public, but their failure to plan, budget, and get actual votes from the public ended up costing him the campaign.  The image Dean was able to create for himself as a forerunner when in fact he was losing is an example of Eli Pariser’s filter bubble that he talks about in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You.

Pariser says one of the issues with the filter bubble is that those in it, do not even realize they are in it.  This was the case with Dean who seemed oblivious to the fact that he was behind in the polls.  Dean was able to even have reporters believe that he was in the lead because a majority of the articles talked about him as a definite winner.  This in turn made the public believe Dean was also the winner, because that is what they were reading.  There was selective exposure going on in this campaign; Dean’s team were so hopeful and oblivious that they were only seeing what they wanted to see which was him as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Do you believe the public would have realized Dean was not doing as well as the press made it seem if they had done more thorough research on statistics and polls or was the filter bubble too strong making it very difficult for anybody to realize he was on the road to failure even with deeper research?

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5 Responses to Images Can Be Deceiving

  1. hansmith91 says:

    While the American people may have been absorbed in the filter bubble during this process, I’m sure that Dean and his team were well aware of his standing in the polls throughout the campaign process. Because their ultimate goal was to win the election, it makes sense that they would remain hopeful and publicly optimistic throughout the process. Often times horse race coverage is the most talked about and alluring part of a campaign to the general public so in order to further garner support, it makes sense that his team would take advantage of their existing standing in the press to continue generating this “hype” for Dean (whether or not this support was matched in the poll statistics or not). However, I don’t think this was enough. The campaign team should have noticed trends in the polls and implemented a strategy to change the way the public demonstrated their support for Dean: Essentially, taking that virtual support and translating it to reality. If Dean and his team had made an effort to maintain their upper standing in the media while simultaneously figuring out a way to turn this in to actual, statistical support, the election would have been more likely to result in their favor.

  2. andgoldberg says:

    I think Dean’s campaign failed for reasons other than his digital campaign. Dean’s digital political campaign was revolutionary in the way it created a community of individuals under one cause and the ability to out fundraise many storied politicians. These two factors were essential to him being at all in the running for office. If Dean were to have focused more on political issues and the “need” for people to cast their vote in his favor, he may not have lost the early Iowa and New Hampshire states. The initial two state slip was lethal as the Dean campaign crumbled as yet another digital failure. Do you think a two-state (IA & NH) clear victory would have resulted in a Dean victory nationwide?

  3. srachelb says:

    While I’m sure that the public would have been able to figure out that Dean was not actually a front-runner in the campaign had they done their research, I think the more pertinent question is whether or not the public would have been inclined to do so. The campaign did not generate nearly as many voters as it had expected to, and thus it is necessary to question if of the small portion of the public that actually supported Dean, anyone would actually make the effort to conduct research in order to find out such information. In regards to your second question, I do not think that the filter bubble had nearly enough power to prohibit an average citizen in his or her search to find reliable information regarding the progress of the Dean campaign. According to Pariser’s theory of the filter bubble, the filter bubble is created based on personalized filters; and thus we can see why Dean and his campaign team had been trapped by the bubble, but not why an ordinary citizen would be.

  4. Neha says:

    I don’t feel like Dean’s campaign failed due to any publicly foreseeable reasons, especially any regarding the digital format. The digitization of his campaign was revolutionary and thought-provoking, but the message of his campaign was what really caused his problem. In fact, the lack thereof was what hurt him. As we discussed in class, Dean never truly took a stance on issues but rather pushed an anti-Bush agenda. The thought of this was appealing to the public, which is why he garnered a hefty following on the outside, but Dean was not able to convince the people of particular changes he was going to implement as president. He was good at getting the crowd going but did not, in hindsight, really provide any useful information. So, I think that the public eventually realized this, resulting in his political failure, but on the outside, Dean and his campaign convinced the public that everything was running smoothly.

  5. kcwassman says:

    I think a lot of the campaigns flaws came as a result of them being the first of their kind. Most companies and campaigns that I’ve experienced or heard of start the day with a collection of news reports and clips. It seems the Dean campaign was very selective when picking these clips, if they did at all.

    I don’t necessarily think this was a case of a filter bubble, but a “Dean bubble.” While a filter bubble may have contributed to those involved in the campaign’s ignorance of its flaws, I think the filter bubble didn’t necessarily cause it. It’s very easy to become absorbed in a new and exciting idea and not surface until the idea comes crashing down around you. Also, during the Dean campaign, while the internet was certainly more relevant than in past campaigns I don’t think personlization was at the same intense level it is now. The press should have known better than to get caught up in the campaign, but oftentimes reporters who follow campaigns drink the proverbial kool-aid.

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