Retail politics in New Hampshire circa 2007

Hillary Clinton kicked off her campaign this weekend in New Hampshire, and spoke today at the high school in Keene, where I live. Seeing candidates up close and personal is one of the perks of life in small-town New Hampshire, but today it didn’t pan out for me. I arrived early but still couldn’t get into the cafeteria where the event was held. I could have watched the video feed that was piped into the auditorium for a spillover crowd, but instead I went home and watched on the local cable channel.

Here’s a question-and-answer exchange that I captured and put up on Blip.tv:

The question was: “How can government revive and support U.S. manufacturing?” The five-part answer runs almost six-and-a-half minutes. That’s way more time than is ever allotted in the official debates we so obsessively scrutinize.

Retail politics is a wonderful thing, and I wish I’d been there in person. Not everyone who lives in Keene got in, though, and few who live outside Keene did. But those of us connected to the local cable network got to see and hear a whole lot more than the snippets that will air on regular TV. The same will be true in other local communities. Collectively over the course of the various campaigns we’ll see and hear a lot and, in principle, we will be able to collaboratively make sense of it.

By the time the 2008 election rolls around, we ought to be in a position to assemble and review catalogs of these kinds of detailed responses, tagged by candidate and by issue. If you care about manufacturing, you ought to be able to mix yourself a 2-hour show that includes the most informative discourse on the topic from all the candidates. And you should be able to review commentary, from experts who aren’t necessarily the usual TV suspects, that adds value to that discourse.

In practice there’s a fly in the ointment. Are we allowed to republish and categorize this material, as I’ve done here, to provide fodder for decentralized discussion and analysis?

I’m going to check with the guy who runs our local cable channel tomorrow and if there’s a problem I’ll take that video down. But I hope there won’t be a problem. What’s more, I hope that he and his counterparts in other communities will take the issue off the table by choosing appropriate Creative Commons-style licenses for this kind of public-interest material, whether it airs on local cable channels or streams to the Net or both.

14 Comments

  1. I suspect that more and more people will be showing up with their own digital cameras at events like this one. Video is likely to show up on the Internet in a lot of forms. The positive side would be to have people make mashups that make it easier for voters to see/hear much more complete answers from candidates. A potential downside will be (because I beleive it will happen) other people making modifications to video to create distorted images. That worries me a bit. Now some will say that the availablity of other images from the same event to provide a sanity check. We’ll have to see how well that works in practice.

  2. Interesting you mention the rights issue. Viacom has recently engaged in a massive DMCA-based attack on YouTube; the netroots is freaking out about it for precisely this reason: If a candidate says something of note, and you wish to comment on it, you should be able to put up the clip. Anything less is contrary to the public interest.

    On the plus side, I have been to a number of these things and in almost all cases someone has personally videotaped it. As a matter of fact, one of the local vloggers puts together pretty amazing presentations, that really rival anything you’ll find professionally.

  3. “The positive side would be to have people make mashups that make it easier for voters to see/hear much more complete answers from candidates.”

    Yes. And if the Q and A segments are split out and tagged, as per this example, the mashup process doesn’t need to involve any video editing. Just link assembly that anyone can pretty easily do in the hypertextual domain.

    “A potential downside will be (because I believe it will happen) other people making modifications to video to create distorted images.”

    Yep. Of course this is just what all media do all the time. Not by alteration, but by selection.

    “the availability of other images from the same event to provide a sanity check.”

    Exactly.

    In the long run, nobody should have to tote a camera, as in fact I did not to this event. The expectation should be that there are multiple cameras in the room providing a complete unedited view. Any derived view, like the one I made here, would refer to the original — or would be suspicious for not doing so.

  4. A friend of mine suggests that the questioner in this clip may have been a plant. That hadn’t occurred to me. But in fact it strengthens the argument I’m making for a collective effort to catalog what goes on at these events. With many eyeballs on the candidates and many hands curating the material, that kind of manipulation would be much harder to get away with and much riskier to try.

  5. What a great idea to organize these clips in a way that will help us sort out where the candidates stand on various issues.
    About the questioner being a plant, a quick google search of his name, Ben Bolger, shows pics of him with Hillary and Bill Clinton and others, which suggests that he is either a plant or a political junkie. The important point is that with quick and easy ways to investigate campaigns, and where “local” doesn’t mean local any longer, openness will mean “honesty” which will be a good thing as we enter the campaign season up here in New Hampshire.

  6. Dear Jon,

    Thanks for posting this video clip. I am the person who asks the question to Hillary about jobs in America (2/11/2007 in Keene, NH). Can you please email me your contact information. I would like to get a high resolution version of this video clip (I’ll pay you anything for the tape). I’d be extremely grateful if you can help. My contact informaiton is bolger at post dot harvard dot edu (I am a grad. student at Harvard, but hope to return to Michigan one day and help bring back jobs to the Midwest in America).
    Thanks for your help.

    Best wishes,

    Ben

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