Meet Mindaugas Voldemaras. Mindaugas is one of the many people who submitted a video as part of the 2011 Davos Debates. Of all the efforts by applicants to get votes, Mindaugas was one of the more successful.
Mindaugas, a blogger from Lithuania, campaigned around the slogan: “Vote for Lithuania in Davos!”. He was appealing to his most salient constituency: Lithuanians.
Appealing for support from your constituency is really the best way to mobilize support on an issue. It’s a group that can be diverse but has a shared identity, kinship, and a sense of collective benefit.
Appealing to a salient constituency also makes it easier to find others who can help mobilize others. Mindaugas was able to find support from prominent Lithuanian tweeters, bloggers, and even Lithuanian sports fans.
The only hurdle in Mindaugas’s mobilization efforts was that everyone in Lithuania, being in the same time zone, went to sleep at more or less the same time and could only vote for him during waking hours.
When Mindaugas saw my efforts to get votes, he assumed I too was appealing to my constituency. He assumed my constituency was Canada. And, like him, he assumed I’d be limited to when Canadians were awake.
This assumption is why, thanks to you, we were able to take the #1 spot.
Click the jump to learn why.
The Emergence of the Transnational Constituency
Many have yet to realize that online communities, like the YouTube community, are a constituency unto themselves. The salience of theses constituencies can be just as strong as – if not stronger than – a national identity.
So, like Mindaugas Voldemaras, I was appealing to people with a shared identity, kinship, and sense of collective benefit. The only difference was that these were bonds that transcended any one nation.
This made mobilization so much easier. All I had to do was open up my world clock app, load up Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, and see who within the YouTube community was awake.
Whether it was Rohan, Leuke, and Chris in Australia, Reese and Tom in Belgium, Jess in Edmonton, Craig in Chicago, Alasdair in the UK, or Hank in Montana – they all helped mobilize this community to action.
Being a part of the YouTube community doesn’t mean that one shares a common political ideology. I was mindful of this as both my friends in Israel (like Courtney and Wasseem) and YouTubers who were part of the Green Revolution protests in Iran (whose names I’ll withhold) were both busy rallying votes for me. There’s a joke here somewhere about Israelis and Iranians finally agreeing on something.
A Democratic Constituency
In keeping with this year’s theme at the World Economic Forum, I believe what the YouTube community shows is that you can have shared norms and shared values that transcend nation, race, and religion.
One of the values that seems to be quite important to the YouTube community is that of fair democratic representation. Something which many YouTubers came up in arms about when the WEF released this tweet:
This sample of responses from the YouTube community shows just how much (and just how important) fair representation and democracy is to this constituency:
I mention this because many people like Mindaugas Voldemaras think that online voting is nothing but a PR gimmick or just a contest. On this, I couldn’t disagree more.
I seriously doubt anyone who voted did so with the hopes their votes would not matter. This is especially true with the YouTube community in Iran – who no doubt are already used to having their votes ignored.
Thanks to your support, my submission to the Davos Debates is indisputably the most democratically supported submission and has the broadest international support.
But, people like Mindaugas Voldemaras aren’t too worried about that. As Mindaugas puts it, although it was fun competing (which I agree!), I’ve failed the past three years so 2011 shouldn’t be any different. And, in his opinion, online votes don’t matter.
Tomorrow, the day the winner is announced, I pray he gets proven wrong.