Sunday, May 20, 2007

shake danah boyd's hand

A cross post from the agency blog, aka lazy blogger tactic.

On Friday, I attended the Personal Democracy Forum conference at Pace University in New York. With my background in political mobilization, it was like going home: the conversations, the old friends and colleagues. And as a true political/social media junkie, I was in heaven, surrounded by the likes of Larry Lessig, Joe Trippi, danah boyd, Robert Scoble, Eric Schmidt, Thomas Friedman, Jeff Jarvis and Josh Marshall.

Oh yes, lots of (white) men. But it was boyd who — in the 10 minutes the conference organizers gave her and her Madonna circa Borderline get up — is most worth remarking upon.

boyd spoke about the fact that, although they have seemingly embraced social media, the presidential candidates insist on treating “the digital world as another broadcast medium similar to TV.” She thinks it’s time for candidates to begin to think about the digital world “as a networked public where people live their lives.”

This is particularly relevant for young people, boyd’s area of expertise. I remember reading a post on her blog in which boyd made the insightful point that young people — in contrast to older generations — did not talk about “going online,” as that would suggest a distinction between their lives online and off. They are not “going online,” because they are always there.

As far as boyd is concerned, candidates are losing out on an opportunity to “shake hands” with young voters, something they can do without a day of flying and an advance team. And, sorry folks, this means going further than simply collecting friends as an endorsement of your candidacy because IT’S NOT.

“Much of (young people’s friend) collecting is identity-driven,” said boyd. “Politicians are used as a marker of identity to be shown off like a badge. Connecting to Barack or McCain or Hillary is all about staking one’s identity in relation to political life. Many users are friends with multiple candidates because they want to show their active engagement in politics.”

“Real friends leave comments or wall messages,” said boyd, and, as far as she’s concerned, politicians should do the same. If it works for celebrities, why not Romney, Giuliani, Richardson or Edwards?

Or, for that matter, why not the consumer brands that are creating MySpace profiles and, as boyd would say, treating the social network like just another broadcast medium?

So, I’m with danah. Say hi. Show you’re listening. Shake some hands. Your voters/your customers will make it worth your time.

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