Mundane technologies and political participation

Given it is at least as necessary a link in the chain that brings people from geographically disenfranschised areas like New York City to where electoral activism actually matters as social software tools, I demand more respect for the bus as a medium for political participation.

Like the telephone and the postal system, the bus is such a mundane medium for political participation that it is easy to forget how it and other technologies of everyday life are integral to much political activism. Like voting machines, they become visible only when they are not working or missing—when activists are waiting for the bus that just does not come, when the organizer can’t get reception, when someone has forgotten to buy the envelopes for those direct mail letters.

We tend to discuss the relationship between technology and politics in terms of the most recent additions to our arsenals, but the clipboards, signs, and–well–busses, are necessary too. New forms of organizing are extensions and rearrangements of elements, many of whom are old and familiar. Anyone who has spent anytime in any campaign knows how paralyzing it is when the mundane technologies go missing. Smaller campaigns would probably loose more of their punch if their bus crashed than if their facebook group went dead.


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