President Obama did an AMA on Reddit, and if you don’t know what that means, you won’t appreciate what a brilliantly savvy move that was.
First, a bit of background on my ambivalent relationship with Technology and the Interwebs (lifted in part from a recent LiveJournal, so if it reads familiar to you, that’s why). I’m pretty old. Not as old as dirt. Or Clint Eastwood. But I remember when TV was black and white. I wrote my first novel on a typewriter. My first computer was a 128K Mac. My young adulthood did not include cell phones or the Internet. O tempora, o mores.
Now I have a MacBook Pro on which are all my files and works (backed up, of course). I have three email accounts, a Face Book page, G+, a LiveJournal account and a website. Questions that used to send me to the library now send me to Google. I get my news, information and much of my entertainment on-line. I browse Reddit and am subscribed to several sub-reddits. I have an iPod synced to my iTunes, and produce a monthly podcast using GarageBand. I maintain a website for the local Heritage Commission using Dreamweaver software. Nearly all my submissions and interactions with editors and publishers are digital.
I still don’t carry a cell phone. It’s my little act of defiance.
My husband is a teacher, and must remain tech-savvy and reasonably up-to-date. He is my primary resource for hardware, software, and device questions. He keeps me connected. But I am blessed (also thanks to my husband) with two teen-age geek sons who keep me plugged in to the cultural end of it. Portal, Minecraft, TF2, MLP and the Brony phenomenon, memes and hackers, humble bundles and indie music, Rage Comics, 4Chan, Brody Quest, photo bombs, remixes, Zero Punctuation, etc., etc., etc. Way too much to keep up with, but at least I have a clue. And I find it all fascinating. A bit scary, but still fascinating.
Sci-fi writers and sociologists are having a field day speculating on where this massive, interactive, digital mosh pit is going to take us. Nobody knows. Various government bodies and corporate entities are trying desperately to control it, but they can’t. It’s too damn big. It’s spawning new paradigms that have the old paradigms running scared. Those who are smart and savvy enough are seizing the opportunities it represents. That’s why Obama did an AMA on Reddit, and won himself an awesome amount of creds.
It’s a gamble. Will the demographic that is keyed into Reddit and Internet culture turn out to vote? Can they be counted on to hit the polls in the same numbers as the right-wing socially regressive Tea Partiers being courted by Republican tactics? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and which strategies pay off.
Personally, I think Obama has the right idea. I don’t pretend to understand all the complexities of politics, or of the Internet. But engaging the new paradigm makes more sense than debating with an empty chair.
In fact, Clint Eastwood at the RNC may prove to be an ominous meme and metaphor.