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Knock and Drag

I learned a new term in conversation last night with a former GBN'er now involved in voting access work: knock and drag.

...if volunteers find a [registered voter] who hasn't voted, the volunteer is not to leave the doorstep until that person is off to the polling site.

The term is most closely associated with Democrats, but is clearly of use to any partisan (and not just in terms of party politics).

This phrase stuck with me while listening to GBN Network member/UC Berkeley political science professor Steve Weber dismiss the importance of the Internet in the Obama election. He said -- rightly -- that Obama won due to old-fashioned get-out-the-vote/on-the-street activism. But Weber missed something important, falling into the trap of thinking of the Internet and the physical world as somehow divergent.

Yes, Obama's team did a masterful job of getting out the vote -- of knocking and dragging. But they were able to do so because of dense, rich, swiftly-updated information about voters, districts, and volunteers, information collected and made available via Internet tools. I suspect that Weber was thinking of Internet media in his dismissal of the Internet as a whole; while still a debatable point, there's at least a plausible argument that Internet media such as blogs and YouTube were less influential than they were visible.

For Weber, it seems like there's the Internet, and then there's the Real World, and you use either one or the other. But the concept of the Internet as even metaphorically a separate place no longer works. It's all around us, embedded into a rapidly-increasing portion of our technologies and our activities.

Weber's confusion actually strikes me as a good indicator that the Internet is well on its way to becoming metaphorical electricity: critical and ubiquitous, and effectively invisible. But like electricity, the Internet will only work for you when you use the tools it enables. The people who recognize this are likely to have a growing advantage over the people for whom the Internet remains a separate entity -- commercially, strategically, and politically.


Interesting points, Jamais. As I've been thinking lately about our "new" media (see the link in my signature for an example), I've been struck again and again by how easily messages have jumped from one medium to another over time, and how people have often carried out their social / political / religious / cultural projects with the best technological means at their disposal -- whether that meant printing during the Reformation or telephone-trees for PTAs in the late 20th century. So, not only does Weber miss key points about the growing ubiquity of the Internet and how it has become an integral part of "real life" . . . he's also missing the connection to a long thread of historical precursors, too.

As you rightly point out, the genuinely-new technologies of the Internet bring all sorts of genuinely-new affordances with them, e.g. by allowing mobile, real-time voter-database access combined with GPS tracking for political workers. But the underlying trends have been pervasive for centuries, and across many cultures.

That's exactly right, Jamais. I recently heard this described as "smart canvassing."


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