Feb 5, 2008: the day Super Tuesday became the ‘Mashup Election’

If news organisations thought they were starting to ‘get’ this whole internet journalism thing, yesterday may make them think again.

At 8pm GMT yesterday I received a breathless email from Azeem Ahmad, a student from the journalism degree I teach on:

“Tell me you have seen the Google Maps/Twitter mash up of the American Super Tuesday voters.. it’s amazing! The pointer is flying all over the world, from Spain to England, and all through the various parts of America.”

Logging onto Twitter I found a similar buzz from Martin Stabe and Kevin Anderson:

“Enthralled by Twitter and Google Maps super mashup. I could be entertained for hours”

A quick search on Terraminds (image below) showed it wasn’t just us journo nerds: Twitter was alive with chatter about the mashup – one tweet in particular was worth noting:

“the twitter-google mashup is working for me way better than the election returns on ye olde teevee”

mashup buzz

In fact there were two mashups making jaws drop. The Google Maps-Twitter-Twittervision Super Tuesday mashup flashed up any tweets related to Super Tuesday on the location they were coming from, as well as providing videos and results. It was a real time monitor of what people were doing, thinking and saying about the election – not just in the US, but internationally too.

Suddenly, having reporters interview people coming out of polling booths looked very old hat.

Google-Twitter mashup

But equally impressive was the YouTube-Google Maps Super Tuesday mashup which plotted election-related videos onto a map: a mix of vlogs, satirical efforts and pledges of support. If you wanted to know what people in your area thought, this was a great way to find out – and it was no lazy vox pop.
YouTube GoogleMaps mashup

The whole thing reminds me of early film pioneers attaching cameras to trains to see what would happen. Forgive me for gushing, but if ever evidence were needed that we are in an era of incredible creativity and experimentation with journalism, this is it. New narrative forms and information designs are yet to be established – and those who are finding out seem to be having a lot of fun with it.

Meanwhile, the mashups above present a powerful demonstration of how people are consuming their news, and engaging with issues, in the new media environment. Think about it: where is a young voter going to go on election day? A newspaper website, or YouTube? A newspaper forum, or Twitter? What demonstrates the excitement of an election better? A static news report, or a live barometer of online buzz?

Likewise, there’s a point here about distribution. This was about viral distribution – readers, not advertising hoardings; emails, not newsagents.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they demonstrate that it was not just traditional news organisations asking “How will we cover this election?” Clearly Google/YouTube and Twitter have been making some editorial plans of their own.

If 2004 was the blogged election, and 2006 the YouTube election, 2008 is the mashup election. The bar has just been raised. Again.

11 thoughts on “Feb 5, 2008: the day Super Tuesday became the ‘Mashup Election’

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  2. Azeem Ahmad

    Thanks for the mention Paul.

    I don’t think the UK election will be able to match up to the scale of what we saw on Super Tuesday, John.

    Us Brits are profoundly lazy, and I can’t see as many people posting videos to youtube about the election that would be worth noting.

    However, I will gladly be proven wrong!

  3. Richard Kendall

    Twitter/Google maps mashup should not be overly tricky to do nowadays, you would just need enough twitter users to make the thing move and let the web do the rest, simple but fascinating.

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