The YouTube Election (Vanity Fair, June 2007, James Wolcott) discusses how YouTube is likely to change the 2008 presidential election. YouTube increases the power of individuals — to produce news rather than consume it in election and to spread important videos via social capital to their friends.
The article discusses videos that have widely circulated on YouTube of candidates. Examples of this are the anti-Hillary Clinton ad that spoofs the original introduction of the Apple Computer; in this version, created by a Barack Obama supporter, a courageous individual hurls an object at a giant Jumbotron screen playing a sound clip of Hillary-babble. Other examples where YouTube highlights gaffes of candidates are Hillary’s horrendously off-key singing of the national anthem, George Allen’s macaca moment, Joe Biden claiming that only Indians can go to 7-11s, George Bush kissing Joe Lieberman (which Lieberman’s campaign opponent, Ned Lamont, exploited to tie Lieberman to Bush), etc.
The power of such YouTube videos is that they can spread powerfully and quickly through watchers’ social networks (electronic and word of mouth). The downside is that it increases the chance that ANY gaffe gets circulated widely. If that gaffe reveals the secret and true, unscripted candidate, it may be a good thing; if it simply rewards robo-candidates that are controlled enough or lucky enough not to slip up, it may be a bad thing.
Ironically, the YouTube factor may work to try to make candidates MORE controlled and artificial rather than less since they fear that unscripted moments that turn out badly are likely to gain wide circulation.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?