Small is powerful

Let’s not forget that the recent election was largely won on the strength of one cell phone and an obscure media outlet. While this hasn’t gotten much retrospective attention, the now-famous “47-percent” video probably would not have been made or widely circulated even a few years ago.

The recent ubiquity of camera-equipped mobile phones is changing political communication through a new popular documentary practice, primarily among young users. For some time it has been known that cell phones have enabled uprisings, flash mobs, and other forms of social activism, just as phones have also helped disaster communication and the containment of disease epidemics around the world.

And let’s not forget Mother Jones, a name unknown to most Americans till this year, which took the 47-percent video to the net and made it go viral. While hardly a tiny magazine, Mother Jones was reaching less than 100,000 readers in the 1990s until it launched an online format.

The 47-percent video and Mother Jones are now a part of American electoral history, ranking with precedents like the Kennedy assassination film footage and Rodney King video. But unlike those previous instances, we now live in an era in which such decentralized and democratic “media events” are possible in a way Marshall McLuhan could only have dreamed about.

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