Howard Dean’s presidential campaign has already distinguished itself by its savvy embrace of the Internet and weblogs (or “chatrooms” as I heard one uncomfortable political pundit refer to them on NPR a few weeks back) and the wellspring of enthusiasm coming from the grassroots. It’s not surprising when you consider that they’ve been taking advice from David “World of Ends” Weinberger and Rick “There is No Spoon” Klau.
While the Dean campaign can’t control all of the self-motivated SpringfieldForDean.com-type websites and their independent efforts on the behalf of the candidate, the campaigners seem to be OK with that, willing to give up some control in the interests of capturing that free-floating energy. Still, it looks like we are seeing this semi-independent groundswell mature and it’s possible that emergent structure will appear from the loosely knit chaos.
The developers of DeanSpace have chosen Drupal to build a community in order to provide tools, support, and advice to Howard Dean’s grassroots supporters. From the “About DeanSpace” page:
Howard Dean’s online grassroots campaigners are more savvy, nimble and numerous than those of any other candidate – our wired ranks now number in the hundreds of thousands and continue to grow. We want to keep that growth accelerating and allow the energy generated online to erupt into real-world campaigning.
We don’t think it’s too brazen to say we are experimenting with the future of the democratic process. So far Howard Dean’s grassroots campaign has exhibited decentralized participation working on a true “town hall” model, yet also operating in a nationally connected and coordinated fashion. We are having surprising and extraordinary results.
But we can still do better.
While new “for Dean” web sites come onto the net every day, their ability to share information is, at best, hit or miss. The lack of an effective system of communication throughout the network limits the opportunity for these impassioned groups to connect and foster a strong online community. Disjointed and disorganized, the current online grassroots campaign functions like any old twentieth century grapevine.
It could be so much more.
This is one experiment I’ll be watching closely.