Super Empowered Individuals + Elections

This election season is being hailed as he one where new web technology takes a central role. Political consultants want to sell the idea that blogs, web social networks and YouTube can be leveraged to win elections. They see the message dissemination possibilities associated with the new information distribution networks built on the Internet. They see the potential for self replicating collaboration and self-organized grassroots movements based on those messages. But they also, due to the nature of the politics industry, require two parties and a handful of candidates.

The problem is that communications networks have an underbelly that is more often than not ignored by the industry. These new web technologies increase the speed, bandwidth and reach of information. Which means greater and greater degrees of uncontrolled information release. This is what we term transparency, and transparency has a tendency to flatten hierarchies.

We have already begun to see a steady trickle of technologically empowered individual actions their their toll on various campaigns. The macaca incident is indicative of this trend, when one person with a video camera and YouTube heightened transparency.

As the season progresses, this trickle will turn into a roar. Every flaw will be magnified, original research will be conducted and disseminated along the same lines of communication as the industry hopes to use. The message, the information, they are trying to distribute from the top-down will take on a life of its own, it will indeed self replicate. But it will also evolve as millions of empowered individuals will manipulate it as it spreads.

Instead of empowering the two parties and their bag of candidates, we should see some (minor) degree of diversity among candidates emerge. This is how the system’s  core structure will, and is, undergoing change, albeit slowly. This is in stark opposition to movements, like Unity08, that attempt to change the flows with, in the end, little to show.

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