This election year, George Mason University has been using openly available social media tools to help inform, educate, and coordinate its students. Using websites like FeedBurner, FriendFeed, YouTube, Feed.Informer, Lijit, Yahoo Pipes and Facebook combined with open tools, including WordPress, http://masonvotes.gmu.edu is a website built by students, for students, to create an easily accessible source for the information they need to know that exists in the spaces they use. We use audio and video podcasts , crowd-sourced Twitter reporting , and blog posts to create up-to-the-minute reports on the most important events of the election.
As you may have noticed, there has been a significant gap in my blogging over the past month or so. As promised, there is a reason. I’ve been working with students and administrators at George Mason University, where I am a student myself, to build a website that provides students with everything they need to know to register to vote and make an informed decision this election. I think what we’ve created here, a convergence of real-world activism, with the committee behind the website creating on-campus election events, and new media coverage, is something that is quite unique in the education sphere.
The website consists of two components: the front page, and a WordPress-powered blog. The front page has three modes. The regular mode which shows a front page story and a number of other stories. There is a Twitter mode as well, during major election events, such as McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate, the main story area turns into a java-based Twitter window, which shows a team of students’ twitter commentary on the event as it is happening. The third mode opens up a div box over the site with a CoverItLive live blog. We use CoverItLive as a live blogging tool for commentary and photos of major election events that have an accompanying on-campus component. For all of the acceptance speeches and the debates, the University has thrown watch parties in our main student center, where anyone can gather and watch the event on a big screen, simultaneously, Mason Votes runs a liveblog online with photos (from Flickr ) of the event and bi-partisan commentary.