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How tech is changing the debate

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With the first presidential debate set for tonight in Denver, a question for you: Remember Texas governor Rick Perry’s brain freeze in a debate during primary season? How did you see it…live on TV? Doubt it. Later, on your laptop or phone? Probably.

As recent studies from Pew have made very clear, technology is shaking up the way we consume media. That includes politics, and tonight’s debate. We asked some New Yorkers how they’re watching. Some will do it old school with TV, chips and dip, but not all.

Joshua Breckner: I’ve got a couple of friends online who I tweet back and forth with in real time, I think CSPAN 3 has a live stream. I’ll probably watch that.

Notice how 2012 he is, taking a cable TV channel and streaming it online.

This isn’t the first presidential election cycle contending with new media, but it will still be quite different than the last one. In 2008, Twitter was barely getting rolling; now, the social media company sees as many tweets as its biggest night that year — election night — in just four minutes.

Michael Delli Carpini: What’s going to be most dramatically different this time is that a lot of people in the hundreds of thousands and maybe even the millions are going to be sitting wherever they’re watching.

Michael Delli Carpini is Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Delli Carpini: They’re going to have a twitter feed open or a social network site open and they are going to be spinning and listening to spin not from newscasters or journalists but from fellow citizens.

Dean Delli Carpini says this is a good thing — a democratization of information that means the power to spin and to interpret the debates is more in the hands of regular citizens than campaign strategists, surrogates, and journalists.

Of course, in the digital world as in all worlds, there can be too much of a good thing. Andrew Kaczinsky, political reporter at the online news site Buzzfeed, will be desperately trying to monitor something close to 2000 twitter feeds during the debate. But if President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney fires off a great zinger or has a moment of awkwardness, you can bet Buzzfeed will be on top of it. They have to; else the social news site will be passed up by people looking for the instant replay.

Andrew Kaczinsky: I think the Rick Perry ‘oops’ moment happened and I think there was only like a million people watching. This one’s gonna be watched by 50 million people. If that moment happens, there’s going to be a lot more people going to YouTube to look to replay that.

And it’s the politics of the absurd at Tumblr, a website for short-form blogs. Tonight, a team from Tumblr will  instantly create tiny animations using the debate as raw material.  Who would want to embed a little rough video of Obama scoffing or Romney winking?  Think if these “gif” animations as campaign buttons for the digital age. Instead of wearing ’em on your lapel, you attach them to an email or tweet. What they lack in depth they make up for in silliness.

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