The Electronic Commonwealth: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Democratic Politics

The Electronic Commonwealth: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Democratic Politics

The Electronic Commonwealth: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Democratic Politics

The Electronic Commonwealth: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Democratic Politics

Excerpt

Even as The Electronic Commonwealth first appeared in print, the 1988 presidential campaign was providing fresh evidence of the new media's political influence. Two developments in particular during the 1988 election add to the case we make in this book for the growing impact of new communications technologies on American politics.

First and foremost, the 1988 campaign was noteworthy for the leading role televised political advertisements played in defining the agenda of public debate. As many commentators have pointed out, the ads were nasty and negative on both sides and contributed to widespread public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the candidates. But what was new about the ads was not so much their negativity as their reactivity. The old preplanned adsin-the-can strategy gave way to spots so timely that they were literally responsive to the latest shifts in poll data or to the opponent's ads still being aired. The result was that the art of campaigning became more data-driven than ever, as both sides calibrated their advertising campaigns according to the nightly soundings of the tracking polls. The result also was that the real "debate" between the candidates in 1988 was conducted through thirty-second television spots, with attack quickly provoking counterattack.

A host of new video production and distribution technologies have gone into quickening the pace of political advertising. On the production side, these include use of video tape (reducing the number of "takes" necessary by permitting the director to see immediately the results of a shot); hand-held camcorders (allowing quality shots of the candidate outdoors, thereby lessening the need for complicated studio arrangements); digitalized video effects units (computer devices for creating exotic video images quickly by breaking apart the normal flat television picture and . . .

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