Call#: Annenberg Library Reserve P94.65.U6 J46 2006
In chapter six, Jenkins discusses the role of popular culture in emerging political communities. Jenkins (as is the case throughout Convergence Culture) is focused on how old and new media interact and the dynamics of collaboration and participation. While Jenkins recognizes the scoff-factor when implying the concept of “photoshop for democracy” (user-generated images that often map themes from popular culture onto the political campaign) is any sort of substitute for real political activism, he insists that this kind of user-generated content and mass dispersion is a serious act of citizenry. In fact, using popular culture as a means of engaging voters might just be the most effective way of re-establishing interest in politics as a part of our everyday lives. Jenkins focuses on the 2004 election and recognizes that the next step is to think of “democratic citizenship as a lifestyle.” Furthermore, online political communities seem to be segregating voters, as opposed to encouraging dialogue across ideologies. Although he seems to offer popular culture as a kind of national balm for the ailments of political fragmentation, Jenkins recognizes the inherent limits of its role in (or applicability as a model for) contemporary political communities.
For me, the most useful parts of this argument is the attention he pays to the increasing participation of average Americans (now as monitorial citizens as opposed to informed citizens) in the media landscape and the possibilities for the integration of politics and popular culture. However, he doesn’t seem to offer any real solution for the acutely polarized political landscape.
This article discusses Edwards' efforts to use new media to gain an edge in the 2008 elections. Formally announcing his candidacy via youtube, encouraging voters to text message their support, blogging through his own site www.onecorps.com, Edwards is, according to those quoted in the article, ahead of the online campaign curve. The article interestingly compares Edwards' approach to that of former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Warner too utilized the online avenues but, according to Nancy Scola (former Hill staffer Howard Dean campaign volunteer) came across stiff and uneasy online. The implication here is that not only a campaign, but a particular type of personality, must be staged online to be effective. This leads me to wonder whether particular personalities translate across media - can Edwards mobilize his supporters outside of cyberspace? Although this report positively announces that twice as many Americans use the web as their primary source of news about the 2006 elections as they did in 2002, it seems to posit that the real political audience is still reached through TV. Concluding with a reference to Howard Dean, the article settles on the view that the Internet is an increasingly important medium, but still only one piece of the campaign puzzle, leaving us a bit unsure of the implications regarding Edwards' mastery of online tools. Ultimately, when it comes to presidential campaigns, does money still rule - or will the internet increasingly become THE most important piece of a candidate's strategy? In the future, could e-campaigns prove a democratizing force in the uneven playing-field of big-money politics?