Viral Web Media and the Obama Campaign
Music video played a key role in Obama’s 2008 election. Tapping into an audiovisual history unavailable to McCain and Clinton, Obama supporters distributed music video clips from Facebook to YouTube; young people voted in unprecedented numbers. Twenty-five years earlier MTV wouldn’t screen Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” What changed? Music video’s ethical force helped reshape America’s relation to race by enabling new forms of viewer identification. This chapter considers how will.i.am’s music video “Yes We Can” shifted the trajectory of Obama’s campaign. A reading of its musical and visual parameters shows the video’s communicative power, as well as how it foreshadowed the McCain-Obama debates as screened on YouTube, which, through split-screen, rolling graphics, and McCain’s nervous blinking, conveyed a music-video-like experience. Chapter 8 considers “Yes We Can” in relation to other clips in the 2008 electoral landscape to show how viral web media have changed political campaigns.
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