[fyeg_gen-l] Fwd: Article of Possible Interest: Power to the People

Dante-Gabryell Monson dante.monson at gmail.com
Fri Oct 12 16:23:25 CEST 2007


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Steve Bosserman <stevebosserman - at - yahoo.com>
Date: Oct 12, 2007 4:12 PM

http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19567/page1/

 Friday, October 12, 2007
Power to the People
Eventful, a grassroots website that began by drawing musicians to small
markets, has trained its sights on politicians.
By Erica Naone

The website Eventful <http://eventful.com/>, based in San Diego, is
encouraging its users to make demands of politicians. Last week, for
example, some of Eventful's users brought John
Edwards<http://johnedwards.com/>,
a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, to Columbus,
KY<http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Columbus,+KY,+United+States+of+America&sa=X&oi=map&ct=title>--a
town of 229.

People can use Eventful to track events of interest to them, as well as to
"demand" that desired events happen in their area. The site launched its
demand service in March 2006. Users can register demands for particular
public figures through Eventful's site, through widgets available on some
blogs, or through applications on MySpace <http://www.myspace.com/>,
Facebook <http://www.facebook.com/>, and NetVibes <http://www.netvibes.com/>.
Once they make a demand, users can then launch a grassroots effort to get
more people to sign on to the demand. The idea is that once a large enough
number of people demand an event, the celebrity in question will take notice
and appear.

"What happened almost immediately after we rolled out the service was that
performers--particularly musicians and comedians--embraced the service as a
way to engage their fans and empower them with influence over where they
appear," Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier
<http://eventful.com/users/jordan>says. He adds that performers find
demographic data from the site valuable,
not to mention its communications module, which they can use to respond to
fans making demands.

Although musicians were among the first to discover Eventful--Glazier says
that more than 20,000 of them are currently using the site--political
candidates soon followed suit. While Democrat Barack
Obama<http://www.barackobama.com/index.php>,
who is known for his campaign's technological savvy, was first to join,
Glazier says, Edwards and Republican Ron Paul
<http://www.ronpaul2008.com/>also embraced Eventful early on. There
are currently demands on Eventful for
all the major candidates, but not all are actively responding to or courting
them. "They're following the same patterns that musicians use to engage
their fans," Glazier says. "What the musicians have learned is how to engage
them through social networks and viral online services, and the candidates
are doing a really good job of leveraging those services."

The results can coax politicians out of the heavily populated cities that
they usually frequent. When the Edwards campaign launched its contest
through Eventful, promising that Edwards would come to whatever place
demanded him most, the two cities that rose to the top were Columbus and
Eureka, CA. Glazier says that he thinks there were more demands from smaller
cities because residents of larger cities knew that Edwards would inevitably
appear in their area.

Columbus racked up more than 1,800 demands for Edwards, and between 1,500
and 2,000 people turned up at the event. Shawn
Dixon<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YJSEexsXog>,
the New York University Law School student who organized the campaign to
bring Edwards to Columbus, says that his city gathered demand for Edwards by
gaining support from rural citizens in the area surrounding Columbus. Dixon
sees sites such as Eventful as an opportunity for people in rural America to
make their voices heard. He says he didn't miss the irony that, in an area
where many people have access only to dial-up Internet connections, the
Internet was what brought Edwards off the beaten path. "We're working with
one hand tied behind our back here, and we pulled this off," Dixon says.

Although politicians are stepping up their use of the Web, some experts
doubt the medium's ability to win undecided voters or get voters to cross
party lines. "The Internet is great for fundraising and for rallying your
supporters, but I'm skeptical that it can be used to convert--to persuade
people," says David Dulio<http://www2.oakland.edu/polisci/faculty.cfm?ID=5389>,
an associate professor of political science at Oakland University. "I just
don't think the power is there for it yet." Dulio points out that the 1,800
people who demanded that Edwards come to Columbus are an infinitesimal
number compared with the 120 million people expected to vote in the next
election.

Others think that sites like Eventful could change the nature of political
engagement. "What sets Eventful apart is its ability to predict or showcase
a demand in advance," says Andrew
Rasiej<http://www.personaldemocracy.com/about/#andrew>,
who has advised candidates including Hillary
Clinton<http://www.hillaryclinton.com/splash/>and Howard
Dean<http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=50207944>on
using technology in their campaigns, and is founder of the website
techPresident <http://techpresident.com/>, which tracks how presidential
candidates use the Internet. When a group of people create a demand, he
explains, it is a visible sign of interest in a potential event. This
information can then be used to coordinate actual events. Compared with
social-networking sites such as Facebook, Eventful "is probably more tied to
the holy grail of online politics, which is converting online enthusiasm
into offline action," Rasiej notes. He points out that people who make a
demand are not merely putting a tag on a profile page: they're promising to
show up at an event when it happens.

Rasiej says that candidates should pay attention to social-networking sites
and other online services that can become part of a campaign. "The most
important thing is that candidates have to recognize that all these tools
have positive and negative consequences, which is all the more reason why
they have to develop very savvy Web strategies and an ability to execute
them," Rasiej says. Campaigns need to respect the power of the
infrastructure that voters have built up online, he says, adding, "It wasn't
so significant that [Edwards] went to that town; it was significant that he
acknowledged the collective voices of the crowd."
Copyright Technology Review 2007.
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