Obama supporters use technology

Team Obama hopes the new technologies will draw increased involvement and voter turnout from groups, particularly the young.

Besides reaching new voters, the use of social networks, video conferences, and micro-messages are also effective for simply bypassing the media middlemen.

Just how important will the new media turn out to be? Will video conference campaign events ever prove to be as effective as pounding the pavement for votes? No one knows, yet.

But that’s not keeping the Obama campaign from trying. Leading into the Illinois senator’s speech Thursday, the 75,000 attendees will be asked to reach voters by sending text messages.

With names like Twitter, the new technologies are a far cry from the newspaper on the breakfast table. Here is a look at some of these new forms of communication:

— Text message: Short written communications sent via mobile phone. They’re created using the phone’s numerical pad, since each number has letters associated with it. Some phones, called "smart phones," have full keyboards to write messages. This is how Obama announced his vice presidential pick last week.

— Twitter: A program that allows text messages to be forwarded to a group of people or a Web site. Many news organizations have added "Twitter feeds," where reporters on the street can instantaneously report something they see. The reporter uses her phone to send a text message, which is automatically Twittered, or forwarded, to the newspaper’s Web site.

— Facebook: A social networking site, Facebook is an on-line virtual hangout, where users can create their own profiles, complete with personal information and pictures. Its "networking" function is that each user can become virtual friends with other users, facilitating the development of online communities. As of this week, Barack Obama had 1.4 million Facebook supporters.

— Blogs: Short for Web logs, these are on-line journals that can be updated instantaneously. Because of their ease of use — anyone with an Internet connection can create one, and access is instantaneous — they have transformed political discourse. One of their strengths is the ability to cross reference information by using links. This further accelerates the spread of blog content, and allows an initial report to be crosschecked by existing material.

— YouTube: A Web site for the public to upload and view videos. Serving as a library of video, YouTube is a clearinghouse for parody, political out takes and candidates’ actual messages.

(E-mail Isaac Wolf at wolfi(at)shns.com)