This week’s reading dealt with the topic of political advocacy groups and how advances in technology have given certain groups like MoveOn the ability to mobilize and disperse their information in new and consolidated ways. My purpose of this blog post is to flesh out the argument I made in class in order to support Karpf’s argument about how political advocacy has not changed with the evolution of the internet, but changed the type of organizations it utilizes.
Entertain me, if you will, with the notion that there is a large pool. Next to the pool is one large rock and several smaller rocks. The goal is to throw the rocks into the pool to create as large and widespread a ripple as possible. While arguably a contrived metaphor, the ripples represent the effects of political advocacy groups. The large rock represents the way political advocacy groups used to organize and disperse information before the internet. Their organizational efforts would culminate into larger, targeted events that focused on quality. A drawback to this system is that it lacks the reach to its audience that the internet allows. This means that when you drop the large rock into the pool it creates a sudden, large ripple that eventually loses momentum by the time it reaches the edges of the pool.
The set of several smaller rocks represents groups such as MoveOn that use the internet for a different approach to political advocacy. The internet has allowed advocacy groups to reach millions of potential audience members with the click of a button. This has shifted the way many groups disperse their information. MoveOn has stated that they value quantity over quality, and a consolidated group of 20 people are able to send several messages to millions of people around the country. This means that several rocks allows the thrower to cause several different ripples around the pool creating a much wider area for the ripples to propagate. The drawback is the quantity over quality approach can often lack the level of engagement and interest with potential audience members due to the inevitable lack of personalization. This means that the ripples, while more widespread, are not as momentous and don’t travel as far.
My argument, like Karpf’s, is not to assess which style of political advocacy is better. My goal is to use my admittedly thin analogy to support Karpf’s argument that it is not political advocacy that has changed, but merely the method in which it is carried out. Karpf claims that, “The largest effect of the internet on politics is felt not through organizing without organizations, but through organizing with different organizations.” The analogy of the rocks being of different types, still aiming for the goal of making the largest ripple, sums up Karpf’s idea that the internet changes the way political advocacy groups organize, but they are still aiming to achieve the same goal of political advocacy.