As some of you may recall, I began my blogging career on the Duck by commenting on the political impact and appropriation of YouTube. Back then it was citizens using YouTube to ask questions of the Presidential candidates. Now President Obama is doing with YouTube what FDR did with radio.

Good thing my colleagues up here in the Pioneer Valley have organized a conference on the way YouTube is impacting US politics, so that I don’t have to divert attention from my real research agenda to follow up on the kinds of questions I asked in that long-ago post. The “YouTube and the 2008 Election Cycle in the United States” conference kicks off tomorrow at University of Massaschusetts-Amherst, and I urge you to check it out.

Reasons why I’m excited about this event, though I’m not an Americanist:

1) The 2008 Presidential campaign was historic not just because of the outcome, but because of the process: the breadth of re-engagement by both American voters and global civil society, largely through the netroots. Speakers include Max Harper, who ran Obama’s Change.gov media campaign last year; and the Communications Director for the House Judiciary Committee. I’m bound to learn a lot about how IT is reshaping political culture.

2) Political scientists are paying much too little attention to Web 2.0 – not just YouTube but also other technologies that are revolutionizing the relationship between producers and users of information. This interdisciplinary crowd seeks to actively and rigorously study the politics of this transformation in the US context. How might IR scholars follow suit?

3) The conference is an organizational marvel, actively integrating Web 2.0 into the activities in novel ways. Like requiring presenters to create YouTube video versions of their research, which will be broadcast during the reception; and allowing audience members to post feedback and commentary directly onto the web-versions of the slides using Diigo (boy, ISA could take some pointers from these folks).

4) Also, the presentations will also be webcast live using Panopto for those not able to attend, which means we could discuss some of it here. Check out the program and online papers (each of which comes with its own YouTube video) and consider tuning in to some of this over the later part of the week.

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