MySpace has partnered with reality-TV maven Mark Burnett to produce “Independent,” a reality show with a political bent. The show will debut in early 2008, according to a Variety report. The concept is simple: run a virtual campaign with real candidates, shadowing the 2008 US presidential elections. According to the report, “Independent” will distinguish itself from a similar predecessor, “American Candidate,” by virtue of being hosted on a social media platform.

The goal of the show is to promote political awareness among youth. A noble notion indeed. Real issues will be debated, probably in a deeper and more meaningful way than the sound-bite filled general election for president (sort of like the youth G8 summit). The $1 million prize for “winning” the election must be donated to an independent candidate or a worthy political cause (I’m sure details are still being worked out here).

The idea of marrying social media with reality TV is nothing novel. In a way, even “American Idol” already does this through their text-message voting. But I think “Independent” will be a very different animal.

The 2008 presidential election has already been dubbed the “YouTube Election.” Everyone knows the Internet, and Internet Video in particular, will influence the outcome. “Independent” may not influence the outcome of the election, but it has a good chance of framing the issues on which the election will be decided.

An early indication of the power of the YouTube factor will be evidenced at the Citadel (yes, that Citadel) during a Democratic party debate, hosted by Anderson Cooper, with questions uploaded through YouTube. You can check it out on June 23rd.