A new term entered into the political and viral video lexicons over the past few days, "Voter Generated Content." Although I'm quite sure there have been previous examples of voter generated content, the video that led to the coining of the term, and is causing all the big fuss this week is this:
The video, "Vote Different," uses Apple's famous 1984 advertisement announcing the introduction of the Macintosh. Big Brother from the original ad has been replaced with Hillary Clinton, representing the Democratic establishment, and the hero is now wearing a t-shirt with the logo from Obama Barack's presidential campaign.
Why is this video creating such a stir, when other voters have been making vlogs and home-made ads promoting their candidates (or bashing others) for a couple of years already?
Because this one is well-produced, and has had over 1,000,000 million hits in just a few days. This one is causing a stir, because it is the first "voter generated content" that has garnered major media attention, and that candidates have to respond to.
This is an exciting development for democracy that opens up the debate to every citizen who has the skills to get their message out there, without the need to be a part of any official committee, party, or FEC filing - And it will be seen as a dangerous development for democracy that takes away any ability to control a candidate's message, control who pays how much for a candidate's campaign, or any verification or spurious charges.
While I think many of the fears are over-stated, and I tend to agree more with the positive and exciting elements of voter generated content, I am also jaded enough to realize that within weeks each major campaign will have staff dedicated to generating mock-voter generated content.
Candidates who want to get a negative message out to the masses, but want to maintain an arm's distance from the message (plausible denial), will be planting videos through volunteers who have no official connection to the campaigns. It will soon become difficult to tell the difference between authentic voter generated content and the candidate's own stealth campaigns.
Still, this danger is better than the alternative of trying to regulate what individual vloggers and viral video hobbyists can say or do in their original content.
Digital democracy is exciting, but nobody said that it wouldn't get messy.