Sunday, January 06, 2008

On Facebook Will Candidates Know to Throw Sheep Rather than Kiss Babies?

In the wake of the Obama and Huckabee come-from-behind victories in Iowa, I thought it would be interesting to look at the candidates' Facebook profiles and to think about appeals to college-age voters in the 2008 campaign.

Obviously, as any close-reading literary critic can see, all of the candidates seem to be having trouble with the first-person/third-person problem, which indicates the collective authorship practices of a campaign organizations. Of course, Facebook itself perpetuates this in that profile segments use both grammatical positions and display the discursive strains between "Your Name Here" public and "My Desktop" private.

Obama's Facebook profile, which currently features Iowa victory headlines, seems to be constructed by someone relatively familiar with the genre. Favorite books include college-educated fare such as "Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), Moby Dick, Shakespeare's Tragedies, Parting the Waters, Gilead (Robinson), Self-Reliance (Emerson), The Bible, Lincoln's Collected Writings." His music choices establish him as a member of their parents' generation, much like an un-hip professor: "Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Johann Sebastian Bach (cello suites), and The Fugees."

Given Giuliani's past as a prosecutor and an advocate for positive images of Italian-Americans, it's interesting that The Godfather and The Sopranos figure so prominently in his media favorites on his profile. The Godfather also makes it onto Obama's list. Giuliani's page currently includes a fear-mongering campaign video about Muslim extremism.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton's campaign page contains little information about personal preferences and substitutes an autobiographical paragraph that cites her own campaign website as a source:

I was raised in a middle-class family in the middle of America. From that classic suburban childhood in Park Ridge, Illinois, I went on to become one of America's foremost advocates for children and families; an attorney twice voted one of the most influential in America; a First Lady of Arkansas who helped transform the schools; a bestselling author; a First Lady for America who helped transform that role, becoming a champion for health care and families at home and a champion of women's rights and human rights around the world.

Market researchers wouldn't pay much for that profile, so as a privacy advocate I would suggest that others follow Clinton's course in their own Facebook pages. Unlike many of the male candidates, she also doesn't list her birthdate on her page.

Clinton does, however, use Facebook's blog feeds functionality to give news about campaign stops and get-out-the-vote strategies. She also takes advantage of trans-platform features to highlight Flickr images.

Huckabee's profile includes a pitch directly to Facebook audiences:

Dear Facebook Friends:

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say hello and thank you for your support of my bid to become the next President of the United States.

I believe that the internet will play a huge role in the 2008 campaign and sites such as this are wonderful tools for people to come together and show their support for the candidate of their choice. Sites such as this also help to get a candidate's name and message out to voters all across the country, especially the younger generation of Americans.

I am able to visit this site periodically and I enjoy reading all the encouraging messages and comments that are left for me.

Again, I truly appreciate your support and your prayers, and I hope to see you soon on the campaign trail in the weeks and months ahead!

Mike Huckabee

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Blogger bob c said...

I am so, so glad to see your critiqes of Facebook and the like. As politics moves to exploit our digital habits, we have a more widespread oversight to exert not to mention educating the electorate as to when to pull off the wool over our eyes. Thanks.

9:22 PM  

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