The Dimensions of a Digitally Networked Campaign

This is the first in a four-part series in which Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.

This is the first in a four-part series in which Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., explores various "dimensions" of online campaigning and the strategies that each dimension requires. The series will continue tomorrow.Online advocacy and political campaigns can be envisioned in three dimensions (or, if you prefer a computer metaphor, versions 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0). At the core, the dimensions are about the strategic flow-direction of communication (see Table). One-dimensional campaigns are about broadcasting a one-way campaign message, with tight language control, to voters. Two-dimensional campaigns are about building a transactional or two-way relationship with voters—getting them to register to vote, for example. And 3-D campaigns unleash the masses, with communication flowing to and from the campaign, as well as in any direction between and among voters. And in reality, 3-D campaigns have more than three dimensions because, in addition to facilitating omni-directional messaging and organizing, digital networks overcome obstacles of distance and allow for time-shifting.

Strategic Dimensions of a Digital Network Strategy for Campaigns   Level of Measurement Direction of Communication Activity Message Control 1-D Strategy Information One-way Broadcasting Tight 2-D Strategy Action Two-way Transacting Tight or Relaxed 3-D Strategy Community Three-way Networking Chaotic Campaigns that effectively tap into the power of the Internet and mobile networks, fully integrating these new dynamics into campaign strategy, will have a decided edge on opponents. Just as online strategies integrate into, rather than replace offline strategies, these online dimensions also integrate together. Campaigns will have 1-, 2-, and 3-dimensional characteristics. The ability for voters to take campaigns into their own hands is the big game changer for advocacy and politics. Because activists and voters can talk to each other, produce and share their own media content, create local and national counter-campaigns (even from within a campaign’s own website or social network page), they can take the campaign in directions all of their own making. By enabling citizens to create mass messages, process large numbers of transactions, and build large social networks, they are able to make impacts on the political process once reserved to well-funded advocacy campaigns or the occasional mass, on-the-ground protest.Coming Next: One-Dimensional StrategiesAlan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Online Advocacy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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