Reading Review: Rigby and Melber

My aunt once described people my age as members of ‘Generation Y’–as in, she said in a mocking whine, “because you’re always asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘Why is that happening?’ ‘Why is it happening to me?’ ‘Why couldn’t it have happened this way, instead?’ Author Ben Rigby in “Mobilizing Generation 2.0: A Practical Guide to Using Web 2.0” gives my age group a lot more credit. First, he calls us ‘Millenials’–a name I’m shocked to admit I’ve heard maybe once before now. Secondly, he praises us for our ideals that are as progressive and future-minded as, perhaps, American ideals have ever been. We’re politically involved, Rigby says, investing time, emotion and money into campaigns, rivaling the Baby Boomer voting bloc in size. We’re civically active, a high percentage of us volunteering in the community in some way. We’re tech savvy, using the fruits of the Digital Age to research our work, connect with our friends, get our news and pay our bills.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, we’re influential–especially when it comes to using the tech tools that, of any group of people on earth, we are best at using. We can swing elections by creating petitions and becoming proactive ‘super-supporters’; we can blog not only for fun, but also to pinpoint liars and get the word out on scams, to inform jurors or to bring criminals to justice (as we read in Here Comes Everybody); we can read and distribute our own news that is alternative to the mainstream; and we can make cultural objects go viral and publish propaganda in articles or videos. If, as Rigby says, “more than half of heavy Internet users are under the age of thirty” and eight percent of that majority are ‘omnivores’–voracious consumers of anything Internet who also put their voice out there–it’s safe to say that we, the Millenials, control the present and the future. Traditional power structures are thwarted as most businesses avoid the Internet beyond the obligatory static webpage–the lack of editorial control over branding and messages scaring them off.

The Internet has become key to getting involved in and sounding off on everything: arts, entertainment, sports, science, technology, health, politics, economics. A large number of people even derive their outlook on life in forums and their sense of humor from esoteric memes. For the first time in history, widescale data exchange can be done by people who have concealed or unknowably altered identities. Social media itself has revolutionized communication, a microcosm of the Internet itself for its transparency and ease of use and decentralization–a feature also encapsulated by open-edit Wikis and blogs that use trackbacks, feeds and blogrolls to spread other people’s messages. Moreover, the Internet can sync up with traditional technology to reach the non-Millenials–TV ads pointing to websites, for example.

As for Ari Melber’s “Year One of Organizing for America,” I was most struck by the concept of the “permanent campaign.” Obama’s supporters were so “intense,” passionate and “resilient,” Melber claims, that even after Obama was elected, their positive feelings kept OFA, his campaign agency, running on a civic level, simply with “a layering of field component” over it. There is some debate as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, say some, it encourages the kind of civic engagement that got Obama elected–three-dimensional, grassroots social media that can mobilize Millenials and others. But on the other hand, it can lead to a more “adversarial” society, as the agenda-pushing mindset never dissipates. … I’m reminded of this South Park clip of the town partying crazily after Obama’s election. In the permanent campaign landscape, people are unable to switch of their partisan opinions and can become a little too invested.

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