Citizen ads, no thanks. Citizen analysis, yes please.

Phil de Vellis begins and ends his 15 minutes of fame with this remark:

This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.

Yeah, but that’s not the game-changing behavior I’m looking for. This is just an attack ad produced by a citizen rather than by an ad agency, not an ironic deconstruction of attack ads. Even if it were, that would be helpful only in small doses.

The game-changing behavior I am looking for is something completely different. As I suggested here, we’re now in a position to slice and dice what politicians and pro pundits say, by candidate and by issue, across venues, recombine that material to support a whole new level of scrutiny and analysis.

It’s doable but, admittedly, not an easy thing to incent or coordinate. So how about this. Along with the opt-in $3 Presidential Campaign Fund, let’s have an opt-in $3 Citizen Media Fund. Use the proceeds to collect raw video footage of candidates, and create Mechanical Turk HITs (human intelligence tasks) to parcel out the editing and tagging. If there’s money left over, apply the same treatment to all of the ads.

10 Comments

  1. Hmm, half-an-hour ago I tried to find if he had spoken directly for himself on his own blog, and instead found a wide series of political consultancies. (Try searching on his name, and browsing a few pages of results.) These guys tend to stick around… I bet we’ll hear from him again.

  2. Jon – what an excellent idea, to collect an optional $X on everyone’s 1040 tax return toward helping the american people be better informed about their politicians. But do you realistically see this becoming a reality? I think it has just as much chance as comprehensive campaign finance reform.

  3. I think “advertising” vs. “analysis” is a naive distinction, at best… as if one is biased and the other is objective? Is de Villis’ ad really all that different than Swiftboating (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiftboating)? Realistically, public funding of data aggregation would still be biased, just as the campaign funding is, and HITs could be gamed, just like search engine rankings. I’m not sure it’s a different game, at all.

  4. My thinking suggests that our society is moving toward simulations of what candidates propose can be accomplished and what evidence they have and the dynamic principles in play that affect it. By simulations I mean an interactive, digital, playable, visual representation model of the conditions and dynamic forces at work in the area of concern. Simulations would be compared with each other, forced to merge or interface with each other, and eventually proven true or false. One can’t speak of global warming w/o referencing simulations of nature. Eventually these will leak out of the ivory towers and think tanks and become a democratized medium of communication thanks to Moore’s Law. Then the simulations can generate the stories or vision which we choose to believe and support or which we choose to reject. Talk is cheap, even in TV/internet ads. Simulations can be made to lie like statistics can, it’s just harder for simulations to maintain a lie over time under public scrutiny. Simulations can be explored at whatever level of detail a citizen is comfortable with, and still come away with a useful understanding of what’s at risk.

  5. Jon:

    Though I’d love for your vision to become reality, it’s likely not going to happen as long as we have leaders that demonization “the enemy” and politicians that demonize their challengers. Many people rally around the “us vs. them” dogma because people fundamentally believe what they want to believe and an “us vs. them” mentality helps them feel better about themselves (pun intended.) Few people are willing to take the effort to analyze the issues, and even fewer are willing to be introspective and question their own beliefs in hopes of identifying their own ideology’s failings.

    Our only short-term hope (in the USA) is that our next president truly be a “United, not a Divider .” Sadly, none of the current front runners fit that profile.

  6. It’s actually not a bad idea, though I have slim hopes for it in practice.

    Here’s an intermediate idea: convince a network (and their local affiliates) to post raw video of candidate events online after say 48 hours have past. Have them let people mash it up, provided they post the resulting mash-up to the network site. The people filming these things then get ad revenue, and we get our raw footage to play with.

    I honestly believe the network that does this has the potential to blow this election apart. If say MSNBC was able to post all raw event video from all NBC affiliates, the resulting site would be incredible, and would, I think, spawn even more incredible mashups.

  7. “I think “advertising” vs. “analysis” is a naive distinction”

    Fair point. Might have been better to say: preparation of the raw materials that would enable and inform a range of analyses.

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