Round-Up: More Spreadable Media From Campaign 2008

My post here several weeks ago, "How We Help Spread Political Messages," opened the floodgates and readers, friends, and colleagues have been sharing with me a much broader array of short videos dealing with the election. I fear that people are already getting sick of reading articles about "How Obama Did It" or "The Role of New Media in Campaign 2008", but in the interest of the historical record and in the hopes of spreading this content to some of the international readers of this blog who weren't on the ground here for the final onslaught, I figured I would throw some more examples your way with limited commentary.

This video starts by telling us Azeroth from World of Warcraft would be, based on its population of users, the 8th largest state in the country, located between Michigan and Georgia. Given the electoral votes at stake there, we can imagine that McCain and Obama would have spent a good deal of time in what the moderator of this piece calls "an actual battleground state." So, would Azeroth be a red state or a blue state? The Machinest tried to find out both by interviewing players, in avatar, about their political preferences and by doing a survey which breaks voters down by race and guild. Not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have different kinds of fantasies which they play out when they enter World of Warcraft, so there are significant differences, say, in the political preferences of dwarfs and Elves, Mages and Warriors.

Analogies between the presidential campaign and reality television have been inescapable. I've read several op-ed pieces which compare Obama and/or Palin to American Idol contestants, suggesting that they were pushed out on stage sooner than would be traditional in American politics and that the public got to watch them rise or fall depending on their ability to quickly adopt to changing circumstances. In my class on new media literacies and civic engagement, I assigned a recent essay by John Hartley on "Reality and the Plebisite," (from his recent book, Television Truths) which argues that the decision-making mechanisms on a range of reality television programs -- from the juries on Survivor to the collective voting of American Idol or Big Brother in most other parts of the world to the autocracy of The Apprentice -- allow us to play out different understandings of the political process. The always Puckish Hartley turns around common arguments about civic engagement, suggesting that clearly the public takes an active pleasure in voting, so it must be some other aspect of the political process -- perhaps the language and imagery -- which leaves so many of us feeling cold and uninterested.

Four years ago, one of the best videos about the election used The Apprentice as a metaphor for talking about the failures of the Bush administration. This time, someone mashed up footage of So You Think You Can Dance and the Presidential Debates to offer a double-edged satire -- one which skewers the candidates for their pandering to voters and skewers the news media for its preoccupation with issues of performance. This video goes on a little too long but it is interesting in the ways that it avoids pure partisanship based on parties and candidates and yet uses remixing to signal its stance on particular issues -- notably concerning energy, the environment, and the military.

This video is much more playful. It's not clear that it has a political stance it wants to promote so much as it wants to tap our interest in the candidates and demonstrate the creator's technical virtuosity. But it's a lot of fun.

While we are on the theme of politics and dance, here's a third late entry -- this one maps the final days of the Obama campaign onto a key moment from the long-running Broadway musical, Les Mizerables, with delightful results. While the others achieve their results through remix, this one depends on the performance skills of an Improv group.

Leave it to The Onion to create a video which captures the anxiety surrounding voting machines and uses it as a starting point to spoof the media's coverage of election results. I don't want to say much more less I spoil some of the punchlines here.

Special thanks go out to Ceila Pierce, Jonathon Stack, Erin Reilly, and Chris Csikszentmihalyi for sending me the links used in this post.