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Mace & Crown | May 25, 2017

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The Presidential Debate in the Digital Age

The Presidential Debate in the Digital Age

Robert Younger

Contributing Writer

During the 2012 election season, the role played by the internet and digital technology in either presidential campaign was seen as revolutionary. This election season, the bar has been raised to new heights. Every major social media site had their own debate streams and several news outlets streamed the debate for free on their websites too. The debate that took place on Sept. 26 was just one of the major examples of how the internet and digital media interacted with, and influenced, the campaign trail.

The first presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump was broadcast on TV, live streamed over the internet and tweeted with its own presidential hashtags, #DebateNight and #Debates2016. There has been much commotion about media and technology surrounding this debate with Donald Trump even mentioning hackers being “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”  This statement is obviously an untrue stereotype of computer scientists and engineers, but this is not the only false statement from either of the presidential candidates.

For the first time NPR’s politics team fact checked Trump and Clinton with live annotations of the debate. On NPR’s website, there is a transcript of the entire debate with sources and quotes of both candidates about their political stances. NPR included extensive sources with links to news interviews, video and government documents. As predicted, there are many notable lies from Trump as well as some disconnect with Clinton’s statements.

NBC also offered the debate in virtual reality.  Using your Samsung Gear, Vive or Oculus Rift headset you could download ALTSpaceVR to join other people who were also watching the debate. The NBC VR debate set up was simple and plain with that did not take full advantage of VR technology. Last year, NextVR had broadcast an NBA basketball game with VR cameras in the stadium seats and on court side of the game.The AltSpaceVR was more like a VR chat room. The debate played on a virtual television while you stayed in place in a room of other avatars chatting about the debate.

On the PBS website it had an interactive video of the debate. People could sign up anonymously with their gender, age and political affiliation and then voted on how they felt about the topics of the debate. It then took that information and charted it as the video played. There were a lot of good statistics for how men, women and people young and old felt about certain statements and the pace of the debate. When Trump insulted Clinton, women’s favorability toward him dropped significantly. Between the youngest polled and the oldest polled, the younger audience liked the dispute Clinton and Trump had with one another and the moderator.

With new technology and uses being developed for VR and 4K, streaming the 2020 election and campaign will probably be more innovative than ever before, both in terms of coverage and how it might influence the election itself.