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Accidently stumbling upon the path of the future

July 17, 2007

Henry Jenkins writes here, commenting on an interview he did in Mother Jones, about the role of the internet, new media, and social networks on the upcoming presidential election (16 months! Who’s excited?) and the future of democracy. These are all topics I’ve been thinking about being a socially-aware, technological-savvy (today, I taught my computer to respond to my voice commands) resident of Washington, DC. And then I remember my academic interests in such topics are not new – much to my own surprise.

Jenkins writes:

So, for example, last go around, Howard Dean’s campaign staff went for broke in their use of platforms like Meetup to organize face to face meetings with voters, of blogs to give voters a greater sense of access to the candidates and the campaigns, and the use of the web to raise money from smaller donors. By this election cycle, all of these tactics are taken for granted and they are being used by pretty much every candidate in the race.

Ladies and gents, my senior high school research paper (all 8 pages! gasp!):

Combined with his Internet presence and position as an antidote to Washington insiders, Dean received large support from younger voters, many of those who had always been involved with politics, but also first time voters. In fact, some of the early criticism about Dean was that his supporters were “too young, too alienated, too inchoate to matter.” (“Is Dean for Real”) Voter turnout among the younger demographic quadrupled in early Democratic primaries and caucuses, and many point to Dean as the reason for increased voter turnout in this age group. (“Millenials Grow Into Politics”). In reality, the “Deaniac” demographic was more wide range than that, but young faces dominated the campaign staff. Dean’s stance, especially on the Iraq war, attracted young campaign workers. In a CNN documentary, New Hampshire area organizer David Coringer, a young man himself, said, “If you’re 21 and not idealistic, something’s really wrong with you.” Ideals might have brought young campaign workers to New Hampshire and Iowa, but few would have found out about the former governor if not for the Internet.

I’m not saying I scooped Henry Jenkins here. I’m saying that my interests are not as random and scattershot as I thought. I was born into the age of computers, I’m interested in culture, popular and otherwise. Put the two together and you can connect a line between my senior year research paper on Dean’s rise and fall through the internet to my critical methods paper on Battlestar Galactica (I’m convinced the professor is still shaking his head) to my day to day email and blog reading and writing.

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