How do they know so much about me?
Today's question: Communication technologies have always had a role in political life. Is there something fundamentally or causally different about the newest information technologies in the political sphere? For example, you might consider: What aspects of communication and culture are structurally different about the political sphere as opposed to other kinds of activities? What aspects of new communication technologies (like blogs, online donations, citizenship, and political campaign software [e.g., VoteMover etc.]) are different from the older communication technologies that have been used for politics? Please refer to the Howard reading in supporting your answer.
My Response: After reading this weeks question I though a lot about our conversation during last weeks class session. Many voiced dismay and concern over the activities described by Howard, isn’t that I don’t share some of their concerns, but political campaigns have never had the best reputation for ethical behavior. What is it then that makes these newest developments so different? Part of the answer to this question may have more to do with how unfamiliar many are with the full capabilities of the technology. While they may be familiar with the user side of these technologies how they actually work and what is being done behind the scenes is quite a mystery to most people. As Howard describes early in the book, the leaders of hypermedia consulting firms have established an elaborate justification for the work that they do. The work is justified as an aid to democracy to allow voters to have greater access to political leaders. The problem develops when the activities seem to work against the ideals, which is clearly the case in this situation. Further more as Professor Howard pointed out in our discussion last week there is no system for accountability in hypermedia campaigns. They aren’t subject to the same regulations and laws as other campaign activities. That is not to say people would be more careful of what they are hearing if there were a more solid system in place, but it seems logical the more unfamiliar one is with a technology the more you want someone else looking out on your behalf. Perhaps it is just part of the fall out for allowing individuals at least the appearance of access to higher authorities. It may seem like a more direct line than the political activist who lived down the street, but then you also knew where that person lived, perhaps about their background, and whether they could be trusted. By loosing this more distant but familiar connection to the political process the result may be the need for more checks on the methods used in campaigning.