Loci Technologies

Consumer Politics

Tech Crunch had an interesting article last week on Political Expression as the Next Mass Consumer Social Wave.  The article is definately intriguing, and discusses the business model of Votizen (which seeks to leverage Facebook’s social graph and identity layer for political endeavors).  At Loci Tech we’re pretty committed to any efforts that enhance civic dialogue and political participation.  Part of the underlying goal of our real-time targeting software is to make higher quality connections with voters while avoiding wasted time with uninterested people, but of course, the easier you can get people interested the better, and the more people engaged in the democratic process, the better we all are as a nation.

That said, we shouldn’t overstate how willing people are to become politically engaged.  Every once an a while lots of folks become engaged when a rare confluence of circumstances leads to enhanced participation (ie the Obama Campaign of 2008).  Engagement in local elections, or state-level elections is much rarer unless some partiuclar event or threat is looming.  And at the end of the day, less than 50% of us vote in even the most popular elections.  Any technological efforts to advance political expression must take this all into account.

A few points to consider going forward:

- There is very little overlap between voters and those engaged in social media.  While much has been made of social media strategies for political campaigns, and while more and more people are involved with social media, the truth is many reliable voters are older individuals.  Just survey your friends that aren’t involved in the political industry, even those who may opine on politics, if they’ve voted in the past few elections… you may be surprised with the answers.

- Campaigns and Politicians need to open themselves up to new technologies.  At Loci, we’ve met with and worked on numerous campaigns.  Some campaigns can be very forward-thinking and adventurous, while others are amazingly risk averse and are hesitant to expeiment with anything new.  This is dangerous not only for the campaigns success, but, overall, we can only get more people involved in politcs if we make the process of doing so more personal.  To the extent that campaigns rely almost exclusively on TV commercials for messaging, we’ll never achieve full political engagement.

- Organizational issues.  Few things have as negative effect on democratic participation as holding elections on a work day in the middle of the week.  Efforts such as Early Voting can have a significant effect in increasing voter turnout and civic engagement, but are hardly widespread.  Few people will feel motivated to involved themselves in politics if for some reason or other the transactions costs of actually voting remain too high.

Just some thoughts, interested on any comments folks might have.

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