The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has tapped MySpace to create an online portal for the upcoming election season that will include live streaming video and real time polling. The site, called MyDebates.org will be open to anyone (you don’t need to create an account), and will launch as we get closer to the first debate on September 26.
The CPD is charged with organizing the four “real” debates leading up to this November’s election (it is unaffiliated with the dozens of primary debates we’ve seen over the last 18 months). The partnership with MySpace marks the first time the organization has included any kind of real-time participation.
Visitors to the site will be able to watch the debates stream in real time. A team of employees working behind the scenes will monitor the arguments made by each candidate, and will pose questions to viewers that will be displayed in tiny popup overlays. In this way, the site will be able to collect an endless amount of polling data in real time, allowing users to immediately see how the public responds to each question. The site will also be involved with the town-hall debate on October 7, which will feature questions drawn from a pool of submissions from MyDebates.org.
At MyDebates.org, users will be able to create widgetized “Issue Cards”, which can be embedded in their blogs and webpages. While there are a number of sites that offer similar widgets, this one has a trick up its sleeve – during the broadcast of each debate, these Issue Cards will fold open to reveal a miniature video player.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen tie-ins between debate organizers and online sites – last year we saw similar cooperation between CNN and YouTube, with disappointing results. But the primary debates pale in comparison to those leading up to the general election, and MySpace and the CPD seem to be taking a new approach.
Television changed the election process forever, bringing the candidates into the living room of every American. The web is clearly the next frontier, but it has yet to live up to its potential. If MySpace can create a site that is both intuitive and informative, it stands to actually enhance the democratic process by engaging and motivating the millions of apathetic Americans who might not vote otherwise.