Political and information society: electoral strategies

By Bárbara Bavoleo *

In the information society, characterized by the surge of a new social structure associated along the lines of development so-called informationalism (1), the technologies of information and communication (2) emerge as the mediators of growing importance in the cultural, economic, social, and political processes. The form that acquires the communication, the content and the break of the temporary and spatial order, put on new challenges that oblige the actors (governments, civil society and political parties, to cite a few) to reconfigure their modalities of action in function of the continuous technological advances and their comprehensive tendency.

Among those technologies, Internet is the one that has produced the greatest changes in the private and public dimension.  It should be taken into consideration not only the new ways of access to the education (e-learning), the new dynamics in the economical, commercial and financial transactions and the new forms of communication (e-mail, instant messenger, video conferences, and so on) but also, the electoral political use of the cyberspace. 

These days, few people would be able to imagine an election without electronic pages of candidates or online campaign strategies, although its meaning, as much in the process as in the electoral result, is conditioned by other factors.

The presidential election of the year 2002 in the Republic of Korea, whose results certificate the triumph of the former president Roh Moo Hyun, is emphasized like a good example of the Web potentiality to be constituted in a space of electoral combat.

The international press (3) did not doubt in appreciating the considerable impact that this tool had in Roh’s campaign. The former President knew to capitalize its benefits to recover the lack of support in the traditional mass media (newspapers, television and radio) and the limiting endorsement that his own party offered him after the process of internal elections and subsequent splits.  His interaction with the group of youth members of Nosamo (4), the support of the independent online newspaper Ohmynews (5), his constant entries to forums and groups of discussion, and his novel page with video clips, radio station emissions and detailed information on the events related to the election, contributed to create an informal, ductile and of innovative profile image that was adapted to the demands of the youthful electorate. 

The campaign strategy of the candidate, which had Internet as its core element, showed a considerable effectiveness that was seen reflected in the vote intention of the groups that utilized the Web with greater frequency. The voters from 20 to 39 years old inclined especially to Roh, giving him a difference besides his opponent of a 28%, approximately. 

Contrary to what it would be expected, the presidential elections of the year 2007 did not continue with the tendency marked by the previous voting.

Several factors contributed to diminish the influence of the online political marketing. Prohibitive regulations to the use of the Web in the campaign, social-economic situation of the country and a great variety of electoral options transformed Internet into just another way to reproduce and accompany the usual electoral practices and strategies.

In any case, the decrease of the Web influence on the political results did not cause the annulment of this tool.  The page of the winning candidate and current Korean president, Lee Myung Bak, was assiduously visited; the video clip, in which scenes of their everyday life were shown –including a part in which his wife was cooking-, was seen more than 1.300.000 times (6).  Though the accesses to candidates’ home pages continued their ascending escalation, in this case, they seem to have been utilized as just one more advertising option. In other words, the benefits for a debate construction in which the traditional press was not the sole provider for a discussion arena, together with the possibility of more active-unscreened citizenship participation were left aside.

The main objective and function of this instrument was the diffusion of information referring to the contender without intention to reach subsequent stages relating to the commitment, link and mobilization of the electorate.

The exploration of both experiences seems to suggest that the influence of this technology in elections is not determined by its own characteristics but shows an important sensibility to the context and to the political climate of the country. Although, it also suggests that the cyberspace was transformed into an inescapable environment for the marketing of any electoral campaign. 


Bárbara Bavoleo:  Ph. D. candidate, Faculty of Social Sciences, UBA-CONICET.  Master's Degree in Asia and Africa Studies, Colegio de México, México.  Professor on Korean Culture History, School of Oriental Studies, Universidad del Salvador.  Team member of the professorship of China, Korea and Japan (…), Faculty of Social Sciences, UBA, and the East Asia Studies Group, Gino Germani Research Institute , UBA

References:

(1) In the way of informacional development, the source of the productivity relies on the technology of the knowledge generation, the prosecution of the information and the communication of symbols.  (Castells, M. The information age. Mexico: Ed. XXI Century. 2006. 43 p.) 

(2) The information and communication technologies (IT y CT) are defined as industries and products of data processing, telecommunications and information that converge into the digital paradigm.

(3) To cite an example:  The Guardian, February 24th, 2003, "World´s first Internet president logs on".  Available in:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2003/feb/24/newmedia.koreanews
(4) Nosamo (abbreviation in Korean that means: the ones that support Roh) Group of youths that supported the candidacy of ex President Roh from the Web.  http://www.nosamo.org

(5) http://www.ohmynews.com

(6) Herald Tribune, December 17th, 2007.