Daily Archives: October 2, 2008

Clever Obama iPhone application to use social networks

The Obama campaign has released an application for the iPhone that cleverly sorts your address book, prioritizing which friends you should call to convince them to vote Obama.  (“Call Friends” sorts your friends by how close the race is in that state. So you can call your Ohio friends or Missouri friends and not bother with your California or NY friends.)  It’s a smart marrying of the fact that friends are much more likely to convince friends politically, coupled with the technology that helps you to easily see where your social networks may make the most political difference given battleground states and the electoral map.  The ‘Get Involved’ Button uses GPS to help you find the closest Obama campaign headquarters.

Another interesting part of the application is that it shows how many calls you have made using this application and how many have been made nation-wide, enabling one to feel a growing sense of momentum and part of a larger national cause.  (The software doesn’t transmit who you called, but records the number of calls made with the application so they can centrally keep track.)

Download the Obama for America iPhone application here.

Here is the blog post of its developer Raven Zachary.

See earlier blog posts of mine about use of technology in the Obama 2008 campaign.  See also this one and this one.


What makes a hero?

Philip Zimbardo’s work mainly focuses on why people do evil and the interplay of personal behavior, the system and oversight.  But he is using his work to focus on encouraging heroism.

His theory is that we are all ‘heroes-in-waiting’.  We focus too much in our hero worship on extraordinary people and not enough on ordinary people taking extraordinary action.  He thinks the latter is much more typical of heroes than the former and we need to cultivate these ‘heroes-in-waiting’ to increase our acts of heroism.

He quotes Dostoevsky that the line between good and evil runs through each one of us. And notes that the same situation that inspires the evil imagination in some (or more typically the innocent bystander) can inspire the heroic action in others.

He says that most people are innocent bystanders who claim to be following their parents’ “mind your own business” advice; we need to teach that humanity is our business and always worthy of intervention

He is now working on developing Hero Workshops with Matt Langdon.  He is teaching students that to be a hero you have to be a deviant, moving beyond the more typical ego-centric behavior to social-centric behavior (concerned about others).  And getting people to focus on acting to defend a person or an ideal.

He points to Wesley Autry (a black man who jumped onto NYC train tracks to hold down white flailing person who had fallen onto tracks).  Autry said: “I did what anyone could do; I did what everyone OUGHT to do.”

Zimbaro notes that there may be only one situation in your life for your heroic imagination to take hold of you and if it doesn’t you may regret it for the rest of your life.  So we need to be prepared.

See TED talk of Philip Zimbardo.