Sunday, June 22, 2008

Barack Obama Bake-A-Rama

This weekened sponsored Hungry for Change, a series of local bake sales to promote fundraising for presidential candidate Barack Obama that combined traditional home economics with digital grassroots politics. Those interested in attending a bake sale in their neighborhood could use a geographic finder on the website, much as one might search for a local screening of a film.

My colleague Julia Lupton -- who frequently talks about connections between DIY content-creation and computer-mediated knowledge-sharing and product-distribution -- hosted an Obama Bake Sale of her own. Her reflections on the event are here. It's interesting to see how Lupton's daughter appropriated and remixed this Shepard Fairey print, which was available as a digital file online, and created a painting, which was then imprinted on cakes and t-shirts through new forms of distributed printing technologies.

I went to a more local Obama bake sale hosted by friends Susan Gautsch and Ava Arndt. (Ava writes about travel and urbanism in the Eighteenth Century context but is also interested in how her research on trust and credibility in that time period may relate to "Democracy 2.0" movements of the contemporary era. ) This Venice group created a wiki to coordinate donations of baked goods and volunteer labor and shared branding techniques with the Irvine contingent.

What's interesting to me is how both groups chose to eschew the cookie-cutter templates for invitations and plans for staging the event. provided online kits to hosts and encouraged them to use their institutionally sanctioned strategies and markers of authority. I'm sure that the Obama team in turn was also anxious about the efforts of this technically independent PAC, since who knows if cannabis activists might decide to sell some extra special brownies to their customers.

These regulations reminded me of how we once hosted a Democratic party event in our home for the Clinton campaign, the point of which -- as we understood it initially -- was supposed to be having neighbors and friends in to watch the debate. In the pre-World Wide Web era that sounded like a good idea, but we were appalled when the official kit arrived in the mail with suggestions for ridiculous menus (a champagne and lobster brunch) and exorbitant fees to be charged to attendees that violated our sense of hospitality. (And, okay, we were also miffed that the Party wouldn't supply Robert Clinton as our official representative, so we didn't have a humorous celebrity draw.)

We ended up ignoring all the guidelines and hosting a pizza party with no suggested donations or requirement of party affiliation, since we didn't want to snub Republicans who might want to come and watch the TV that we had borrowed for the event. For branding, Mel digitally printed giant Photoshopped images of Clinton and Dole with cauliflower ears and black eyes as if the two candidates had been duking it out more than verbally. Of course, we ended up being one of the top fund-raisers, even for the affluent Westside.

Update: Ava and Julia have written an essay about their experiences here.

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Blogger Lupton said...

Thanks for this great commentary on the Obama bake sales. Ava and I are hoping to cook up a longer piece on the topic. If anyone out there wants to share reflections or photos, please email me at

7:18 PM  

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