NDN Blog

So much for the TV networks, the Presidentials are announcing online

First Obama, now Hilary. They both launched their presidential campaigns via online videos.

Obama, it much be noted, pushed the envelope the farthest, and first – he launched his video announcement right into the fray of YouTube. But Hilary has now come out with her version on her website – and she’s going to push the edge further this Monday with live video chats.

People thought the 2006 elections were going to be known as the YouTube elections. You ain’t seen nothing yet. The 2008 cycle has just begun and the innovation is just starting.

Hang on for this ride. And keep up with our ongoing series: “Re-imagining Video.”

Peter Leyden

Latest Pew study shows 60 million Americans using the Internet for politics

The latest report of the Pew Internet and American Life Project came out and shows the inexorable shift of voters towards using the web to engage politics. The news was in most newspapers today and the highlights can be seen bouncing around the web.  The San Francisco Chronicle’s article highlighted the New Politics Institute’s take at the top of the piece and the bottom. I include the top:

Sen. Barack Obama updated the world on his presidential aspirations this week by posting a video to his new Web site, where the online response to the Illinois Democrat has been "overwhelming," aides said Wednesday.

The move was strategic, as well as a means to reach Web-savvy supporters. Not only could campaign handlers tightly control Obama's image better in the three-minute video, they also could pad their online address book of supporters with those who visited the site.

It all made for a fine illustration of how new media tools are reshaping politics by disseminating information and involving citizens in campaigns quickly and efficiently.

 "If he had called a press conference in Washington to say he was announcing an exploratory committee, he might have been seen for a few seconds on the evening news," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco think tank at the forefront of incorporating new media into politics.

 By releasing it online, Leyden said, viewers could pass the video around, "and people could have it come at them from all different directions. Plus, the mainstream media reported on it.

 "You're going to see a lot more of this in 2008," Leyden said. "Candidates aren't going to be buying as much advertising time on broadcast television. "

For more on the story, including how we wrap up the analysis, see the actual story itself. Or if you want all the data, go to the Pew website.

Peter Leyden

A New Global Moveon

As I have said many times before at the New Politics Institute website, the most fundamental shift going on in our world today is the shift to the global. It plays out in the economy through globalization. In security and defense, via the new enemy of global terrorists. And in the mounting pressure of climate change, a global problem if ever there was one.

And so it should come as no surprise that politics is morphing to these new global realities – in fits and starts, to be sure, but inexorably. It will be one of the defining stories of the next decade.

And so here’s another sign of the shift: the beginning of a global Moveon.org, in the form of Avaaz.org. The analogy to Moveon is not just in passing. One of the half-dozen founders is Eli Pariser, the executive director of Moveon.

They have just launched their first Moveon-like campaign, but this time in explicitly connecting up citizens from around the world.  Their objective this time is the same: shifting U.S. policy towards the Iraq war. So global citizens are using new tools of the internet to do their part to move the ball of American politics. This is a development worth watching.

Instead of me describing what they are, check out some of their mission statement:

As major new challenges like climate change and escalating religious conflict threaten our common future, people from around the world are coming together to take global politics into their own hands. Avaaz.org (Our name means "Voice" or "Song" in several languages including Hindi, Urdu and Farsi) is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. Our aim is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people -- and not just political elites and unaccountable corporations -- shape global decisions. Avaaz.org members are taking action for a more just and peaceful world and a vision of globalization with a human face.

In our inter-connected world, the actions of political leaders and corporations are having a profound impact on all of us. To match the power and reach of global leaders and borderless corporations, Avaaz.org members are building a powerful movement of citizens without borders. As citizens without borders, we might not have the resources of governments, corporations or the media, but working together we can bring together millions of people around the world and make global public opinion really count on major global issues like poverty, climate change, human rights and global security.

Using the latest technology, Avaaz.org empowers ordinary people from every corner of the globe to directly contact key global decision-makers, corporations and the media. By signing up to receive updates from Avaaz.org, members receive emails and text messages alerting them to new campaigns and opportunities to act online and offline, and to make a real difference on pressing global issues.

If interested, go to the site. One of the most striking things when you arrive is to see the language options. English is just one option of many….

Peter Leyden

New NPI Report on "Viral Video in Politics"

The New Politics Institute has launched a new series called "Re-imagining Video" that will explore the many ways the old world of traditional television is transfroming, particularly with the arrival of video online. This media transformation is going to have a profound impact on politics, which still depends heavily on 30-second TV ads.

The first installment in the series is called: "Viral Video in Politics: Creating Compelling Video that Moves." It was written by NPI's newest fellow, Julie Bergman Sender, a long-time Hollywood producer who has created some of the most memorable political viral video in the last couple years. She might be best known for creating the Will Ferrell impersonation of Bush on his ranch in the 2004 Presidential election cycle.

To give you a bit more of a sense of the new series, as well as Julie and her initial piece, I include the preface I wrote to the report:   

In the 1964 presidential election, an experimental one-minute television ad that only aired once changed politics forever.  That ad was “Daisy” and it featured  a little girl in a field plucking the petals off a daisy and counting, before her voice morphed into the voice of a man in a countdown that ended with the explosion of a nuclear bomb and the tagline: “Vote for President Johnson, the stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Call it “the mushroom cloud moment” for those with any foresight in politics. In its one airing “Daisy” showed the emotional power of television and how it could be effectively harnessed for politics. All politics adapted to the thirty-second television commercial, and television advertising defined how politics was played for the next forty years. 

In the recent 2006 midterm elections we had our own political “ah-ha” moment that came via the conduit of YouTube and other viral video outlets. Call it “the macaca moment.” It came in the form of a jittery digital video of Republican Senator George Allen on the campaign trail talking directly into a camera held by SR Sidarth, a young Indian-American campaign worker for Allen’s opponent. In this video Allen taunted Sidarth, welcoming him to the “real America,” and calling him “macaca,” an offensive term to many.

That one gaffe ricocheted around the internet, and was picked up in the mainstream media, tripping up Allen’s previously high-flying campaign, contributing to his eventual defeat. But more importantly, “the macaca moment” showed this nascent viral video medium’s game-changing impact. Emotionally powerful, visually complex video has finally arrived on the internet – and it’s moving fast. Those in politics will need to hustle to keep up with it.

This urgency is particularly important today, because the forty-year reign of broadcast and cable television thirty-second ads is coming to a close. Among other things, the spread of digital video recorders (DVRs) like TiVo allows an increasing chunk of Americans to skip ads altogether. By the 2008 election roughly one-third of all American households will have DVRs, and the percentage of likely voters with them will be even higher. 

Understanding video also requires understanding how people are accessing video. NPI Fellow Tim Chambers tells us that “by the 2008 election, more than 90 percent of the mobile phones used in the U.S. will be internet-enabled…by 2011, 24 million U.S. cellular subscribers and customers will be paying for some form of TV/video content and services on their mobile devices.” At that point mobile video services combined would have more than 3 million more users than the largest cable operator in the U.S. does today.

The New Politics Institute is committed to helping progressives understand this dramatic shift in the media landscape caused by, among other things, the emergence of viral video, and devise new political strategies that take advantage of it. This report is the first of a series of them in the coming year that will keep abreast of this rapidly changing space. We’re calling the series “Re-imagining Video.”

Our first guide to this new world of video on the internet is Julie Bergman Sender, a longtime Hollywood film producer and progressive activist, who is also NPI’s most recent new fellow. Julie has been innovating in the viral video space since the run-up to the 2004 election. She was one of the key creators behind actor Will Ferrell’s now famous 2004 viral video impersonation of George Bush. She was also the producer of one of the most effective viral videos of the 2006 election, with Hollywood female stars coyly talking about their first time – voting.

In this piece, Julie talks about her professional experiences in using the best practices of Hollywood and a focus on compelling narrative to create political video for viral distribution on the internet and beyond.  Her creative and practical insight should serve as a roadmap to all progressive groups and organizations as they begin to take advantage of this powerful new communications tool. 

The next few years will be much like the aftermath of that 1964 media bombshell. Let the new thinking begin.

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

Seeing the present from the perspective of the future

Before getting deeply involved in politics, I worked for Global Business Network, a company that helped corporations, foundations and governments think long-term, often through a tool called “scenario planning.” This is a process that helps a group look more rigorously what might happen in the next 10 to 20 years in order to build more robust strategies for the present. It’s a powerful tool that is used by many of the top corporations in the world and some savvy governments (including US agencies) that, for instance, have to make huge investments that will play out over decades.

The pop version of this process is to write out a scenario, a narrative that gets the reader to some point in the future, in order to provoke better thinking in the present. This weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle published a long scenario written from the perspective of someone in 2027 that puts the Bush years in context, and partly talks about the politics that came out of it in the following decades. It’s very much from a netroots, people-powered politics perspective, rather than an inside DC one. It’s worth a read just to muse on one possibility…

Peter Leyden

Dems are Moving for the Wide Open Terrain of Boosting Green Energy

The Washington Post reported today that the Dems are poised to roll back subsidies to the oil industry and plow the money into tax breaks for renewable energy sources right after their 100 hour push. That is a win-win-win strategy that almost can’t go wrong with the public at this point. After years of Republicans outright denying global warming and supporting policies that exacerbate it, the Dems have a rare opportunity to move fast into the wide-open terrain of boosting green energy.

It is also a progressive position that a wide array of Americans increasingly support. Going down this path won’t evoke much controversy. And there is a highly developed body of progressive policies that can be quickly instituted on a national level.

With that in mind, the New York Times also had a great article today showing the consequences of wise progressive policies already instituted in California. A long article in the House&Home section looked at the solar panel craze now happening across California – partly because of landmark legislation passed a year ago. Here’s an excerpt from the story that gives you the gist:

The vogue began in earnest a year ago, when the state legislature approved the California Solar Initiative, one of the most ambitious solar programs in the world. The legislation took effect at the start of this month but was preceded by a stopgap measure with similar terms that ran throughout 2006, offering homeowners a rebate on top of the federal tax credit of up to $2,000 that has been available nationwide since 2006.

The theory was that supplanting the year-to-year incentive programs in place since 1998 with the long-term certainty offered by the initiative’s 10-year, $3.2 billion program of rebates (one-third of which would likely go to homeowners) would stimulate the development of a robust solar sector — which could then be weaned from subsidies as its growing scale brought down prices.

If it works as planned, said J. P. Ross, the policy director for Vote Solar, an organization that advocates for large state-level solar projects, the initiative will stimulate the installation of 3,000 megawatts of solar electrical generating capacity in the state over the next decade. That would be an increase by a factor of more than 20, Mr. Ross said, equivalent to 30 small natural-gas-fired power plants.

Given the enthusiasm homeowners have shown for the initiative, filing nearly twice as many plans for solar systems with the California State Energy Commission in 2006 than in previous years, this goal may not be far-fetched.

Other states are considering the future of their solar programs (several states in the Northeast and the Southwest have less ambitious ones in place, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), and they are closely watching California’s.

I might add that Congress could take a close look at what’s happening here and boost the fledgling national solar incentive program and  help spread this kind of change across the country.

Peter Leyden

The Virtual Opening of the 110th Congress

Those who won’t be able to make the actual opening of the 110th Congress can join others in a parallel universe – the online virtual world of Second Life. Sun Microsystems and Clear Ink have sponsored the building of a House of Representatives in the popular online environment. The floor is reminiscent of the actual floor and any of the more than 2 million residents can gather there to debate issues and interact with actual politicians who venture in. Rep. George Miller, for one, will be there at noon EST on Thursday, January 4th.

If this all seems a bit strange, check out the short video of a person scoping out the building ahead of time. And read up more about this on wikipedia. Or, if so moved, go to Second Life and enter the world yourself. It’s free, and relatively easy to do. And, in the long run, this kind of environment is one that many people in politics are going to have to become familiar with, if not master. Check out these numbers of the numbers of people involved in a place that did not exist little more than a year ago.

Total Residents: 2,323,516
Logged In Last 60 Days: 844,310
US$ Spent in the Last 24 hours: $969,587

Peter Leyden

What’s Next for 2007: The Beginning of a New Progressive Era?

I was asked over the break to give my sense of the next big story to emerge in 2007 by the WorldChanging.com team. WorldChanging is a networked community and group blog that is connecting the dots between all the developments going on in the world right now that point to a new kind of global system that will work in the 21st century, particularly in regards to people living in balance with the environment.

Their view spans many different sectors, of which politics and government is only one. And they asked many of the people they respect in many different fields to make their predictions on “What’s Next.” My contribution, directed to their audience, can be seen on their site here, and the list of other essays are here. The text of my essay follows:

The next area for the world-changing juggernaut to hit will be politics and government. The short answer is that American politics is entering a transformative period that is roughly analogous to a handful of other periods in American history – namely the earlier progressive eras. Think the first two decades of the last century – from Teddy Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson. Or think about the New Deal transformation with FDR in the 1930s and 40s. We’re in the beginning of another one of those progressive political reinventions right now.

What happened then, and is happening now, is that fundamental economic and social restructuring gets to the point where the old politics don’t work, particularly conservative formulas that look backward. The new world’s new challenges go unsolved, and problems build to the breaking point – then a new politics begins. These periods have been characterized by a burst of progressive politics – an innovative, forward-thinking, people-powered politics. These progressive reinventions can last a couple decades but at the end of the process new models for politics and government are established and pretty much work for a long run.

The 2006 election marked the end of the most recent conservative era, one that ran for 25 years from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. The American people made a fundamental repudiation of the modern conservative formula. Think Hoover. The conservative brand is going to languish for a long time.

Now everyone is starting to look around for the progressive alternative. Not old-style progressivism, but a new 21st century version. And true to the WorldChanging mantra, the signs of the new progressive politics are all around us. This year California blazed a trail with landmark laws to aggressively take on climate change. Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger should be seen for what he is – a new kind of progressive Republican. Then both Houses of Congress flipped to the Democrats, as well as state houses and legislatures across the so-called red heartland. And now the talk is of Obama and Gore shaking up the 2008 presidential race with big, bold, world-changing ideas. Hang on for what will be a tumultuous year in politics and government.

Peter Leyden

Daily Kos is the Best Blog, period.

At least that’s according to the 2006 Weblog Awards, the world’s largest blog competition, with more than 525,000 votes cast this year. The best blog, not just the best political blog, was deemed to be the blog of the New Politics Institute’s fellow Markos Moulitsas.

Markos is a founding fellow of NPI and has participated in many of our events and gatherings. He is featured off the front page of NPI’s new website, where you can also find a terrific video interview with him where he lays out his take on the blogosphere and its impact on politics.

Congratulations, Markos. Keep up the great work.

Peter Leyden

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is – All of Us

I could not have designed a better cap on the theme of my posts for the last week. I have been hammering at the theme that the new progressive agenda, the new ideas that will truly solve the challenges of the 21st century are emerging all around us. The answers to our problems won’t come from the one great candidate, they will come, and are coming from all of us in an explosion of creativity that we have not seen for a long time.

And now Time magazine validates that theme by giving their prestigious annual award not to some one individual who happened to stand out, but to all the people who emerged from the bottom-up - enabled by the new Web 2.0 tools that are just starting to really transform our world.

Here’s Time’s opening passage that sets up their frame:

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

America loves its solitary geniuses—its Einsteins, its Edisons, its Jobses—but those lonely dreamers may have to learn to play with others. Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux.

We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy….

This bottom-up revolution has hit politics and will continue to transform it in the coming years. The New Politics Institute has been all over this story for the last 18 months. We’ve seen it coming and have been doing all we can to help progressives adjust to the new realities, to restrategize and retool.

Thanks Time, for adding to the chorus that this is not any old development, this is a transformative moment that will have repercussions for a long, long time.

Peter Leyden

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