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Posts published in “Day: August 20, 2020”

The virtues of virtual


I've now watched three of the eight nights of virtual national political party conventions, and I have to say I like the approach better than the "real" thing.

That's from a limited and personal perspective - mainly, that of someone watching from home, interested in seeing and getting to know the personnel and what they have to say. I've watched all or most of every convention since 1968; they've been appointment viewing.

With that in mind, the online convention works better than the "live" flavor.

Obviously, not everyone thinks so. I would concede right away that from the standpoint of someone who would go to and be part of the convention, an in-person event is far superior. You can meet and mingle with people in variety and volume in ways not really possible elsewhere. The lines of communication and discussion can have value, not just personally but far beyond. That's not something to give up lightly.

I've watched some of the reaction Facebook and Twitter, and the response is somewhat mixed even many many of my fellow remote watchers. Some strongly miss the live audience; one said the program put him to sleep over the lack of it, and the lower energy levels - you don't shout a speech in a small-room video presentation.

But just because of that, I got the feeling in the nights so far - I can only judge on the basis of the Democratic event, since the Republican has yet to occur - I am getting a much clearer sense of the people and the message.

Bear in mind that large chunks of the conventions have for years included pre-recorded video presentations, and often live remote presentations as well: This isn't new. The more extended reliance on it is, but the need to develop an unequivocal video program - as opposed to one theoretically just documenting an ostensibly unpredictable event - has freed the presenters to do some better and more useful things.

One of the best examples, on Tuesday night, was the traditional presidential vote roll call. That's often a highlight of conventions, but really only to the wonks among us, who get interested in such minutiae as the exact phrases used to describe a state, and who's standing near the delegation chairs. The roll call at the Democratic convention was freed up to bounce around the country, from place to place, with a wide range of people speaking - some well-known figures, many others not - with a range of scenery that can show off as well as tell about the state, with more time available and in many cases something that sticks in the memory. The Rhode island calimari man and the cattle somewhere in Montana will stick in memory; a normal convention roll call would never generate such moments. And the number of "real people" from around the country brought into the program is massive, and there's a real cumulative power in it.

It can help with many of the speakers too: Freed from having to speak to a massive crowd, they can get closer and personal. That worked extremely well with both Obamas, who in different ways delivered extremely powerful speeches that might have seemed more diminished if the same thing was delivered at a normal convention. Other speakers seemed to benefit from the more human scale of the event as well.

Not everything worked perfectly this first time around; there were occasional editing flaws (such as cameras held on a speaker too longer after their speech was concluded, for example). But this Democratic convention may have set a template for showing how this sort of thing can be done.

It creates some challenges for the Republicans next week. Will they use some of the same approaches to going all-virtual, or will they some up with a different approach to how it can be done? In some ways the Democrats may have had an advantage by going first, since the Republican presentation inevitably will be compared to it.

I'll be watching that one too,to see how they approach the problem of a different kind of convention. For the moment, the Democrats seem to have figured out how to do it effectively.