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Social media and political change - Rachel Gibson


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Academic-practitioner knowledge exchange presentation by Rachel Gibson of Manchester University, from the 2012 eCampaigning Forum.

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Social media and political change - Rachel Gibson

  1. 1. Social Media and the Rise of ‘Citizen- Initiated’ Campaigning eCampaigning Forum St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford March 21-22, 2012 Professor Rachel Gibson, Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester
  2. 2. Political Campaigns Pre-Web: Phase IEarly 20th century through to 2nd World War:• Direct• Localised• Face-to-face/‘live’ quality
  3. 3. Rallies & Marches
  4. 4. Parties
  5. 5. Newsletters & Pamphlets
  6. 6. Phase 2: WW2 through to 1980sSeeds of change:1930s FDR’s Fireside ChatsIndirect / mediatedNationalDefining Moment JFK vs Nixon 1960 1st Televised Presidential DebatePersonality rather than party-basedNegative ‘Daisy Girl’ Ad LBJParties lost their supremacy
  7. 7. Phase 3: 1980s - presentNew Style of Campaigning Identified• ‘Americanised’ ‘Modernized’ ‘PostModern’ ‘Post- fordist’ ‘Stage III’ ‘Professionalised’ ‘Political Marketing’ (Denver & Hands; Farrell & Webb; Norris; Plasse; Wring; Lees-Marshment)Key Traits• New tools – computerized databases, direct mail, telemarketing, focus groups, targeted polling and tv advertising, internet.• Relationship to voters – consumers to be persuaded.• Campaign style – personalized around leaders, permanent, individualized, marketed/targeted, professionalised and scientific.• Organization – central HQ plus outside consultants. Little role for the grassroots
  8. 8. Where does the web fit in?Hypothesis 1: Increases trends for micro-targeting, need for consultants & professionals, centralizes power within technocratic elite. Increases top- down approach with templates for local campaigns. Campaigns become more ‘virtual’ and synthetic.Hypothesis 2: Increases opportunities for citizen involvement in campaigns, devolves power in parties and makes them more networked (like issue/ protest organizations), increases contacting/mobilization of voters, reconnects parties with their local civic roots.
  9. 9. Initial efforts – somewhat disappointing!
  10. 10. Not just labour…
  11. 11. Over the border things proved a bit more exciting…
  12. 12. Then came Web 2.0 or ‘social media’...2004 U.S. Presidential Race and rise (and fall) of Howard Dean• Blog for America, Meetups, Baseball Bat fundraiser, DDF2008 Victory of Barack Obama – his ‘MyBO’ site marked a key shift in established parties/campaigns use of digital technology ● Gave rise to ‘citizen-initiated campaigning’ - where ordinary citizens (not members/official staff) use digital tools to undertake key campaign tasks and so ‘co-produce or manage’ the election effort, at least at the local level. ● 15 m members by June 2008 ● Does allow for central coordination and monitoring but extensive tactical autonomy for volunteers ● Testimonies of those involved indicate its ‘transformative’ potential. Creation of ‘social capital’ (Putnam, 2000)
  13. 13. ‘Obama’s unprecedented online success guarantees that there’s not a single campaign in 2012, Democrat or Republican, that won’t place the Web at the core of its operation. The floodgates are open. This doesn’t mean just hiring Web developers, bloggers, videographers – the works. It also means using the Internet to invite people into the process, giving them something to work for, offering them a stake in victory or defeat. …this new dynamic will transform the way campaigns are run – and, beyond that, the way the winning candidate governs. Fundamentally, all of this is redefining our relationship with our politics. ‘Politics is No Longer Local. Its Viral’ Jose Antonio Vargas, The Washington Post December 28 2008: B01
  14. 14. Everyone who goes out canvassing comes back with at least one story of someone they impacted. The team leaders are trained to give people time to tell those stories, and so everyone gets a sense of progress and they learn from each other how to be more effective next time. That’s a totally different picture than what I saw in scores of Kerry offices in 2004: crowds of canvassers receiving minimal instruction before being sent to an unfamiliar neighborhood and rarely getting the chance to debrief with others….At the end of my own neighborhood team meeting in Westport, Kansas City, my team leader Jennifer Robinson, totally unprompted, told me: “I’m a different person than I was six weeks ago… now I’m really asking how can I be most effective in my community? I’ve realized that these things I’ve been doing as a volunteer organizer – well I’m really good at them, I have a passion for this. I want to continue to find ways to actively make this place, my community, a better place. …I’m asking now: Can I look for permanent work as an organizer in service of my community? …before the campaign it never occurred to me that I could even ask that question….” Zack Exley ‘The New Organizers’ The Huffington Post October 8th 2008
  15. 15. Evidence from Project CODE – Comparing Online Democracy and Elections Development of the Citizen Initiated Campaign Index (CIC)Scale that measures extent of citizen involvement in 5 core tasks using internet technology:3. Community building/Social networking4. Resource generation5. Get out the vote – voter mobilization6. Message development7. Message disseminationCases for analysis: UK GE 2010 ; Australia 2010; US Pres 2012 France Pres 2012
  16. 16. Measuring 5 Functions of Web ActionCommunity BuildingSetup profile Sites External Message createPhoto Mobilization Policy emailBiography GOTV offline fwd/customizeWhy joined Access phonebank Sign up for f2f Poster/leafletSetup/join Groups canvassing reate/customizeSetup Blog Sign up to discuss Manifesto input/feedbackSetup Wiki with f&fEmail/msg system Leaflets download Message distributeExternally promote Externally promote Web banners/ads d-loadprofile event Posters/leaflets d-loadSubtotal (additive GOTV online Send email Email/share policy docs0-9) Post to FaceBook RSS feed to website Post to Twitter Share blog posts ext.Internal GOTV i-phone app Link to SNS profileMobilization Elite Mobilization Link to Twitter accountPersonal Email forward to Import email contactsfundraising MP/newspp Subtotal (additive 0-11)Promote membership Start e-petitionSign up as local Subtotal (additiveorganiser 0-11)Sign up ascandidateOrganize / addeventVote leaders toattend eventsSubtotal (additive0-6)
  17. 17. Figure 1: Citizen -initiated Campaigning Emphasis by Party BNP SNP Community Membnet Intra -mob GOTV Msg production My Cons LDA 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
  18. 18. Conclusions so far...• Political institutions matter: CIC performance – US (Hi) UK (Med) AUS (Low)• Party outloook size and resources matter – major parties, mainstream left and resource ‘poor’• No evidence so far that increases overall amount of voter contact. ● BES statistics show stable level of contact 2005 to 2010 ● Across parties 2010 rates of online contact low but Conservatives highest (2.1%) followed by Labour and LibDems
  19. 19. Expectations were high:Howard Rheingold (1993) ‘The Virtual Community’…the future of the Net is connected to the future of community, democracy, education, science and intellectual life… The political significance of CMC lies in its capacity to challenge the existing political hieararchy’s monopoly on powerful commercial media, and perhaps thus revitalise citizen-based democracy.Nicholas Negroponte (1995) ‘Being Digital’…As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. [there is] …A decentralized mindset growing in our society, driven by young citizenry in the digital world. The traditional centralist view of life will become a thing of the past.Esther Dyson (1998) ‘Release 2.1: a design for living in the digital age’…For me the great hope of the Net is that more and more people will be led to get involved with it, and that using it will change their overall experience of life. …The Internet is a powerful lever for people to use to accomplish their own goals in collaboration with other people. Its more than a source of information, it’s a way for people to organise themselves. It gives them power for themselves. Rather than over others.