Academic Freedom

Other than exploring the social media applications and implications of this year’s election, I’ve stayed away from political advocacy on SMUG. But I do feel compelled to share this YouTube video — Obama’s Attack Ad Against Himself — because it is the kind of social media creation that no campaign could afford to put on TV (and it didn’t come from a campaign.)


I mean, no campaign could possibly afford to buy a TV commercial that was four minutes long! (Er…check that, no campaign that hadn’t disabled fraud-prevention safeguards on credit card contributions could afford such an ad.)

From my perspective, Charles Krauthammer’s column on why he is voting “for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb” expresses the substantive reasons why I support Sen. McCain and have concerns about Sen. Obama. I also thought his follow-up column was excellent. Here are some other opinions that I find compelling, from PowerLine, Thomas Sowell and David Frum.

I want all SMUGgles to know that it’s absolutely fine to disagree with the Chancellor, and that there will be no retribution reflected in course grading. (Especially since we don’t offer letter grades!)

But given the political tilt I see in the social media world (particularly in Twitterville), I also wanted to be on the record expressing my hope that Sen. McCain will be elected today. If professors at state-funded universities can express their political opinions at taxpayer expense, it seems fair for the Chancellor of a virtual university that receives no government funding (or funding of any kind, for that matter) to have the same academic freedom.

If Sen. Obama wins, I will hope that I’m wrong about him and will pray the best for him and for the rest of us.

Obama, McCain Both Have “Girls”

In his analysis of Barack Obama’s use of social media in Social Media 302, Associate Professor Scott Meis called attention to a key difference between this campaign cycle and those of the past:

In the past, a campaign team may have overreacted to a video such as Obama Girl or been concerned about not having a say in the messaging behind a video such as Yes We Can. Instead, the Obama team has embraced these videos and recognized the value and power of user-generated content in moving others to action.

That’s a really crucial change in the media landscape, and it’s here to stay. Candidates formerly would try to control the campaign’s message, but that has become extremely difficult if not impossible. As Scott mentioned, Obama Girl had a brief period last summer in which she essentially dominated the campaign news.


But now BarelyPolitical has also added “McCain Girl” to its YouTube lineup:


And just as we will expect to see Obama-McCain and Biden-Palin debates in the next 60 days, there is also a “Candidate Girls Olympics” competition.


Social media are more than just “new media.” I define new media as a way for organizations to bypass the mainstream media and deliver content directly to audiences. Social media means they aren’t “audiences” anymore. They can and will talk back, whether on social networks or through their own blogs.

As Scott said, it’s encouraging that both of the major campaigns have significant involvement in social media. (You can read about the McCain effort in Social Media 301.) But whether the campaigns are participating or not, the reality is that with the widespread availability of these cheap and easy tools, rank-and-file people across the political spectrum will be engaged on-line in this momentous election.

Social Media 302: Barack Obama’s Social Media Strategy

In Social Media 301, we examined the McCain campaign’s use of the Web, and invited an associate professor to provide a similar analysis for the Obama campaign. Scott Meis, a SMUGgle from Chicago, has risen to the challenge with Analyzing Barack Obama’s Social Media Strategy. Here’s an excerpt:

Visit any of Obama’s networking tools and you’ll find a donation widget. He’s engaging target audiences on their own turf and using these tools and platforms to motivate others to donate and help drive others back to his website. All these tools are serving as key extensions of interaction and user involvement but centered around a clear call to action. It really is brilliant. You see a great video on YouTube that inspires you to participate, whamo, the donate button is a simple click away.

One could definitely argue that Obama is just trying to see what sticks, but let’s remember, this is the presidential election. Technically, his audience is everyone. The Washington Post has even gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

Check out the rest of Scott’s analysis on his Social Media Snippets blog.

Obama, Biden and a Call for a SMUG Associate Professor

It turns out that mainstream media still got the scoop on Sen. Obama’s choice for VP, despite the campaign promise to break the news to supporters first via SMS and e-mail. Here’s the AP story:

Obama’s decision leaked to the media several hours before his aides planned to send a text message announcing the running mate, negating a promise that people who turned over their phone numbers would be the first to know who Obama had chosen. The campaign scrambled to send the text message after the leak, sending phones buzzing at the inconvenient time of just after 3 a.m. on the East coast.

I guess if you’re a strong enough supporter to give your cell phone number to a political campaign, you’ll probably forgive both the broken promise and the 2 a.m. CDT message disrupting your sleep.

I hardly ever get into politics on this blog, but I was a political science major and worked for 14 years in politics and government. It’s hard for me to fathom that an announcement like this — the most important one of the campaign — would be leaked accidentally to the media after the campaign had made such a big deal about texting the choice to supporters first.

Disclosure: My political background is on the other side of the aisle, and I’ll be voting for the “Wrinkly, White-Haired Guy.” And I’m thinking our Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, will be his running mate.

I have been interested, though, in how Sen. Obama’s campaign has used social media, but I haven’t wanted to give my e-mail address or cell phone number to the campaign to experience it directly. You can’t even get into his Web site without providing your e-mail.

So this is a call for someone to join the SMUG faculty as Associate Professor and do an analysis of the Obama campaign’s use of social media. I’m sure that among our 150+ SMUGgles we have several who received that early-morning SMS. If you’ve experienced the on-line Obama campaign first-hand and would like to write a post about what strategies and tactics you think have been most effective, you can become an Associate Professor in the SMUG Department of Political Science.

If anyone else wants to write a post about Sen. McCain and the RNC’s use of social media, or any of the other campaigns’ activities (such as Ralph Nader’s or Cynthia McKinney’s), those would be welcome, too.

Ground Rules: This will not be a discussion of the merits of candidates or their policy positions. There is no lack of sites where those debates are already taking place, both on the right and the left. The SMUG discussion will about how the campaigns and their supporters are using social media tools.

Apply for a Associate Professor position via e-mail at the address listed in the “Contact the Chancellor” sidebar item.

If you just want to share your brief impressions of the campaigns’ use of social media, you can put those in the comments below. Same ground rules apply.

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