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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

What Once Seemed Long.Or Matters of Perception.

One day this past week I met a producer for a quick dinner down in SoHo, not far from where we once lived. As I left the Spring Street Station of the 6 Subway Line, I remember thinking, when I first used it, that I thought it was a long walk from the subway exit to our apartment.

The walk this week to the restaurant was virtually the same as to that old apartment yet it now seemed short.

The distance hasn't changed; my perception of the distance has. This small moment was life illustrative.

Life is almost as much about perception as it is about actualities.

The subject of perception has been much on my mind since that short walk, just as the season of politics has been on my mind. Is there anyone who hasn't been thinking about it? Politics is probably more about perception than actualities than anything else in life.

During the first of the Presidential Debates held this past week, perceptions were formed that will shape the election. Both Democrats and Republicans will spend the time between the first and the second debate figuring out ways to overcome whatever negative perceptions had been created during the first.

The debates are all about changing perceptions for these two men. Can President Bush find a way to convince people who are unsure about him that he really is more than a tongue tied war monger who has led us into a dangerous place in the world? Can Senator Kerry find a way to convince the voting electorate he is more than a somber elitist who flip flops on issues and is unable to articulate a plan for the country?

Watching the first debate was all about watching to see how these two men were altering perceptions.

It was interesting to note during the day before the debate, e-mail boxes were flooded with requests from loyal Democrats and loyal Republicans to log onto news websites and to write letters, immediately after the debates, to various news organizations so that those efforts will help shape the perceptions of the rest of the voting public. The rationale for this was based on a careful analysis of both sides about the power of the "after-natter", based on an exegesis of past debates.

It is interesting how powerful the natter has become. While watching the debate I wanted very much to have my wireless working so that I could see what was happening on-line.

The way public perception is formed is changing.

Walk the streets of New York and you will see people speaking incessantly on cell phones. Drive any road and you will see people doing the same. On trains and planes people are hunkered down over their computers and the cached knowledge they contain. With Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous, the data streams are becoming equally so.

We are forming our perceptions based on a constant stream of data that is so much more than it was, even when Clinton ran for President. We are living in a world that is so electronically connected that we are rapidly becoming our own science fiction world. A far wider data stream is forming perceptions than the world has ever known before.

But no matter what the number of data streams, the single most powerful data stream is that one that comes with words and visuals: television as we know it today. Television probably won't be the same in a few more years but the most powerful perceptions of this election are going to be formed by watching the data stream that is our current version of television.

I think we learned that during the Kennedy/Nixon debates.

Having learned that, this year's two candidates are going to be investing huge energies into the next two debates. Bush must hold his own; Kerry must gain ground. They are the most interesting, and thankfully most real, moments we will probably have in this current campaign.