It’s the human element that makes the Internet a phenomenon and not just an invention. So Samantha Shapiro’s profile of the kids behind the Howard Dean campaign is especially astute. Who could have predicted in the heady days of ’98-’99 that a huge NYT Magazine piece about an internet sensation would devote scant inches to the technology and pages and pages to the human drama, while also demonstrating an understanding of how the two connect.

Dean supporters do not drive 200 miles through 10 inches of snow to see a political candidate or a representative of his staff. They drive that far to see each other.

The technology is just the platform. The engine is the people — and their passion, or maybe their determination to affix their passion somewhere meaningful and put their passion to good use.
It’s funny, though, that despite the article’s focus on the emotions behind the emoticons, there’s an almost-retro dot-com kitsch to its portrayal of the barefoot techies who haunt their cubicles at all hours, fueled by politics, pizza and unrequited crushes.
The Internet has come a long way, but the boys on the frontline are still apparently in society’s margins. I’d love to know if that’s true, or if it just makes for good copy (and I suppose my interest isn’t entirely academic…).