Saturday, November 07, 2009

When five sevenths of your electorate is already on Facebook - what then?

The fascination with all things virtual grows exponentially.  I remember teletext as a monumental revolution but for my children there has never been a world without.  I remember reading recently that adults go online but for our offspring there's no difference between online or off.  It's one and the same.

That is not the future.  That is their present.

Now we discover, via Tom Watson's Twitter feed, that by next year's attorney general elections, five sevenths of California's Democrat voters will be on Facebook.

More on this astonishing statistic here.

And yet even so, those who do not understand that software code is our new method of writing constitutional frameworks will continue to kick against overwhelming social change and believe we can impose old 19th century ways of thinking on 21st century trends.

It may be possible to monetise parts of Web 2.0 but this does not mean it will be possible to monetise them in quite the same way as we have been led to accept to date; these relationships we have between gigantic corporations and end-users is now fluid and curiously disconcerting for us all.  There will be more power to those of us who both consume and produce.  Freemium economics will try and encourage us to pay for services we can get for free elsewhere - new start-ups will perpetually offer us new free services that in turn they will attempt to monetise in some way or another.  Thus it is that the Internet teaches us both promiscuity and fidelity at the same time - on the one hand, fidelity to the concept of never paying for more than the Internet access, and wherever possible getting even this included in a wider phone package; whilst on the other hand, a vast and startling promiscuity in terms of brand loyalty.  Never have we simultaneously cared so much about our brands for so short a time.  In the past, perhaps, we were parallel lovers, never very deeply involved but more than happy to share our attentions around.  Now, we are serial lovers and our virtual relationships are short and sharp.

A tumbling rise and fall is the dynamic that now rules.  Empires will exist but will define themselves in the content of ever-declining timeframes.

And politics must take note.

Those of us who might bemoan a decline in the reading of books should take note of the following reality: websites are surely the 21st century equivalent of our beautiful wall-to-wall library of tomes - and it is also surely true that people read far more now than they ever did in my youth.

And if this is true of reading, how much more so of democracy?  Voting buttons, comment boxes, virtual interactions of all sort - no, people are not sick of democracy but, rather, thirsty for it; and they go wherever they might find a true representation and exemplification of it.  What they clearly now ignore is that empty and sad version which the politicking of political parties currently demonstrates.

That is not a vote against democratic engagement but a massive step forward in total favour of it.

Blogging and commenting and Facebooking and Twittering are evidence that democracy is alive as it never was.  What those who believe in party politics must understand is not how to "click" baldly and superficially (in a bland marketing sense) with the virtual generations that all these tendencies form a part of but, rather, how to re-engineer their methods of communication and their hierarchies of power so that true democracy becomes their reason and not just an excuse.

"Don't abuse democracy for your own ends" is really what I'm saying.  Allow it to flourish amongst the people as indeed the people are fighting already to make it flourish - and the world will automatically become the place it ought to become.

We hope.

As always, a question of overarching trust.

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