Today, I got another mail from one of the many progressive political organizations trying to rally support for President Obama’s campaign. And I really do support the president. But these guys just get it all wrong. They are mass marketing in a social medium, using a bullhorn to hammer their messages to their ‘audience’, and blocking the affordances that are possible in even as bad as a medium as email.
The mail was ostensibly from Amy Faulring, from MoveOn.org Political Action: at least here name appeared in the from line and signature. It was a poll, asking to what degree would I be likely to participate in ‘Save Medicare’ parties:
This fall, we need to build a massive army of volunteers to re-elect President Obama. So, thousands of MoveOn members will gather around the country at “Save Medicare” parties to watch a short video that details Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s plan to dismantle the Medicare system and share our motivations for getting involved in this election. Then, we’ll make calls to other MoveOn members in battleground states and ask them to volunteer where it counts the most.
I am not sure I agree with the baseline thinking: forming volunteers into a massive army, and making phone calls. I wanted to suggest that Amy and Co. consider some more online activities, and trying to leverage the networks of connected folks online. So I thought I’d just reply to Amy and suggest something like that, especially since it says in the email ‘your input is extremely valuable’.
So I replied, even though the return email address was email@example.com. I put in a PS:
PS I am am leery of an email supposedly sent by a specific person but the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
MoveOn.org, despite its charter (which I support), is treating me as a nameless, faceless demographic unit in a sea of progressive voters. Which is a failure, and an indication that the old political system is still with us, even in the so-called progressive side of politics. They are progressive in terms of their policy positions, but they are old school, mass media types in their operations and worldview.
My worry was correct. I got a bounce message from the listserv saying that they were a very busy organization, and couldn’t possibly respond to all the emails, and here’s links to change address, unsubscribe, and so on.
This is social media failure by asymmetry, which is a comment issue when organizations use email. In a social context, equality between the parties means that communication must be two way. Otherwise the organization is using mass media, pushing messages, and providing no social context.
And MoveOn.org, despite its charter (which I support), is treating me as a nameless, faceless demographic unit in a sea of progressive voters. Which is a failure, and an indication that the old political system is still with us, even in the so-called progressive side of politics. They are progressive in terms of their policy positions, but they are old school, mass media types in their operations and worldview.
But the progressives won’t adopt modern techniques of organizing, based on social networks. They instead press on with the apparatus of mass media, because they think top down. Yes, they gave me a Likert option range — was I very likely, somewhat likely, not sure, not very likely, not likely at all to attend the meetings — but aside from that mechanistic involvement in their poll, there was no way to connect.
By thinking of us as an army, instead of a village, they have failed the social test. An army takes orders, is controlled from on high, and moves in unison based on tightly orchestrated strategy. They see themselves as the officers, and us as the grunts. But we’re not that, and we really shouldn’t even try to be.
I tweeted them, but we’ll see.