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    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


    Monday, March 12th, 2012

    Afghan relations with the U.S. deteriorate after 16 civilians are killed by an American soldier; SCOTUS will soon hear arguments on health care law; the Justice Department tackles Texas’s voter ID law; and rumors are abound that CNN is poised to buy Mashable. Meanwhile, Richard Nixon’s love letters show his softer side; Louis C.K. pulls out of his Congressional Correspondence Dinner speech; Jon Hamm calls out Kim Kardashian; and Peyton Manning visits the Arizona Cardinals.

    Kelly + Caitlin


    Taliban Vow Revenge For Alleged U.S. Attack On Civilians, http://n.pr/wvZ6BH
    After the arrest and detainment of a U.S. solider responsible for killing 16 Aghan civilians, nine of them children, the Taliban has vowed retaliation for the shooting spree. The Army staff sergeant responsible for the attacks surrendered himself immediately afterwards, but residents of the village report that there was more than one solider acting. The hostility between Afghanistan and the United States came shortly after U.S. troops had burned copies of the Quran. A new poll by The Washington Post and ABC News reveals that a majority of Americans no longer support the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, with 60 percent saying they feel it is “not worth fighting” there.

    Health Care Act Offers Roberts a Signature Case, http://nyti.ms/y2VMEV
    In two weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will begin hearing arguments on the Obama administration’s signature health care law. The case may have the largest impact on Americans’ lives since Chief Justice John Roberts’s joined the Supreme Court. SCOTUS is allowing for six hours of testimony and arguments; the last case to have arguments longer than six hours was in 1966 when deciding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Citizens United is the most famous case the Roberts court has decided so far. The decision will not be handed down until June.

    (via Washington Post) Justice Dept objects to Texas voter ID law because many Hispanic voters lack state-issued ID: The Justice Department’s civil rights division on Monday objected to a new photo ID requirement for voters in Texas because many Hispanic voters lack state-issued identification. Texas is the second state in recent months to become embroiled in a court battle with the Justice Department over photo ID requirements for voters.The Justice Department said Texas officials failed to show that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect. In a letter to Texas officials that was also filed in the court case in Washington, the Justice Department said Hispanic voters in Texas are more than twice as likely than non-Hispanic voters to lack a driver’s license or personal state-issued photo ID. The department said that even the lowest estimates showed about half of Hispanic registered voters lack such identification, http://wapo.st/A4zmn4

    CNN to buy Mashable for around $200 million, report says, http://cnet.co/wmxKaN
    Rumors are circulating at the South by Southwest conference that CNN will pay more than $200 million to buy the social media blog Mashable. Founded in 2005 by Pete Cashmore, Mashable draws about 20 million unique visitors a month. So far reports only confirm that talks are being made but no deal has been reached yet.


    Love letters reveal Nixon’s sensitive side, http://apne.ws/ws98kx

    F. Sherwood Rowland dies at 84; UC Irvine professor won Nobel Prize, http://apne.ws/ws98kx

    Michelle Obama To Appear On Letterman Show, http://huff.to/wLuSkL

    Louis C.K. Pulls Out of Radio & Television Congressional Correspondence Dinner Speech, http://bit.ly/y2GWTX

    Jon Hamm calls Kim Kardashian a ‘f**king idiot, http://thedc.com/yToEX9’

    Mitt Romney’s Spotify Playlist, http://huff.to/wOQC2p

    Rare Movie Posters Found In An Attic Expected To Fetch $250,000, http://huff.to/AfvUpC

    Courtney Love’s Ex-Assistant Tell-All Book: She’s a Delusional Drug Addict, http://bit.ly/zuWJSp

    Injury Forces Woods To Withdraw From Tournament, http://bit.ly/zZehcK

    Peyton Manning visits Cardinals, http://es.pn/z8v5zG

    Kelly Holleran

    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