Ronda Hauben on Wed, 9 Mar 2005 05:07:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Missed Lessons from the Dean Campaign

Joe Trippi gave a talk at Columbia U. Here's an article from
OhmyNews that I wrote about the talk. Ronda

 		Missed Lessons From the Dean Campaign
 	    Joe Trippi may see the Net's political force,
 	but he has yet to see the potential of a netizen press
                             by Ronda Hauben

A talk given by Joe Trippi on March 2, 2005 at Columbia University provides
some insight into why the campaign by Howard Dean for the Democratic Party
presidential nomination failed. (1)

Trippi described how he became interested in the potential impact the
Internet could have on politics. In the mid 1990's he had participated
in an online site where computer games were discussed. When one of the most
influential members of the online gaming community died at age 31, Trippi
was amazed to see the impact of this loss on his online community. Among
other responses, some people took up to raise money to set up a scholarship
fund for the children of their deceased friend. Trippi's experience online
stimulated him to understand that people could learn to know and care
about each other in an online community in a more significant manner than
usually occurs with one's neighbors or other acquaintances.

As Howard Dean's campaign manager, he set out to utilize the online
connection to build an offline community of people working for Dean. The
campaign would utilize the email contacts they had to inform people in a
city that Dean would be making an appearance. Trippi would be astounded
when he found that the people they informed would meet together, plan how
to prepare for the Dean appearance, and work together to leaflet and inform
people of the planned event. He described how early in the campaign
Dean was planning to make an appearance in Austin, Texas. The Dean campaign
emailed the 400 contacts they had in Austin. The Austin contacts held
meetings and worked together to leaflet and spread the word about the Dean
visit. When Dean gave his talk, Trippi was surprised that over 3200 people
attended. Over and over again, the Dean campaign was surprised by the
large number of interested people attending Dean campaign events made
possible by the campaign relying on local email contacts to meet in person
and organize effectively for the event.

Trippi focused on the ability of the Internet to make it possible for
people in a community to meet in person and to open their houses
to others in their community. He proposed that the significant achievement
of the Dean campaign was that the Internet helped to facilitate
offline collaboration and cooperation among Dean supporters. In his talk,
Trippi also referred to the novelty of using the Internet to raise a large
amount of campaign funding from multiple small donations made online.
He didn't refer to the online discussion among the Dean campaign workers
and the effect of this process to invigorate the campaign. Nor did
Trippi consider the problem of the mainstream US media and its negative
effect at crucial periods in the Dean campaign like the Iowa primary.

Unlike the online political campaign in South Korea to elect a President
who was relatively unknown, the Dean campaign did not set out to create a
press that would challenge the corporate media. In South Korea, Oh Yeon Ho
created OhmyNews. This online newspaper helped the Korean netizen movement
to topple the conservative President and replace him with a more progressive
though unknown politician, Roh Moo-hyun, in the 2002 election. (2) When
asked whether he felt there was a need for a similar force in the US to
challenge the US mainstream media, Trippi said no. His assessment of the
weakness in the Dean campaign was the inexperienced nature of those who
campaigned for Dean, and Dean's own lack of experience running for office.
Trippi did not consider the failure of the campaign to support the creation
of a progressive online press like OhmyNews which would welcome broad ranging
netizen journalist contributions. (3) Though Trippi agreed that the mainstream
media in the US was a problem for the Dean campaign, he didn't see the need
to analyze how a newspaper like OhmyNews in Korea could be critical in helping
to counter the negative impact of the mainstream media on the Dean campaign.

Trippi believed that the Dean campaign was but the "tip of an iceberg"
in demonstrating the impact that the Internet will have on US politics. He
compared the experience of the 2004 Presidential campaign with the early
impact of radio and then TV on politics. He proposed, however, that the
impact of the Internet on future campaigns would be even more profound.

Trippi suggested that new technical developments would provide some of the
tools needed by Internet based political campaigns.  He referred to new
entrepreneurial ventures and support for new technologies like podcasting,
as the form that a new media would take in the US, rather than a form that
welcomed broad ranging discussion and articles from netizen reporters
like OhmyNews.

Trippi's talk was helpful to consider the need to evaluate the strengths and
weaknesses of the Dean candidacy in 2004. The talk didn't provide any
indication, however, that Trippi or the Democratic Party could recognize
the power of the press and of the public opinion that is created by a press
in a political campaign. Trippi was concerned about the growing power
of Republican politicians in the executive, judicial and legislative
branches of the US government. Nevertheless he did not believe there was
a need to counter the power of the  mainstream media.(4) Trippi may
have seen a tip of the Internet iceberg, but he was blind to the potential
power of netizen journalism and a netizen press.



(1) Joe Trippi, "Trippi Says Dean's 2004 Run Just the Beginning",
Columbia Spectator, Thursday, March 3, 2005, p. 1

(2) Korean Netizens Change Journalism and Politics
The text of OhmyNews founder Oh Yeon Ho's Harvard Internet and Society
Conference Dec. 11 address

(3)Will the Internet and Netizens Impact the 2004 US Presidential Election?
Online discussions in China and the netizens movement in South Korea have
demonstrated the power of the internet

(4) The Crisis in the US Media and the 2004 Election

Published in OhmyNews, March 6, 2005

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