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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Year in Review. What Did We Learn in 2009? Part 2

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 9:28 AM

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It's been a fascinating year in San Francisco, full of such deep revelations. I think we've all learned a lot, and at this time of year, when we reflect on how our lives went so horribly wrong, I think it's good to take stock of the wisdom we've gained from the story of our fair city.

Lesson 2: he who lives by Twitter dies by Twitter.

There's something appropriate about Gavin Newsom, a virtual mayor if ever there was one, running a virtual campaign for governor. One can't help but think, watching him on YouTube, that the medium truly is the message in a way even Marshall McLuhan never intended. Yes, Gavin talks about policies, but he talks about them the way other actors hold a cigarette: the point isn't his policies, the point is that he's on YouTube. And Twitter. And Facebook.

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What did he want to do differently as governor, anyway? If there was one central idea being promoted by the Newsom campaign (aside from "I'm young!") it wasn't a policy stand, it was: "Follow me on Twitter!"

And people did. More than a million of them.

It's not that they didn't like what they saw - but "followers" are a lot less valuable in the digital age than they have been at any other time in history. There is no gravitas on Facebook, or leadership: there are only trends and friends.

The Newsom campaign is the most solid experimental proof we have that when you mix the digital world with the political, the rules of the digerati drive the laws of politics off a cliff.

The lesson for politicians is that "followers" and "friends" - another term that has lost significant value in the information age - do not translate into votes. The principle ... that human dynamics do not survive digitalization intact ... is one we should all take to heart.

This is Part 2 of a multi-part rant. Read the next installment tomorrow.

You can follow us on Twitter @sfweekly.

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Benjamin Wachs


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