Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Why is voting cool now?

Our education committee for the Oklahoma Creativity Project had an interesting discussion during our monthly meeting regarding today’s U.S. elections. Why is voting “cool” now, in the perception of many people in our country?

Certainly participatory technologies have played a role in these changing perceptions. The CNN-YouTube presidential debates were a big part of this. NPR reporters referred to this as “Digital Democracy.”

The CCN YouTube Debates

The challenge to “post your response” as well as post questions to the candidates which were used in the live Presidential debates was a fundamental change from debates of the past. I have no doubt that the use of participatory technologies like these increased interest in the election as well as eventual voter turnout.

While YouTube is an example of leading edge, web 2.0 technologies used to bolster interest and viewership in events like the Presidential debates, let’s not overlook the role of good ‘ole email. Just how many emails laden with unsubstantiated political assertions did you receive personally in the past few months? How many times did you take the time to actually verify the claims in political emails on Snopes? I wrote about these issues in my August post “Media literacy, US Presidential elections, and assertions of infanticide support” and January post “Political emails fly fast, but are readers validating content?” I was interested to see in several of the more recent political emails I actually read/scanned that the authors included references to Snopes (which were unsubstantiated) as a play to make their claims seem more legitimate. In all of these cases, email communications have arguably caused more people to think about and focus on electoral politics more often then ever before in their daily lives.

Saturday Night Live video spoofs of political candidates have certainly also been a major factor in focusing voter attention on the candidates and the election. I won’t argue these skits have necessarily been enlightening from an issue perspective, but they have successfully attracted and maintained the attention of large percentages of the electorate. In an attention economy, this is important.

In addition to YouTube video usage in the Presidential debates, emails, and SNL, the focus of individual candidates on widening voter participation in the election has also been an important factor. This was brought up by another member in our committee meeting today. Presidential Candidate Obama has captured the imaginations of many U.S. citizens, both young and old, with his focus on change and hope for the future.

What reasons have I missed or overlooked here? Why is voting cool now? Are there lessons for us to learn from changing perceptions about voting and civic participation which we should be (or could be) applying in the context of schools and our classrooms?

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