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    ‘scan to vote’

    Digital Media: Platform for Democracy

    Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

    Youth in America spend more time using social media sites than any other form of media. Whether through tablets, smartphones or computers, my generation is certainly wired and ready to engage. What else can we do as we wait for that lolcats page to load except “like,” share, and “reteweet”? Well to start, we can build the political power and strength of our generation, one network at a time.

    This was the discussion surrounding South by Southwest’s (SXSW) kickoff Interactive panel “Socializing the Presidency” last Sunday, March 11th. PBS brought together several leaders in the digital and youth spaces, including Rock the Vote’s President Heather Smith, PBS NewsHour moderator Christina Bellantoni, radio host and political commentator Mary Katharine Ham, Founding Executive Director of Voto Latino Maria Teresa Kumar, and Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark. And despite the early morning start on a Sunday (not to mention the annoyance of Daylight Saving Time) and pouring rain, the panel’s room was packed. To Smith, the large audience and their thoughtful questions suggest that “there is a lot of great faith in social media innovators changing the presidential election.”

    Discussion on the panel ranged from candidates’ authentically interacting with others through social media, to “fact checking” the news through the digital gauntlet, to brand building, to how features on Facebook and Twitter can be used effectively to organize, and how grassroots initiatives may rely more on peer-to-peer networks in the future. Each panelist brought a dynamic perspective. Newmark noted, as a self-described nerd, less so political commentator, that he knows technological trends can accelerate and protect movements and that the concept of viral social media can only expand the effectiveness of grassroots activism. Ham said that, in her experience as a commentator, she has seen how authentic engagement and storytelling through social media has provided candidates a communications platform that significantly contributes to election wins.

    The panelists also talked about solutions for voter discouragement, namely in states that have recently adopted restrictive voter ID laws. Kumar is aware that Latino voters are especially at risk of disenfranchisement because of these laws. Smith points out that there are several barriers to voter participation that can be cured through social media. First, social media can help promote awareness about the voting process. “People don’t automatically know to fill out a form and send it in 28 days before an election,” Smith said, adding that educating and promoting through social media is a “huge service” for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

    Obtaining the correct voter ID causes the inconvenience of extra steps in the voting process. However, digital tools can help combat this: “We have to use our power of communication and peer-to-peer networks to let people know about the barriers before they show up to the polls unprepared,” Smith said. Lastly, she believes that online conversations and demonstrations can remind voters that their voice has influence. Citing overwhelmingly effective reactions to the Stop Online Piracy Act and Komen’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, Smith sees the digital world as a platform for democracy and individual collection. “There is this one belief permeating youth culture that politics in D.C. is dysfunctional, that the influence of big money corrupts the political process and trumps the power of voters. But we know that the only way to fight against these things, which will only grow, is to increase participation. If we have fuller participation, we would outweigh the influence of power and money. Social media helps get that message out and demonstrates people getting together for collective action.”

    New technologies are providing exciting opportunities to communicate and act. For example, Smith sported Rock the Vote’s new “Scan to Vote” t-shirt at the panel. The tee allows a registrant to scan the shirt’s QR-code with his or her smartphone, bringing them to a mobile page with voter information videos, social media pages, and Rock the Vote’s online voter registration tool. Through scanning a code or simply “following” a Twitter handle, social media participation defines the youth movement. Smith says “this young generation is one out of four voters in the electorate and growing. Like it or not, they will define the culture in our country and with luck, they will shape the future of our democracy. Through social media we are encouraging them from simply being consumers of media, to being creators of our democracy.”

    Kelly Holleran

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Rockin’ at SXSW 2012

    Friday, March 9th, 2012

    Hi Friends,

    I’m heading to Austin for SXSW and I could not be more excited; will you be there by any chance? Here’s a sneak peak at some of the cool things Rock the Vote will be doing on the ground…

    I’ll be kicking off the week at SXSW Interactive speaking on the panel — “Socializing the Presidency: Digital Politics 2012” — on Sunday at 9:30 am at the AT&T Center -Salon B. The other panelists and I promise a fun and interesting conversation about how social media can shape and transform the 2012 presidential election. Stop by if you can (badge required).

    The Warby Parker Citizens Circus at the French Legation MuseumRock the Vote volunteers will be registering voters and rocking out to good tunes at some of Austin’s hottest venues, Auditorium Shores (March 15-17) and Stubbs (March 13-17). We’ll be showcasing our new and interactive #ScanToVote apparel. The Politico has the exclusive here.

    Lastly, you won’t want to miss our yurt at The Warby Parker Citizen’s Circus at the French Legation Museum on March 12-14. You can register to vote as well as make your own campaign buttons, all while checking out fashionable eye glasses and the Citizen’s Band. Find out more here.

    This is going to be a great week! Make sure you check out our SXSW updates at @rockthevote or on Facebook.

    I’m wheels down on Sunday. Hope to see you around.


    P.S. Help us win! Social sharing platform Mulu will match our funds if we have the most picks and pages on system at SXSW. Get started by making a page at www.mulu.me.

    Heather Smith
    Bio: Heather is President of Rock the Vote.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    News Round-Up: Friday, March 9, 2012

    Friday, March 9th, 2012

    Syrian opposition rejects talks with President Bashar al Assad; the Taliban has threatened attacks if Pakistan does not release Osama bin Laden’s widows; and the Obama administration comes out in support of Invisible Children’s Kony bill. Meanwhile, Rock the Vote will debut its “Scan to Vote” QR t-shirts at SXSW. Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @Rockthevote and at Facebook.com/rockthevote for updates from the festival.



    Syria opposition chief rejects talks, http://bit.ly/wgryD4
    Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the rebel Syrian National Council, has refused Kofi Annan’s suggestion that the opposition hold talks with Syrian president Bashar al Assad. In an interview with the Associated Press, Ghalioun said the request was unrealistic and that Annan had failed the Syrian people. Annan will meet with Assad this weekend.

    (via POLITICO Breaking News) The economy added 227,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.

    Pakistan Taliban demand release of bin Laden’s widows, threaten attacks, http://reut.rs/wHwQjm
    The Taliban has vowed to carry out suicide attacks if the Pakistani government, police, and military do not release Osama bin Laden’s three widows from their custody. On Thursday, Pakistan’s government charged the women with entering the country illegally. Pakistan has been interviewing them to find out how bin Laden managed to stay in the country without being discovered. The Tehrik-e-Taliban, the branch of the Taliban that has promised attacks, has executed major assaults against an American consulate and an American naval base.

    U.S. and Afghanistan Agree on Handover of Prisoners, http://nyti.ms/A3rlSB
    The United States has agreed to hand over 3,200 Afghan prisoners, most of them Taliban insurgents, to the Afghan government far sooner than expected. In what some think is an effort to make up for the NATO burning of Q’rans, the United States will allow for a six-month transition period for the prisoners as opposed to releasing them in 2014 as originally planned.

    Kony 2012 campaign gets support of Obama, others, http://wapo.st/A6LKRb
    The Obama administration has come out in support of an online film aimed at drawing attention to Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of the Lord Resistance’s Army, a violent and child-kidnapping militaristic group. The film, released by charity Invisible Children, has gone viral, garnering 48 million views on YouTube and Vimeo. Invisible Children has also created a bill to bring aid and peace to Uganda, and The White House has confirmed its support of the bill. Despite this, Invisible Children has been criticized for oversimplifying the situation in Uganda and for also being factually incorrect.

    (via POLITICO) At SXSW, register to vote QR codes, http://politi.co/x6EIp9
    At this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Warby Parker, a hip eyeglass company based out of New York, and Rock the Vote are teaming up on “Scan to Vote” QR code t-shirts that will allow users to register to vote directly from whatever smartphone they use to scan the QR code…. The shirts can be found from March 12 to March 14 at Warby Parker’s Citizen Circus at SXSW, an annual conference that focuses on music, technology, and film.


    Facebook Co-Founder Buys The New Republic, http://bit.ly/AvNqyu

    Smacketology: a tournament to determine The Wire’s greatest character, http://es.pn/xghfsJ

    Jessica Biel Finally Shows Off Her Massive Engagement Ring With Justin Timberlake, http://eonli.ne/yxCb9v

    South by Southwest: Five Things to Know About the Texan Film Festival, http://eonli.ne/yVupNU

    ‘Disco Inferno’ singer Jimmy Ellis dies at age 74, http://bit.ly/x55Fxx

    Caitlin Maguire
    Bio: Caitlin is the Marketing & Operations Manager for Rock the Vote
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com