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Online Communities Boom During Election Coverage

November 5, 2008

Members of virtual online communities inundated the Web last night with pictures and comments immediately following the announcement that Barack Obama had become the 44th President of the U.S.

Some were simple photos of TV screens claiming the Democrat’s win. Others were unfiltered images of jubilant celebrations captured immediately after polls closed Tuesday on the West Coast, when Obama was declared the president-elect.

Many political junkies spent election night online. Students at Navarro College posted a video of themselves reacting – screaming, jumping up and down, more screaming – to Obama’s win.

Others used the moment to joke. One wig-clad man posted a YouTube video reminiscent of Chris Crocker’s infamous Britney Spears rant, instead shouting “Leave McCain alone!” in front of a sheet.

And in the virtual community Second Life, Obama supporters cheered in approval while dancing and clapping on the Web.

Many avatars were left out of the virtual celebration in Obama’s unofficial Second Life headquarters because the digital enclave had reached maximum capacity Tuesday.

“The long nightmare is OVER!” an avatar named Jordanna Beaumont exclaimed.

Meanwhile, in another Second Life space called the Straight Talk Cafe, John McCain’s supporters were sparse following the Arizona senator’s concession.

Volunteers for both campaigns had unofficially stumped for months inside the virtual world for the presidential and vice presidential candidates – collecting donations, registering voters, building monuments and handing out virtual hats and T-shirts.

The nonpartisan site TwitterVoteReport.com aggregated micro-blog Twitter.com posts – called tweets – to monitor polling places and estimate voting wait times across the country.

“There were news people from all over the world at the Biltmore tonight,” posted luv2shoppe in Phoenix, where McCain’s camp was watching the returns. “It was quite an experience, even if the results were disappointing.”

Meanwhile, another named jordanlevy, posted: “Four blocks from Grant Park in Chicago, it’s crazy.”

Even Obama sent a message to all of his Web supporters saying: “I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I don’t want you to forget how we did it. You made history every single day during this campaign – every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.”

Meanwhile, bloggers from both sides of the race posted concise comments.

Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall.com posted: “We are Americans first, and therefore I wish the Obamas health and happiness. It’s even possible to wish them success – so long as it is in keeping with the best traditions of American liberty, virtue and prosperity.”

Liberal blogger Sara K. Smith at Wonkette.com instructed readers to “raise a glass to your Republican friends because it was not so long ago that you (liberals) were precisely in their position, and remember how much it sucked.”

However, at some point on Tuesday, a racial slur appeared on John McCain’s Wikipedia page. The word was quickly removed from the page and no longer appeared Wednesday morning.

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