President Obama's innovative use of the internet has been a very popular topic in the media, in academia and in general national discussion for the past two years. I think Professor Levinson succinctly and accurately described the momentum of Obama's web-enhanced 2008 campaign and the conversation surrounding it.
I read this article on the New York Time's BIT blog right around last year's election http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/how-obamas-internet-campaign-changed-politics/
and thought it also provided a great summary and commentary on Obama's use of new media to gain national attention and win the presidency. It explained how his use of interactive Web 2.0 tools "largely changed the way politicians organize supporters, advertise to voters, defend against attacks and communicate with constituents" and quotes many new media pioneers like Arianna Huffington, founder of the The Huffington Post, and Joe Trippi who ran Howard Dean’s 2004 technology-driven campaign.
While the entire country does not necessarily support Obama and his agenda, there seems to be a general consensus that he joins the ranks of political new media pioneers. I always find it interesting to read the editorial commentary of our European counterparts, because they logically are highly critical of American trends/political activity/decisions. Even their consistently critical eyes have praised Obama for his use of new media, as Steven Hill wrote in the Social Europe Journal:
"One of the winning campaign strategies masterfully deployed by the Obama campaign was its use of the internet. More than any other previous campaign, the Obama campaign showed the tremendous mobilising and fundraising potential of a comprehensive internet strategy. Some are saying that Obama’s use of this still relatively new medium will change American politics the way John F. Kennedy’s use of television did. But it remains to be seen if a less charismatic candidate without a wind of change blowing through an electorate buffeted by economic crisis can replicate Obama’s success. Nevertheless, what the Obama campaign accomplished using the internet was stunningly impressive. Despite the United States lagging in broadband access compared to Europe or Japan, both in terms of the number of people with fast, affordable broadband access and the speed of the connections, the Obama campaign used the internet to organise his supporters in a way that in the past would have required an army of volunteers and paid organisers on the ground. This not only helped him in the November election against the Republican nominee John McCain, but was probably the decisive factor in his Democratic primary contest against Hillary Clinton. Both the Clinton and McCain campaigns used the internet to reach voters, but Obama mastered the medium early and exploited it brilliantly. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that without the internet, Barack Obama would not have won the Democratic primary, and would not have been elected President."
Obama's embrace of social media gave him other international advantages- new new media's characteristic "borderlessness" gave him an international reputation without him having to physically travel there, as this quote that appeared this 2008 Reuters story confirms:
"There is getting to be a lot more interest," Pete Start, a British student who founded the Britons for Obama group, said. A string of British pro-Obama groups have sprung up on social networking site Facebook, with members ranging from young black men to women in headscarves and public school educated students at leading universities. "A few months ago, people were still only asking if it was possible a black man could win. Now they're more interested in what his policies are."