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a person's attempt to make sense of his surroundings

COM125 Blog Post #9: Politics and the Internet

The internet has leveled the playing field of politics. Why did I just make a sudden statement and expect you, dear reader, to believe me?

Let me explain.

Mass media has traditionally been a downward trickle, from the creators (anything from pamphlets, posters, to television advertisements) to the public. The exorbitant cost in producing these media messages meant that the regular members of the public were largely unable to create large-scale mass media political campaigns.

In the beginning of the internet, this traditional approach was also taken. Official websites containing descriptions and agendas of various political parties sprung up.

But as internet technology matured, different and novel ways for members of the public to get involved in politics sprang up. The advent of Internet 2.0 (which is a catch-all phrase to mean various applications of social networking programs) helped raise grassroots level awareness and involvement.

This grassroots-level involvement could have been a contributing factor to the current U.S. President Obama’s successful election. An example would be the Obama Girl, for her Youtube videos:

With 23 million views on this video alone, Obama Girl has managed to reach a level of viewership that traditionally would have cost millions of dollars to even purchase the air-time for broadcast on national television. As 53% of internet users are between 18-44 years of age, the internet is also able to penetrate the younger generation, which have been traditionally politically apathetic. In fact, youth voters saw a record turnout in more than 20 states, with 59% of voters under 30 years old voting for Obama.

Internet 2.0 technologies have helped introduced political change, whether peaceful or not. The 2009 Iran protests against electoral fraud  were largely organized spontaneously via Twitter. Several websites dedicated to following tweets and news stories relating to the situation in Iran, such as Iran.twazzup, have been set up and are frequently updated as well.

It is important to note, however, that the internet and its tools are not the CAUSE of these changes. They have only made possible an means of communication that can be made accessible to millions with minimal cause, and maximum effect.


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