Around 2003, after Democrats were walloped in the midterms, and the established liberal advocacy organizations in D.C. proved unable to register any victories against President Bush, the Professional Left was desperate. So desperate that many Dems and lots of orgs actually hired a bunch of bloggers and technology geeks to try something new – anything new. I was one of those strategy kids. I always brought my background in theatre/film to the table, stressing the need for a coherent story with respect to “the battle of narratives” element of politics. However much I stressed story stuff like identify the bad guy, or choose conflict, our essential challenge was to figure out how to use the nascent internet to do good, and do it well, in D.C.
Some in the Professional Left held a narrow view that the web should be used as medium for advertising. A lot of marketing folks were okay with that role for the internet. But as McLuhan said, “the medium is the message” and online political organizers pushed back that the internet is an interactive platform for tools, including collaboration tools, it is experiential, and it was teaching people to expect more responsiveness from their world. At the end of the day, marketing did happen online, but so did all manner of political organizing, from first I.D. all the way through GOTV. It worked, in 2008 we elected a president in large part because of the new field of New Media politics that was invented.
For a while it was like building a plane mid-flight from random spare parts. The whole thing was new. Most people were still trying to wrap their heads around what the internet was. And we had concrete things to accomplish: We needed to influence newscycles, raise money, signup new supporters, organize them, lobby electeds, stop bad things from happening, push for good things to happen, and win elections. To make matters worse, we were working in an old industry and needed to constantly reassure the old guard that we were contributing to traditional departments, we were not a waste of effort, nor as some feared, out to destroy D.C. altogether.
There was no vernacular for this mysterious and complicated problem. So in order to arrive at a working model for our system of actions, people like me borrowed theoretical constructs from disparate fields and found where they were harmonious and applicable. I spoke at conferences about how ideas borrowed from Actor Network Theory, plus others from Educational Psychology, and some marketing techniques, seemed to fit together to constitute one way to conceptualize online politicking. Cycle by cycle, and race by race, methods were solidified and metrics were established to turn it all into a science.
Currently I’m developing a working theory on multidimensional (multi-screen) storytelling in film and television. It incorporates components from a few sciences. The goal is to use the New Media forces that some perceive as a threat to the industry, and instead, use them to our advantage. I’m really excited by how well these ideas are starting to fit together.
#1 why does the industry need this?
* channel choice * piracy * cord-cutting * second screen ubiquity * ad avoidance technology * time crunch
#2 why won’t the industry do this?
* a lot of marketers have convinced industry stakeholders that the internet is solely for promotion
* unlike the Professional Left circa 2002, Hollywood hasn’t hit rock bottom yet
I believe there are some people in LA who get it and are willing to go big, so I’ll keep writing about this. Stay tuned.