Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Post-Broadcast Politics

One of my "hobbies" as it where, is studying and reflecting upon political imagery. This image here reminded me of a photo I saw last June on Michael Shaw's blog, Bag News Notes.

Shaw has a new piece at American Photo, "Campaign Visuals in the Age of Facebook." In it, he interviews photographer Stephen Ferry to discuss this photo which resembles a "Facebook mashup." Ferry says his photo captures what he calls the, "Facebook zeitgeist." He explains the action of the photo thus, " this is a photograph of a transmission: from subject into camera and from camera onto the Web."

I'm intrigued by the act of transmission and how transmission is reconceptualized within a digital culture. In the Ferry photo, the subjects are both Obama and a "fan taking a photo" ready for immediate upload onto Facebook or some other online social media. In this image above, there are also two subjects, but they are not Hillary and the person shooting the video. The "real" Hillary is blurred, the campaign sign is even upside down. However, the digital image of Hillary is clear and focused which is connected to the video camera being held by an anonymous hand. The two subjects are thus machine and digital image, even the human hand is secondary. From this perspective, the image portrays a postmodernization of political campaigning. It's the political reflection of TIME's 2006 person of the year as the new citizen journalist. The digital transmission onto the Web is naturally assumed.

However, this image for me captures more than just the "Facebook zeitgeist." It also reflects the shift away from the hierarchical broadcast model of information transmission to the decentralized network model of inter-subjective community driven "transmission." Perhaps this could be called the era of post-broadcast politics. The centrality of the camera's view finder, which invites everyone into the role of transmitter reinforces this shifting narrative. What do you think?

photograph source unknown

UPDATE: Matt Stoller has an article in the Nation, "Dems Get New Tools, New Talent," where he analyzes the impact of internet technologies on Democratic campaign organizing.

We are in the middle of a massive wave of campaign innovation, led by organizers who will eventually spread outward to every nook and cranny of progressive politics. The larger significance of this architectural revolution in progressive politics isn't clear, but it is the first sustained challenge to the dominance of television and direct mail in the political system since those media displaced urban party machines in the 1960s.