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Modern Studies: American Election Style

May 26, 2008

Looking for some ideas for a topical Modern Studies or English lesson? Then look no further than the minor tussle going on over the pond.

You’d think the Obama vs Clinton contest was the actual Presidential election itself — and from the other side of the Atlantic, it’s strange to think of such a long and involved (and quite frankly, mystifying) process as being anything other than a distraction. Or at least, that’s what I was thinking until I saw a New York Times headline that caught my eye, namely:

Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

Of course, I was immediately interested because this was (finally) an analogy I could understand. Even better, the article pointed me at Doug Kendall’s column from the Huffington Post which is almost worth reading for the comments alone. I’m an English teacher and this is a brilliant example of the extended metaphor that I can use to clarify John Donne, Shakespeare (William, not Heinemann), or Richard Brautigan… all masters of the technique…

Inevitably, the articles took me to the candidates’ own websites and this is where my interest really fired up. There’s a whole Modern Studies or Media Studies lesson in the fact that Hillary’s website looks like an old fashioned, traditional site with far too much information (and rather tellingly, appeals for funding) while the New York Times said that:

“…Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site…”

Actually, they are wrong. Obama’s site doesn’t look like Apple‘s website, it looks like a blog — even down to the text on the left and ‘widgets’ down the right.

If the man chasing the most important job in the world is going to great lengths to appeal to the 2.0 Generation, why are the education institutions doing all they can to cling on to the 1.0 world? And make no mistake, Obama is streets ahead of Hillary when it comes to genuinely understanding 2.0… here’s the next teaching point for you.

At the bottom of their respective sites is a little box with a list of their Web2.0 activities… Quite apart from the fact that Obama has more ‘connectedness’, he is also hitting a greater demographic with his presence on AsianAve or MiGente. Hillary has played it very safe and traditional… dare I say it, she is present on the sites your parents might have heard of not your kids…

For me, the final lesson lies in their uses of these connected sites. I decided to follow a hunch or suspicion about the candidates and visited their flickr sites. I’ve indicated the fundamental differences between their understanding of the 2.0 world on the following screengrabs:

FlickrGrab

Click picture to embiggen!

Obama’s pictures are Creative Commons — Clinton’s are Copyright

Some of Obama’s photos look as though they were actually taken by him — Clinton uses a photographer

Obama has comments — Clinton doesn’t…

You can learn more by looking at how many photos each has uploaded… or look at when they joined flickr… or looking at the other photos they’ve uploaded – the ones which don’t feature the candidates. There are so many worthwhile and (hopefully) interesting lessons to found in this campaign and, truth be told, this is really just the start. To use an analogy, the use of Web2.0 to fight the Nomination campaign is the equivalent of the pioneers who photographed the American Civil War. It is the thin end of the wedge, and before long, it will be the norm.

Obviously, these ideas are just that, ideas. They’d need fleshed out before they could be used properly in the classroom but feel free to take/use/adapt/rehash or make suggestions… oh, and for the record… I use a Mac! 😉

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 28, 2008 6:13 pm

    There is something similar on digg.com, they have a pick your candidate thing and Obama had ten times the amount of followers that McCain had!!

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