[Notes from her talk at the Personal Democracy Forum 2007 in New York]
A lot of the things that we take for granted in physical publics don’t transfer to the net – for instance, presence. Politicians use physical presence – but online, they’ve generally treated the internet as a broadcast medium, pushing their message.
Another way of thinking about what’s goin on in the digital world: through the eyes of the people who live there, who use it as a form of public life, a way to socialise and hang out with their friends. What are these friends? People collect friends, and friends on social sites aren’t the same as actual friends. It’s saying something about identity – so adding a politician as a friend means I support this person. This becomes invisible to others fast, because you have 9000 friends or so – but friends on Myspace or Facebook are also about “this is a person I’m watching and I want to watch”. So for instance, if a politician posts a note to their Facebook profile, this will show up in their “friends” Facebook feeds. This not only makes the Facebook user look cool, it becomes visible to all their friends. Yet politicians don’t do this. They don’t have time, they say – but they do make time to go be present in physical spaces. The problem for many young peopel is that there are no physical spaces for them to hang out in. So politicians won’t meet them in physical spaces – they hang out online instead.PDF
Characteristics of online spaces:
- Persistence – what you say sticks around, for better or for worse. Yougn people are actually learning to dela with this.
- Searchability. Young people’s families can track them on Facebook. Young people take this for granted.
- Replicability. You can copy and paste anything and modify it to look like the original. This is a main tactic for bullying.
- Invisible audiences. You don’t know who’s watching you
How should politicians deal with this? By literally going out and digitally shaking hands.
Though (more because its there than anything) following Obana on Twitter actually leaves
me with a heightened sense of mistrust due to the nagging suspicion that it’s
actually an intern posting those sonorous little policy snippets that occasionally
float through my twitter stream. A digital handshake is little use without the
sense of communion that a real world handshake provides. Trying to replicate
real-world niceties is a mistake. How to overcome this? By renaming “Barak Obana”
as “Obana’s Network” maybe?