Official Candidate Blogs

The Decline of the PC Market and its Impact on Communication: Microblogging to the Fore?

If one feels homesick for the future Japan seems the country of choice. Now you can witness a trend that might be an indicator of how our way of communicating is going to change. As Newsvine reports the PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles and digital video recorders with terabytes of memory. Writes Newsvine:

Japan's PC market is already shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics — and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.

One of the reasons for the decline of the PC market is the increasing popularity of sophisticated mobile devices such as cell phones. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs more than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones. The increased use of cell phones to access the internet obviously affects the websites itself. From the Newsvine piece:

The fastest growing social networking site here, Mobagay Town, is designed exclusively for cell phones. Other networking sites like mixi, Facebook and MySpace can all be accessed and updated from handsets, as can the video-sharing site YouTube.

If this really is the picture of things to come of course one has to ask how this affects blogging and its use for political campaigns. Content will have to comply to the nature of cell-phones with small screens and users used to short messages due to the lack of a keyboard. Consequently this makes a rise of microblogging likely. Already used by John Edwards and Barack Obama to inform their followers what they are up to at pretty much any given time and post quick event updates it also, as Asbjørn Sørensen Poulsen points out, "does seem to give the debate an edge when you are forced to express yourself in 140 characters".

While microblogging seems certainly seems a good way of keeping one's devotees up to date and very quickly reacting to new developments I think it might be problematic in the way that it adds to a shallowness of the process. It's not really based on exchange. To be forced to express oneself in 140 characters also comprises the danger of reducing politics to even emptier slogans and phrases, simplifying a complicated world.

As a complementary communication tool, microblogging certainly seems like a good idea. Tanding by itself though there are issues and challenges that need to be addressed if we really are following Japan in our communication habits.

(If that's ever going happen. As Parker reminded me by sending me this link to Deep Jive Interests the whole wireless-infrastructure of Japan is way more sophisticated than in North America or Europe and there's no sign – or demand for that matter – that this is going to change anytime soon. At least the "tremendous heritage in other technologies such as console gaming" is gaining foothold with consoles having overtaken PCs as the favorite gaming platforms).


Blog Campaigning: 3.3 Blogs in campaigns

3.3 Blogs in campaigns Whilst political campaign blogs are only a few years of age, it is likely that politicians and campaign strategists started developing an interest in the medium in the beginning of the 21st century when a substantial online blog community rose to prominence in the United States (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 140). Political commentator blogs started gaining a widespread audience in 2001 and 2002 with Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish on the right, and Markos Moulitsas’ Daily Kos on the left (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 140). Assisted by the Iraq War and the U.S. presidential primaries and general election in 2004, the subsequent years saw the mainstreaming of the political blogosphere (Bahnisch in Bruns & Jacobs 2006, p. 141). The 2004 U.S. presidential election became the first election ever to see a campaign use a blog as an integral part of the campaign (Rice 2004, p. 1, Williams et al. 2005, p. 178).

Coggins (n.d.) argues that we can distinguish between three types of blogs found within political campaigns. These are: Official Candidate Blogs; “written and kept by politicians and their staff. These blogs are primarily used to report news, events and other information about a specific candidate's campaign trail” (Coggins n.d.); Candidate Supporter Blogs, “'unofficial' campaign blogs written and kept for particular candidates by individual or group supporters who are not officially part of that candidate's staff. Like Official Candidate Blogs, these blogs also contain news, events and other relevant information” (Coggins n.d.); and Political Commentary and News Blogs, which “do not typically support a particular candidate, even though specific bloggers/authors may have personal biases. The main purpose of these blogs is journalistic in nature: providing news and commentaries regarding different candidates' issues, events and platforms. These may be written and kept by individuals or by groups” (Coggins n.d.).

Although Coggins’ categories were coined in relation to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, they still remain useful as the main types of campaign blogs to play a role in elections. We should, however, add two new types of blogs to Coggins’ categories: Official Party Blogs and Party Supporter Blogs. Official Party Blogs basically serve the same functions as Official Candidate Blogs. Examples of party blogs are the U.S. Democratic Party’s official blog, Kicking Ass, and the official blog of the Republican National Committee. Surprisingly, few political parties in other western democracies have embraced blogs. The Germany Socialist party uses a platform or blog, Roteblogs, to encourage members to set up their own blogs in support of the party (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 6). In the UK we have lately seen the development of Party Supporter Blogs, like LabourHome and ConservativeHome, which have no official ties to the party they represent and basically serve the same functions as Candidate Supporter Blogs.

However, blogs are used in much more complex ways by campaigns today then they were in the 2004 election. Today, as opposed to the 2004 election, almost every campaign put elite bloggers on their campaign payroll (Armstrong 2007a, Glover 2006), “paying bloggers to write, develop Web sites, connect with energetic allies on the Internet, respond to online critics, and advise their employers about how to behave in the blogosphere” (Glover 2006). Bloggers have therefore, particularly in the U.S., become strategic advisors for campaigns. This might not come as a surprise considering the fact that the blogosphere today is 100 times as big as it was during the 2004 U.S. presidential election (Armstrong 2007a) and has a potential to reach a much larger audience. When blogs mainly relied on text to get their message across in the 2004 election, they have now become multimedia content producers. The creation of new social network sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. has made it easier for campaigns to embed videos, images and text and link to platforms that give them the potential to reach a much larger audience than before (Armstrong 2007a). Blogs therefore provide an arena and an environment that are constantly changing, so it is important to look at how previous literature has assessed the medium’s impact on campaigns and elections.