I can’t articulate just how much I’m looking forward to Tuesday night. For most people, it will probably be a fairly normal Tuesday evening, but if you’re a politics junkie like myself, its going to be like watching the World Cup final. The stakes are high, the build up extensive and somewhat tiresome, and it has all come down to this one evening to decide who will be the next President of the United States. But how can you maximise your enjoyment of this media circus? By embracing technology, of course.
The candidates themselves have been using technology with devastating effect during the campaign – Obama’s on Twitter, and has raised millions of dollars via internet donations, and McCain has partially gotten around his lack of funds and has been putting up attack ads on YouTube for free, rather than having to pay for the American TV networks to show them. And if the campaign of a 72 year old man can use technology, so can you. That’s why this week’s mash-up is about enhancing your US Election experience.
The first and most important thing to have is a telly on which to watch the election. If you have satellite telly this isn’t a problem – you can get some proper coverage from CNN, and hopefully CNBC will be broadcasting the American news channel MSNBC. This will stop you being patronised to death by the British coverage. If you’ve got Sky, you even have the option of switching to the infamous Fox News. Apparently they’re dumping news programming on election night and participating in an academic exercise in “what if?” speculative history, showing what election coverage would look like if the Republicans were to retain the Whitehouse.
If you’re a pauper like me though and are without Sky, then you can still stream election coverage over the internet.
CNN has a great Live section of their website which is a bit like a “Red button” service – it shows campaign rallies and the like live, in surprisingly decent quality. You might have to install a plug-in, but it’s worth it. On election night itself, chances are it’ll be showing the proper American election coverage live.
But that’s not good enough… what about more real time information? What about reports from “on the ground”? My current obsession, Twitter, has set up an election tracker for just this sort of thing. The Twitter Election Tracker automatically refreshes with the latest election tweets and will track specific topics of discussion.
British start-up PoliticsHome has been covering the election in a fairly “web 2.0” way too, and does the hard work of aggregating political news for you, linking to all of the stories as they break, rather than in order of importance. Though seemingly impartial, it is all paid for by a major donor to our own Conservative Party, so make of that what you will.
What I’m going to do on election night is set up a laptop next to the TV with the World News Screensaver. You feed it an RSS news feed and it’ll display it on screen on top of a Google Earth-esque 3D globe. Brilliantly, it’ll then read the stories for place names and spin the globe and tell you where it’s happening – something that’ll look great on election night with all of the individual state results coming in.
If you still want to actually do stuff on your computer rather than watch the news fly by, then you could do worse than installing the BBC Alerts software, so that when there’s breaking news, it will pop-up on your desktop with the familiar BBC News sting to alert you to the fact that something is happening!
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to follow the election as obsessively as I’m planning to, and some inspiration to turn you technology set-up into a veritable CTU.