Thirty-second democracy: Cynicism, even condescension, are common reactions toward the ubiquitous half-minute political campaign commercials, but the spots are adept at shaping political discussion, according to Larry Evans.
“This is the stuff of representation these days. This is how voters develop views,” explained Evans, professor of government at the College. Preoccupied citizens do not research candidates and political issues. Instead, they “look for shortcuts” and “take their cues” from condensed media, he said.
To that end, Evans made construction of a campaign commercial the key assignment for students in his government 370 class. In their attempt to understand the intricacies of the legislative process, students would choose a Congressional candidate, consider his or her political record and personal traits as well as the interplay between national and regional issues relevant in the contested Congressional district. Students then would construct a simple, focused campaign video.
For some students, the final requirement seemed the equivalent of walking onto the proverbial technological limb. One student admitted to a “minimal digital savvy” going into the class. However, a series of lessons and continual support from the College’s Swem Media Center, where the video editing occurred, made the process relatively painless. In the end, students could be heard passionately defending their ads, a sign, according to media center director Troy Davis, that they benefited from “participation in the new literacy.”