This Kid Wrote Love Letters Back to a Hundred Obama Fundraising Emails

More

What better way to respond to a faux-personal email than with a faux-love letter?

dylanletter615.jpeg It started on September 10, 2012, when "Barack" sent Dylan Hansen-Fliedner an email touting Obama for America's fundraising success. 


From that email until election day, Hansen-Fliedner replied to each email addressed to him from the campaign *as if* it was an "appropriated anonymous love letter," he told me. He compiled these responses and sent them to the White House, as well as spinning out a self-published book of his project. You can download the entire thing at dylanforamerica.tumblr.com.

The letters themselves run the gamut from absurd to embarrassingly inspirational to almost creepy. Like you'd expect, some of the juxtapositions work better than others, but the project feels significant to me. What better way to respond to the faux-personal idiom of the Obama campaign's emails than with the faux-personal idiom of the generic love letter? Fire, meet fire.

I reached Hansen-Fliedner on Gchat while his roommate was live retyping Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans. He told me that he wanted the letters "to accumulate a certain level of banality -- like two robots talking to each other." And in a sense, that's sort of what was happening. On one side, Obama for America had 20 writers who were pushing their text through an elaborate testing machine, a cyborg system. And on the other, you had "Dylan for America," who had a different response program he was running, regardless of what they sent him. At times, the two algorithms came to an impasse. Hansen-Fliedner didn't donate to or volunteer for the campaign, but he continued to receive the "Go, team!" messages about his participation. "What I found most interesting is that they keep reminding me I haven't donated anything and I haven't done a shift to volunteer," he said, "but they also keep saying the progress they are making is all because of me and reminding me that I can own a piece of the campaign." And that is perhaps like a particular kind of jilted lover, reminding you how well the relationship is going without you.

todylanfromannmarie.jpg

ann-marie.jpg

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In