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Politicking 2.0: What You Should Know

September 25, 2008

Politics 2.0 empowers the masses to control policy from the comfort of their local wireless Internet café, but not without a few hitches…

The rising prominence of Blogs and social networking has created a paradigmatic shift in who can access the means to control the media. These mediums have allowed communities of interest to form and grow organically, because they enable an infinite number of individuals to convene on any given idea as a community, at an unprecedented low cost. It only follows that with the increased accessibility to the means of publishing production for the average citizen, the capacity for social networking will affect the way policy-makers do politics.

As the applications for controlling the flow of information have become more user-friendly over time, the cost of production has dropped exceptionally. It is to the point where someone could almost start a blog by accident on one of the larger applications such as Blogger. Facebook membership is a massive 40 million, of which Canada contributes an impressive 9 million profiles. The sheer efficiency of mass communication has increased along with the ease of participation, and suddenly, we are all the media.

The ease of participation is where the power of social networks is realized. If, for example, you believe that all salmon fry released from hatcheries into Canadian waters should be tattooed with tiny maple leaves on their dorsal fins in order to clearly distinguish their Canadian sovereignty to foreign fishing vessels, you have merely had a solitary whim. But there could possibly be others who share this belief with you, or would if they heard about such a great idea! These sympathetic souls may be strewn across the country, or even the world, but you can now be brought together over the new mediums to start planning strategy, recruiting followers and lobbying the DFO. Soon you will have a small but organized community to pitch ideas about how to make this inky salmon-sovereignty scheme a reality.

All absurdist examples aside, if only 0.001% of the country’s population thinks a particular policy needs attention, those people can find each other by the beacon-like tags of a blog or social networking group. In Canada that works out to 33,400 people, which though not a huge number, would certainly noticeable if it were a galvanized and organized group.

Consider that the leading online candidate has 13,400 Facebook “Friends.” You soon realize that a group of almost 300% the size of that “digital” constituency supports our speculative cause, and it begins to look like a vociferous and significant political will has emerged.

These gains could be challenged in the future, and that is why this election is such an important one for digitally-minded citizens. Some of the issues, one of the biggest in my opinion being net neutrality, cut right to the heart of the idea that communities could mobilize by affordably or freely commandeering the means of media. Unfortunately, digital issues are not on the table for the official debate. That is why now is the time to find out what your MP and party’s planned policies regarding digital rights are.

Get to know the issues of concerning digital rights, and ask about them at all-candidates meetings, debates and of course, on their Facebook accounts and party blogs. In the coming days and weeks I will write more about the digital issues that should be a part of the 2008 Canadian Election Debate.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink*
    October 11, 2008 3:07 am

    Good point Amiel, I can be a bit of an evangelist for the power of social media, and I agree with you that it is not yet at its full potential. I am making the point that the medium has decreased the logistical difficulty of finding your community to such an extent that it is now possible to concentrate grassroots opinion less expensively and more quickly than in any previous point in history.

    As for an example this power as it relates directly to politicians, I refer to the attempted exclusion of Green Party leader Elizabeth May back in September. I visited the party leaders’ FBook pages. Normally, these are love-ins for the party faithful, but that day Jack Layton had approximately 270 angry messages from NDP supporters who were pledging to pull their support and voicing their disapproval about his exclusionary comments at that time.

    There were about 20 other relatively inoccuous messages on other topics that day. Other factors were also at work convince Mr. Layton to change his tune, to be sure, but I think that a overwhelmingly strong reaction on one form of media does send a message.

  2. October 1, 2008 6:14 pm

    I think you may be giving too much credit to digital mobilization. While the electronically-comfortable part of the population may be signing up for Facebook, many voters, especially in the older brackets, are not comfortable with, nor will they use “Politics 2.0”. In the future though? Well, if politicians can figure out how to actually use electronic and social media in an interactive way (some have, most just have “friends” pages), Woo-ee, look out.

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