Technology

Open Internet’s next frontier: Telenovelas?

Proponents
of Internet
traffic regulations can learn something from the wisdom of telenovelas,
at
least according to a new guide aimed at grassroots organizers in the
debate
over net neutrality rules. 

The moving narratives
in these TV shows can influence people’s behavior and opinions, the
guide says.

“One
such example is Ven
Conmigo
, or Come with Me, which featured a storyline centered
on an elderly man
grappling with illiteracy,”
says the instruction manual, a joint effort of Free Press, a consumer
activist
group, and the Harmony Institute, a nonprofit that helps organizers tap
the
persuasive ability of entertainment.

“After struggling to read letters sent from a
favorite granddaughter, the grandfather seeks out a public literacy
program,” the guide continues.

The manual is titled “Net
Neutrality for the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save
Your Internet.” Much of its content is standard hints for grassroots
organizing. Be persistent and make the net neutrality story sound compelling,
the guide advises.

But other tactics in the
manual are less familiar in the tech policy debate. The instruction guide tells
organizers to seize on the power of entertainment to help them get net
neutrality regulations on the books. The sitcom Will & Grace is an example,
according to the guide. 

“In 1998 NBC quietly
introduced a primetime sitcom about a single woman and her male best friend
living together in a Manhattan apartment to its line-up. Will & Grace
chronicled the comedic escapades of a group of thirty-something,
career-oriented friends,” the guide says. “It also happened that two of the
main characters were homosexual men.”

Net neutrality is suited for
the same medium, the guide says. 

“Over a decade later and
countless hours of editorializing, homosexual characters on major network
television are commonplace, and the effects of Will & Grace on the
attitudes toward and perceptions of gays in America is widely recognized,” it
continues. 

The guide also contains an
interesting snapshot of demographics within grassroots efforts in favor of net
neutrality. 

Core supporters, the guide
says, are “between the ages of 18 and 39, predominantly male, Caucasian, and
liberal leaning. … Many core supporters are registered Democrats and have an
annual household income of over $100k per year.”

So-called “persuadables,”
people who do not identify net neutrality as either a problem or solution until
they become more exposed to the issue, “tend to be African Americans and/or
women, unmarried, and liberal. … Persuadables make annual households incomes
($30k-$50k) that are considerably lower than core supporters.”

The guide is a public document. It is available for free here

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