Digital Media and the 2011 General Elections

I worked on the Liberal Campaign during the May 2, 2011 General Elections. As a member of the digital media team, I learned a lot about using social media to enhance public engagement in political processes. Tools such as Twitter and Facebook allow campaigning politicians to converse directly with voters across the country. While I appreciate the value of town halls and face-to-face interactions, in a country as big as Canada, it can be difficult for federal candidates to reach out to voters, and social media allows for a personal, informal touch that doesn’t come through in broadcasting and print media.

Here are a few of my favourite digital media moments of the Liberal Party of Canada’s Campaign.

  1. The Liberal Platform Launch: using an online town hall format, we launched the platform live to an in-person and online audience. During the hour-and-a-half launch, several thousand citizens logged into the Cover It Live chat and asked questions, which we did our best to field and answer. Several questions were answered directly by Michael Ignatieff, just as if they had been asked by members of the live audience.
  2. The Rise-Up Video: this speech was picked up by both traditional and social media outlets as soon as it was given, at a Town Hall in Sudbury. My role was to put in the French captions, as francophones quickly asked to have access to a version of the speech with subtitles. As of today, 118,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube.
  3. The Montreal Facebook Town Hall: we decided to stream this event on Facebook rather than on Cover It Live in order to make it easier for youth to participate. The live event took place at Presse Café on Parc, in Montreal, with Michael Ignatieff, Justin Trudeau, and other local candidates. While the event was being streamed live, participants could comment on the Facebook page and ask questions. I moderated the questions and picked out about half a dozen of them (and not just the easy ones!) which I read to Mr. Ignatieff. Since his answer was then broadcast on Facebook, there was no need for me to type it in, but I frantically wrote a short translation, as the questions were both in French and in English. I thought that the live event/Facebook combination was really exciting.
This election was the one that made most use, in Canada, of Web 2.0 tools. It would be interesting to find a way to measure the impact of these tools on citizen engagement in the campaign and, ultimately, on voting behaviour.
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Motivate Canada social media network

In order to allow participants to share their experiences with Motivate Canada’s programs, inspire other youth to participate and reach donors, the media and other stakeholders, I created a social media network for the organization. This network was supported by a team of communications volunteers, who wrote blog entries, tweeted about themes related to the organization’s work (for example, tweeting about what motivates them on #motivatemonday), and made video blog entries during conferences. This strategy allowed youth participants to feel ownership over Motivate Canada’s communications products and want to be the organization’s champions.


Yahoo Pipes exercise

As a requirement for an information systems design class, I designed a Yahoo Pipes data mashup for use by job-seeking immigrants in Toronto. This prototype was tested by the user group and received positive reviews. While Yahoo Pipes is clearly limited in terms of the functionality and flexibility it offers, this exercise allowed me to learn more about manipulating RSS feeds and combining online data into useful information.

Active Circle website

The Active Circle website was created for Motivate Canada in June 2009. Its aim was to provide sports and project management resources for Aboriginal community leaders working with youth in Canada. I began the production process by consulting with an advisory committee made up of leaders from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They explained their aesthetic, content and functionality requirements for the website. This consultation was supplemented by a literature review about symbols and the use of colours in Canadian Aboriginal cultures, as well as about the spread of Internet technologies in Aboriginal communities. From this, a document was created for the graphic design firm, which included background information, narrative user profiles, wireframes, database requirements and navigation flow charts. During the development process, new elements were added, such as a user poll, photo gallery and Google Earth and Twitter widgets.

The website was designed and developed, then tested by the advisory committee before launch.

The link to the live website, which I no longer manager, can be found here.

Motivate Canada website

In 2010, I re-architected and re-branded Motivate Canada’s website. The process was initiated by online surveys with target users, followed-up with several in-depth interviews. Questions examined with the users included pros and cons of current website, requirements of new website, and favorite website designs.

Simple static wireframes were then created on Google Docs and shared with the graphic designer, as can be seen below. These wireframes were included in a proposal that was approved by the Board of Directors before the website was produced with the graphic designer and developer.

From this, a website look and architecture was created.

The live webpage, which I no longer manage, can be found at the following link: www.motivatecanada.ca/en/home.