Facebook and Politics: Perfect Partnership?

“Computers don’t live up to the grandiose promises of their biggest fans, nor do they sabotage our words, as critics loudly warn they will. Instead, as we learned to do with earlier writing technologies, once we adopt the computer, we adapt it to our needs, and along the way we find new and unexpected ways of changing what we do with words, and how we do it” Dennis Baron, A Better Pencil

Although Baron is talking about the entity of technology, this concept can be translated into forms of New Media. First, Facebook was originally a networking tool– a social network situated at Harvard. Then it expanded to universities and finally to “society” beyond the .edu email address. My own use of Facebook reflects the social networking concept; therefore, I have no examples of my own “political platform” uses of Facebook. Thanks to the newest version the “Timeline,” I know exactly when I joined:

The following video is a bit dated (in that there have been several “revisions” to the Facebook layout since), but it gives us a sense of what Facebook was (still is) intended to be.

With each addition, Facebook shifted more, and more, into the public sphere. Users began adapting it to their own needs just like the pencil was repurposed into the world of writing and computer use went from mathematics to include writing. Facebook has become key in politics.

US Politics: Facebook outlines how it can be used during the 2012 Campaign Season.  There is even a “Facebook Political Team.” Like it or not, Facebook definitely has the power to impact politic; they are connected to social interaction, and facebook is a place of interactivity and participation.

Social Media has taken on a political life. The 2008 Presidential Election,while historic for many reasons, reached voters through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Presidential Election (and I sense a reprieve of this for 2012) is a macro level campaign platform; however, local politicians have also employed the platform of facebook in their campaigns on the micro level.

For instance, the WV primary elections will be held at the beginning of May. Many politicians have taken their campaigns to their facebook pages. The example here is a city council hopeful. Facebook has evolved, and it is clear that the current format (with the cover photo) does help create a professional persona; however, this is still a personal page.

This screen shot is a current  facebook posting. While this claim may cause some  potential voters to agree with him, others would see it as  an attack on the current way the city functions. Furthermore, he is very clear about his own political stance in his post regarding Mitt Romney.  Another thing this particular image represents is the link between multiple social media: the first post is posted “via twitter” while the second is not. Facebook allows users to interact with multiple social media outlets. Both posts instigated conversation, which is “coverage”; however, the question is does it frame this candidate for council in a “good light”?

Another potential problem of using Facebook as a political platform in this instance is the existence of the “new” Timeline. The opposition can access the Facebook comments, statuses and images posted in the past. It is just a click away. The personal is very public. The issue with Facebook as a political platform at the micro level is the issue of audience. Who views it? What parts of it are they able to view? But, more importantly does the politician keep the range of audiences in mind when posting?  In the image below, the personal is paired with the professional: political discussions, “professional images,” outrage at “idiocy” and the post about Jesco White.

Herein lies the difference between the amateur (the local) and the professional (the national): You cannot be “friends” with  President Obama. His page is a “public figure page;” it is not his personal Facebook turned professional. This Facebook page is not run by Obama; it is solely a political platform.

Wikipedia does establish the “pros” of the pairing of Facebook and Politics in the “Political Impact” section. Facebook as a political platform taps into the qualities of New Media (and New Ne Media) to expand the audience a politician can reach; however, the blurring of the personal and the professional has the potential to create new problem spaces instead of progress. Facebook as made parameters for politics on the macro scale, but what about the micro? Do the parameters have any effects on the micro level? Not yet.

So how could the platform of Facebook be useful in education?

Facebook as a political platform could really create serious conversations about audience awareness for student writers. It also is a space where interactivity is key, participation and play all come together. Students could learn that they are able to interact with and connect with the political scene they are joining (specifically FYC students) for the first time. It also raises the question, how are you using facebook? What kinds of composing happens there?

Facebook and Politics is a Perfectly (Im)Perfect Partnership when guided by 1) Audience Awareness 2) Interaction 3) Participation. Facebook can be a huge help to a campaign on a budget with conscious efforts to present the persona of your campaign without the personal seeping through too much.

Facebook can help you be successful

Politics deal with social issues. A social network helps us connect to, interact with and learn about the politicians on our terms– what we choose to click on. Could you use your Facebook as a political platform?

Copyright Laws: Remix it.

Copyright Laws!  We have all pushed the boundary of copyright, admit it.  Is every music
file on your computer paid for? Did you download a few images for that video you made
yesterday? Did you remix or remediate something into you own work? Photoshopped an
image? Posted a song lyric? Yep. I thought so.

So how did copyright law become so stringent? I mean, 70 years AFTER the death of the
author/musican/producer pretty much means NO! you can’t use this. Ever.

But Take a Look…

Then Walt Disney did this…

This…is a remix. But. Don’t forget, copyright says remix is bad…it’s bad if you plan on
using anything remotely current. The Disney Corporation was a huge proponent of the
extension of copyright. Interesting since the magic of Disney is rooted in remix.
Well played, Disney.

However, there is something called Fair Use. This allows us to use copyrighted
materials in small amounts, for no monetary compensation, as students, but Youtube
will still tell you that your video has copyrighted material.

The reality is that the “copies” and remixes of  movies/music/etc and so on were not a
threat until technology advanced.  Now as we learned earlier in the semester, the
amateur can be JUST as “good” as the creator. Lawrence Lessig points out the
“(consumer generated) copy was inferior to the original; and second, the technologies
to enable a consumer copy to copy an RO [Read/only] token were extremely rare”
(Remix 36-37). Boy, times have changed. He also states that the most important
policy mistake is one that stifles the Sousarian instinct: a policy driven by the view
that the only way to protect RO culture is to render RW [Read/write] culture illegal.
That choice is a false choice” (50).

In A Nutshell

So. We are at an impasse buried in Copyright Laws. Fair use is a step toward progress,
but our tech savvy culture needs more. How can we protect the rights of the creators
without squelching the creativity of the consumers? Does the copyright still foster
creativity? We are a Read/Write culture… remix is at our fingertips.

The Remix Manifesto sets it up for us:

  1. culture builds on the past
  2. the past attempts to control the future
  3. culture is becoming less free
  4. limit the control of the past on culture

And now… it’s our job to enact #4.

Let's Remix it!


This is my Remix video. I used images, text and music to create a PSA against Mountaintop Removal. Under copyright laws, I have definitely crossed a line in that I have used a DMB song for 2 mins. However, this is a project for a course with no monetary gain and part of the purpose is to engage with the conversation of the limitations placed on remix and the boundaries of copyright. One important thing to note is that the images (many of them) were originally located within the associated press which allowed multiple publications to use them with a nod toward to source of the image. While some of the images are definitely speaking out against mountaintop removal (strip mining) some of the images were in articles to represent camping locations, tourism and commentary on the shift of the welcome to WV signs. Additionally, the “Just Say No” campaign is a conversation regarding drugs, but here it is repurposed to outset the business issues in WV. “The Dreaming Tree” establishes a conversation about missing what has disappeared; interestingly, it is also the title for the Dave Matthews craft wine. He has even repurposed his own song in that space. A public service announcement is a way to reach an audience that the activist groups may not reach because their publications are widely read by those who believe in their cause and the tourism images are not widely broadcast to an audience that is not already interested in visiting the state of WV. By coupling the mining, the mountains and the people of WV, the pathos of the PSA attempts to draw the audience into the realities of mountaintop removal issues, the everyday effects.

Producer + Consumer = Prosumer

Watch out world.  The amateur is having her hayday: forums to publish on, videos to create, affinity groups to join and everything that might crumble the hierarchy of the entertainment business.  Okay, it might not be THAT bad.  We are, however, in a serious state of flux, and we humans don’t particularly love this idea of change, now do we?  or maybe we want to like it?

So first, Consumers: passive, observer. Producer: active, distributor. Prosumer: consumes and produces
Example: Films

A) Excerpt from Jaws

B) My Nephew’s Version

My nephew was a consumer.  He watched Jaws, but he did not want to stop there; he (and his dad) created a video to depict Ben’s favorite scene as well as “pay tribute” to the film in his own way, thus developing into a prosumer.

We do consume products; however, these products that we buy frequently do not just feed us information (not even TV’s anymore). Our ipads and laptops CAN entertain us but they also provide us with the medium to create and contribute.

Passive Consumption

Active Consumption

Due to the ability to create.  Let’s think about  zones of tolerance. 

Henry Jenkins establishes that a zone of tolerance is a place wherein “fans can operate while asserting some control over what happens” in Convergence Culture (154).  His example here focuses on Star Wars and how Lucas has created spaces that the fans have control, but he has still orchestrated them.  One such location is http://www.lucasarts.com/  . While it’s not ALL about the money… it is about the money. Who is profiting? How? Why?

The fact that LucasFilms creates these spaces for the fans does not make them the evil corporation that “we” frequently depict big companies to be.  True, Elizabeth Durack’s claim that “That’s the genius of LucasFilm offering fans web space–it lets them both look amazingly generous and be even more controlling” (157) can be supported easily.  While it is true that LucasFilms are not going to “feel the hurt” from amateur endeavors that connect to StarWars, other less established companies could be ruined.  As a member of society, I suppose first we should decide if we care?  As a prosumer, I want to be able to keep all my freedom to create, publish, remix, remediate etc., but I should probably think about the points at which my creations infringe upon someone else’s.  There is no easy way to achieve this balance.

Think about the TV we watch today.  It is participatory.

We vote on American Idol

We discuss the Bachelor on Forums to forecast “who gets a rose”


Why is this participatory culture so scary? It has brought about a huge amount of change in a small space. Ownership as we know is changing. Production is changing. Consumption is changing. Technology is changing. Access is changing. The scope of audience has shifted from intimate groups to public domains. Stability is non-existant. We are all prosumers in some way.