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When the 28-year-old Cooper isn't disseminating mayoral updates from his third-floor office at City Hall, he's usually racking up gastronomic confessions in some pocket of Los Angeles. Before discussing his job as the social-media maven for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Cooper wants a visitor to know that he entered a self-induced food coma via an El Tepeyac burrito a few nights ago and will probably track down a barbecued beef bánh mì lunch at Nam Thai, a food truck permanently parked on Spring Street in Chinatown.
"It barely has wheels," Cooper says. "I usually call to see if they're open — it's the owner's cell-phone number — and sometimes she's at home, sitting on her couch, and she's, like, 'Oh, no, we're not out there today.' "
As new–media director for the mayor, Cooper is paid to spend his day on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Raised in Hancock Park, he played baseball at Cal State Fullerton and then skipped around for a stint at UCSB and UC Irvine, studying painting, drawing and media arts. His experience in social media began when he was hired by the Obama campaign to run new media in Virginia.
Cooper describes himself as a reluctant new-media triumphalist.
"Social media combines a lot of things that really interest me — empowering people, connecting them to the people who control their lives," Cooper says.
He believes social media has brought Angelenos closer to their mayor. "Tweeting a message to the mayor is often the most efficient way to be heard," he says. "It's our job to be able to help him get the message out and also be able to get him the stuff that he needs to know ... what people are saying. He needs to be able to respond to people. On Twitter, if someone asks him to fill a pothole, it's, like, automatic."
Although he sees danger in "self-segregation and self-filtering" by reading only partisan blogs or listening to talk radio, Cooper trusts that people are more informed through social media than they are via traditional media. "The amount of info out there is just incredible. People who want to get into it can be better informed than ever. People have always found ways to be ill-informed.
I don't blame Twitter and Facebook for people not knowing what's really going on. On the whole I think people talk about politics a lot more than they used to."
Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., Cooper is busy brainstorming lines for "Ted the Terrible Superhero," a twice-weekly online cartoon strip he creates with friend Mat Barton in Portland, Oregon. Cooper tends to avoid the social-media highway when he isn't working, although he occasionally tweets about what's on his plate as @SirNoshALot. A sample:
1. Animal, I give. You're still schticky and overpriced, but the loco moco is actually special. And the poutine, while not poutine, still rocks 9:59 a.m., Feb 3rd via web
2. you and I both know you've changed the recipe. Don't look at me with those sweet brown eyes and lie to me. At least not about your chicken. 8:42 p.m., Jan 30th via web
3. Figured out why Gonpachi on LaCienega is always empty: I could throw a dead cat from there and hit 7 better places. If I was loose. 8:54 AM Jul 22nd via web ...