Weeks ago in a grandiose humour, some foolish bint predicted that Election 07 would be shaped by the evolved hand of the digital native. That was me. Sorry.
I think I’d just been to an evangelical internet conference where everyone was talking about a User Generated Future or something.
I was wrong. Wrong like Wikipedia.
I wasn’t alone in my fleeting belief that the might of MSM had diminished. No. I wasn’t the only fool. Every other tosser who’d ever purchased Wired magazine in extreme youth was aflame with the promise of Web 2.0.
Certainly, the parties poured campaign time and ardent effort into Election 2.0. The ALP was unstinting, in fact, in its multi-platform endeavour. Rudd’s early presence on social-media site du jour, facebook, showed that some media advisor actually had half a clue. By contrast, Howard’s pre campaign debut on YouTube was an unpardonable error.
Where Rudd appeared conversant with the emerging medium offering fellow users morsels of info from his life, Howard remained flat and unresponsive. Howard’s people saw the internet as just-like-the-telly-only-smaller. Rudd’s people recognised that the web demanded an appearance of informality.
The last time I looked at MySpace, Howard remained friends with its default user “Tom.” Whereas Rudd’s people have not allowed a serious code error since their digital leader was first uploaded. There is no sure way to measure the effectiveness of the ALP’s endeavours. Of course, it’s likely they’ll win. However, only those who dream in binary code think that this victory was collected solely in zeroes and ones.
In the end, it was not, I think, the ALP’s web presence per se that transformed Rudd. It was, however, an awareness of the broader culture most easily observed in Web 2.0 that helped them change their campaign tack.
A survey of Facebook, Wikipedia or any other current Web 2.0 standard afford a clear message for those inclined to read: the digital native expects interaction. The digital native is accustomed to leaving comments and demanding answers. The digital native couldn’t give a f-ck about flat media. Even The Insiders.
By no means could Rudd be regaled as a charismatic man. He’s awkward; his voice is yet to settle in that middle register occupied by more persuasive men and he seems every bit as visionary as plastic barbecue tongs. Nonetheless, he’s been made over to look like the kinda guy who’d answer your text message.
The terms of media consumption have changed and with them the expectations for correct statesmanlike behaviour.
This simple insight saw Rudd eschew hard questions at The Insiders in favour of the blank candour of Rove. Yoof-wise, it was the smartest choice of his campaign.