Posted tagged ‘wikis’

Anti-Social Media: McCainpedia

19, May, 2008

The new McCainpedia is a landmark in the history of digital media. It exploits public familiarity with a hip new communication form (in this case, wikis, which are used for group content creation and editing) and then aggressively misapplies it. This launch ranks alongside the first time a newspaper published a reporter’s blog posts in print, or when a TV news program first put faux-clickable icons on the TV screens.

The McCainpedia, published by the Democratic National Committee’s Research, Communications, and Internet teams, presents a nastyfun collection of material about McCain’s alleged flip-flops, misreadings of history, contradictions, bad ideas, inexplicable votes, curious associations and so on. Great reading, all of it, and I’m sure some portion of the material is factual.

But the McCainPedia is a wiki in lockdown. People can’t edit, question, add or remove stuff. It’s an example of anti-social media. It’s Potemkin Village 2.0. The wisdom-of-the-few. Solosourcing. Citizen journalism without the citizens. It’s Democratic but not democratic.

McCainpedia

I don’t want to suggest this isn’t a wise or effective digital communication tactic. It’s a great way to consolidate party-approved rhetoric and create a catchbasin for those looking to sip some DNC bile. I’m guessing it’ll get major SEO mojo and will pop up when people conduct searches for things like “Keating Five” and “in Iraq 100 years”.

Despite its brassy exploitation of a new form of social media, McCain is another Obama poli-tech victory. So far, McCain’s digital efforts seem like those of grammar school kids learning HTML. The e-Bama efforts, by contrast, seem to be the work of college sophomores with lousy grades but perfect SATs who spend all night in the computer lab writing programs that screw with the administration. Obama’s digital team is giving McCain’s folks a wedgie every day. We’ll see if Obama continues to lead in the digital derby as the race continues.

But for me, this all raises a more interesting question. Would it even be possible to create a real wiki that collected facts–facts!–regarding the key issues and the candidates’ positions?

Oh, I know there are formally assembled and authored documents that attempt to do this. But that’s traditional one-way publishing.

But could a real, honest-to-god, publicly authored and maintained wiki possibly provide a level-headed and factual look at the things people really should know before they vote? How could such a wiki not be immediately overrun by stooges, tools, creeps, flamers, neo-National Socialists, nutroot populists, chindrizzle party hacks and blind raging lunatics?

Which is to say, to open the question even more broadly, is the pure wiki format applicable to content areas about which members of the public have extraordinarily strong feelings? And matter so much to the future of the public?

[A tip o’ the fez to TechPresident for bringing this to my attention.]