Barack Obama ’s successful bid for president is probably just as significant as having our first (at least openly) multi-racial president (remember his mother is white and he only met his father once or twice). He changed the nature of campaigning for good and finally delivered on the promise of information technology driven movements. Just look at the Barack Obama web site and you not only get links to Obama information on the web but links into virtually all the popular social networks and services, each with an official Barack Obama account (including an updated CV on linkedin). On top of that the site also hosts its own little social network where you can connect with others and promote the campaign. If the Kennedy’s debate against Nixon for the Presidency on live national TV was the defining moment ushering the age of television in American politics this election was the defining moment for the role the internet and social networks are to play in elections of the future. If network television brought everything to the masses, in this election, the internet brought back grass roots to the masses.
An interesting twist in this election is not only how Obama successfully leveraged the internet for a distributed grass roots campaign but how Sarah Palin unwittingly leveraged the popularity of internet memes by offering endless material for parody and innuendo from those seeking to exploit her image.
Barack Obama’s time as a community organizer in Chicago and his standing as a virtual newcomer and outsider served him well. While Obama’s campaign proved to be a demonstration of the power of social networks in spreading the message and building momentum in disparate pockets of social connections, we will have to see how and if Obama is able to maintain a meaningful dialogue with those that put him in power through the technology he leveraged so well.