Saturday, 21 January 2012

Does New Media make Primaries Obsolete?

Map of mobile tweets from South Carolina and surrounding states during the Primary voting. Map created with the tool.
If you didn't know there was a major political event going on in South Carolina today a map of tweeting from mobile devices would not tell you.  South Carolina, one of the most right wing states in the nation, has been erect as a key state in deciding the GOP nomination.  If Romney loses tonight he will have to try and be the first candidate to lose the state's primary but pick up the GOP nomination.

But is South Carolina's position within the GOP party rational in an age of New Media.  People active in politics today are not dependent on TV media to decide the drama of a political event.  People can tweet or blog their feelings directly and over the past two year we have seen the emergence of computer mediated democratic activity.  In this age of direct political publishing South Carolina's dominate position in the GOP seems somewhat outdated, for the state is essentially a quite area in the overwhelming roar of twitter usage that is spreading through the American South.  The map above is striking for the density around South Carolina and the lack of chatter from the state.

In short if you are going on twitter to follow the political debate today, you are almost certainly not going to hear or chat with anyone from South Carolina.  We have only been able to find a few tweeps from the state blogging about politics.  

So if you watch TV, and especially Fox News, you will be presented with a picture of South Carolina as a major political center essential to the Republican Party, but if you follow twitter you could be forgiven for assuming nothing major has really happened there at all.

In short TV is making a major event of a state which is by itself not producing much engaged new media content.  TV uses the voters as puppets to a large extent.  South Carolina was elevated to give a certain group in the GOP more power: social conservatives.  But as we start being more directly engaged on new media South Carolina's small population and lack of online engagement will reduce the significance of this primary to something more in line with its population. Political leaders who want to win the South looking to Georgia, North Carolina and Florida as key areas where the new kind of engaged collaboration is more likely to happen.

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