Following last night’s real time mapping of the first TV election debate, here’s one thought from reviewing the maps over breakfast…
One of the noticeable moves that Nick Clegg made, which has been much commented on, was his ability to position himself as moving beyond the traditional Labour-Tory face-off, seeking to open up new space by questioning major premises behind their policies.
We can see this move very clearly in several of the debate maps, in which he uses his contribution to critique both Brown and Cameron.
Another visual pattern to emerge is from the final debate on care for the elderly, which Clegg dominated. He shaped the whole discourse through his opening contribution, appealing for a cross-party solution to a challenge that’s bigger than any party. Brown and Cameron rally under this sentiment following the consensual tone (lots of green supports connections), with Clegg wrapping it up with the final word.
There is only so much that real time dialogue maps such as these can yield, since they are crafted under time pressure, but even as I was mapping it, I was very conscious of the move he was making, which is part of the point of such approaches: the medium draws attention to potentially significant phenomena as you model them.