Everybody’s Doing It (Or Getting Others To Do It For Them)

July 27, 2008 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

During a recent interview with the New York Times, John McCain says the following about his use of the Internet:

I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.

It doesn’t get any better for McCain in this exchange between Mark Soohoo, one of his eCampaign directors, and Tracy Russo of the Edwards campaign about how important it is for the next president to understand the Internet:

As you can imagine, McCain’s lack of web 2.0 skills (and web 1.0 skills, come to think of it) have been the subject of abundant jokes, criticism, and general disbelief. An account of the New York Times story has received almost 1,500 diggs and the quote has spawned parody blog posts about McCain’s Internet explorations.

After learning that McCain depends on his wife and advisors to help him go online to read newspapers, the following words on McCain’s campaign site seem somewhat empty to me:

John McCain believes the Internet offers tremendous promise in terms of freedom of expression, information sharing, and the spread of knowledge and commerce. It represents the greatest innovation of the modern era in terms of the democratization of free speech and access to information. From human rights groups in China to bloggers here in the United States, the Internet has opened a global dialogue that has propelled the world into an exciting new century of connectivity and communication.

And what should we make of McCain’s Facebook page, MySpace page, and YouTube channel? When a presidential candidate who doesn’t email and can’t figure out how to go online is using social networking sites and viral videos as part of his campaign strategy, it’s clear that social media has become one of campaigning’s required tools. It’s now as obligatory as press conferences, press releases, and those annoying recorded phone calls at dinnertime. Gone are the days when we’ll marvel as a presidential candidate like Howard Dean who harnessed the power of the Internet to conduct fundraising and who benefited from his supporters’ online organizing. Now everybody’s doing it (that’s not to say they’re all doing it equally well, as ATW and Mknac point out).

In a Washington Post op-ed last winter, my instructor expressed his serious dismay at politicians’ lack of technology literacy. He asked:

…why is it that we blithely allow our leaders to be ignorant of the force that, probably more than any other, will drive and define the nation’s economic success and reshape its society over the next 20 years?

I don’t have the answer to his question, but I wonder whether time will be the main factor in ensuring that we have technologically literate politicians. We may just have to wait until our digital natives are all grown up. After all, McCain’s daughter has a blog.

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How Much Technology is Too Much?

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