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Archive for the ‘Online Communities’ Category

Garrett Graff’s 2007 The First Campaign asked this question about the 2008 presidential campaign: Will the two major parties seize the moment and run the first campaign of the new era, or will they run the last campaign all over again?

Clearly, Obama ran the first campaign. His online campaign for change was a grassroots movement on steroids. It took political campaigns to a new era by showing “what Web 2.0 means for Campaigning 3.0 (Graff, p. 267). It even earned him Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. Businesses are also in “campaigns” with consumers, and corporations like Conde Nast  are already trying to capitalize on Obama’s digital lessons.

I wonder how the Supreme Court’s Citizen United vs. The Federal Election Commission will impact the 2012 campaign. Will corporations invest more heavily in supporting candidate’s online campaigns or launching their own? Will candidates lose control of their messaging, online and offline? Or will the FEC rewrite their rules to stop corporations and unions from working with campaigns they favor in planning their messages.

Michael Turk, who was in charge of Internet strategy for President Bush’s 2004 campaign, has accused the GOP of failing to believe that “people will up and participate if they are invited to do so” (Graff, p.258). After the 2008 loss, Obama’s prospective 2012 Republican rivals Republicans are already changing their tune and investing heavily to build supportive online communities. Will their efforts pay off?

It is difficult to make these predictions when technologies and social media’s influence are evolving so rapidly. Back in 2007, even experts were misjudging when political figures would adopt the internet.  For example, blogging pioneer Henry Copeland forecasted that the team who won the 2008 Presidential election would have run an “old-school fuddy-duddy campaign” (Graff, p.254).

In this article, Michael Silberman explains:

We can expect to see even more impressive integrations of tried and true organizing strategies with new technologies that we can’t even imagine. In 2012, millions more people will have access to broadband, and no one really knows how they will be spending their time online.

New Web 2.0 platforms are certainly creating new options for Campaigning 3.0. For example, foursquare users can easily notify their networks when they are volunteering for campaigns, and campaign offices can provide supporters with increased recognition.

But in spite of these changes, the key to winning the 2012 election online will still be understanding that “the internet isn’t an end to itself but merely a means to an end- a chance to pull people in and get them involved in the political process” (Graff, p. 275-276). Candidates who launch social media campaigns to simply “build community” will fail. Candidates’ success will rely on their ability to establish a focused message that is simple, consistent, and relevant. Unless online community members understand their mission, they will not be able to take advantage of fancy social media tools to accomplish it.

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I first became acquainted with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) during my junior year of college in an abnormal psych class. As part of our curriculum, we read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This novel, written in the first-person perspective of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, really struck a chord with me. I became fascinated by individuals and families affected by ASD. Perhaps it was because I prided myself on my superior communication skills and love of loving, and couldn’t imagine living with ASD.  Perhaps it was because I was a psychology major, and ASD was beginning to appear in the headlines of news and the plots of books and movies rather frequently (1 in 100 children in the U.S. are affected.) Regardless of my reason, I began to “follow” autism. I haven’t made a career out of this interest, although I sometimes think my dream job is in the communications department of an organization that raises awareness for ASD. Instead, I simply find it very easy to become engrossed in an Aspergian’s memoir (John Robison’s Look Me in the Eye) or the blog of a parent with an autistic child.

If you’re not very familiar with ASD, the Autism” Wikipedia page as well as the Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks’ home pages provide basic information about diagnostic criteria and psychological profiles. From there, I recommend diving into blogs. Reading non-fiction really is the best way to learn. While there are a finite number of memoirs to purchase on Amazon.com, individuals touched by autism are posting on personal blogs every single day! Sites like The Autism Hub provide links to blogs about autism from autistic people, family members, and students/professionals. Left Brain/Right Brain is another well-known autism blog focused on news, science, and opinion related to ASD. You should follow @autismspeaks on Twitter for more blog recommendations and relevant news. But awareness groups like Autism Speaks aren’t only maintaining a presence on social networking sites like Faceboook and Twitter- they have created their own! Autism Speaks’ autism social networking site provides a venue, complete with blog lists and forums members of the autism community to share insights, opinions and information. Autism Blogger is another social networking site that allows people who have been affected by autism to share their stories, provide support and to help others. Many of these bloggers respond to autism’s portrayal by the media, which links you to more autism-related content (particularly YouTube videos).

Estée Klar’s blog, To Get To The Other Side, is one of my favorites to follow.  Estée is the founder and executive director of The Autism Acceptance Project and is the mother of a young autistic son named Adam. Her blog, formerly known as The Joy of Autism, has been given numerous awards, as well as listed in the top 10 autism blogs as well as the top 100 health blogs. In order to support and enrich the autistic community,  Estée discusses how we must view autism as a way of being and a natural form of human difference. I found this recent post of hers especially interestingfor its condemnation of Autism Speak’s marketing  that “exploits people’s pain for capital gain: make autism desperate enough and we can raise money to cure it.”

Before blogging existed, books on autism were rather scarce. But, as you will see when you visit some of the autism social networking sites and blog lists linked above, there is certainly a demand for insights, opinion, and information surrounding autism, but this demand was previously hard to recognize because it fell into  The Long Tail .  “Unfiltered by economic scarcity” (The Long Tail, p.53), the supportive voices of the autistic community are now heard through blogging.

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