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Political Engagement and the Web August 29, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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Online politics anyone? Way to GO! The Web gives anyone — candidates, advocacy groups, corporate interests and ordinary folks — affordable and powerful means to mold policy, influence elections and shift the direction of public discourse. Welcome to the politics of participation in the age of digital dialogues.

The all important role of the Web is making politicians sit up. So core is Web to politics today that a certain anxiety pervades the political classes. And it comes from the perception that folks have become disaffected with traditional media. Indeed, the wired generation who have deserted MSM are using social networking to move their political activism from cyberspace to the real world.

The term, participatory culture, contrasts with older notions of passive media spectatorship. Rather than talk about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, we might now see them as participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands.

Director, MIT Comparative Media Studies

It is apparent that new people, coming together in new ways to participate in a process we do not yet understand are changing the way we understand the medium and the way we understand politics. I would argue that video is key. When this generation wants to find out about a candidate, the first and probably only thing they do is watch videos of the person online. The first place they go for videos is the candidate’s website.

So it is important that a candidate’s website is easy to find and use so that it becomes the main source of information about the politician. Barack Obama does this really well. Many people regardless of whether they support Obama, have seen his official videos on his Website, allowing him to have much more control over his message.

Obama’s comparative advantage is the level of 2.0 technology in his Website that allows digital natives to forge online community. You can join “the movement” in his Website and meet supporters, ask questions, learn about campaign events, donate money, and canvass with phone numbers and addresses taken off the site.

This is a great way for keeping volunteers informed, organized, and motivated. It is a very important tool for engaging young people in the campaign. It remains to be seen whether the Web will bring about a shift from indifference to engagement in politics among the young in Singapore.

In Singapore, a panel advising the Singapore government on the impact of new media in society today released its clutch of proposals. Many are overly cautious and miss the point of wielding political e-engagement as a new tool of governance. The government-appointed panel says the key reason for going online is that new rules of engagement are going to have a profound effect on the electoral process, citing how the Internet played a key role in the Malaysian elections and is continuing to do in the American elections.

Those interested in how the new media scene in Singapore is shaping up can read the report by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, or AIMS. It focuses on four areas: E-Engagement, Online Political Content, Protection of Minors, Intermediary Immunity for Online Defamation.

My question – how ready is government to take risks to achieve successful online engagement and foster political entrepreneurialship? Technology now permits anyone to transact information without mediation. Webs at work have rendered obsolete the role of traditional gate keepers in mainstream media. Airtime and newspaper coverage have outlived their functions as political engagement migrate online.

Plugging the Loopholes

Plugging New Media Loopholes

Cartoon courtesy sei-ji rakugaki

Virtual and political forces intersect to forge communities online, co-opting citizen powered media to build dialogue with constituents. Not just smart politics and good governance but innovative technology and political prowess to organize movements and run a smarter campaign with strategies like Facebook outreach.

AIMS media conference to release its recommendations to the Government on August 29.


1. Find Out Whether AIMS is Screwing The Right Hole? « JUST STUFF - September 2, 2008

[…] Webs@Work: Political Engagement and the Web […]

2. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 36 - September 6, 2008

[…] on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS): Consultation Paper – Engaging New Media – Webs@Work: Political Engagement and the Web – My Sketchbook: Solutions for the new media – Singabloodypore: AIMs’ Press Conference – […]

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[…] vbc.style.visibility = ‘hidden’; e.style.backgroundColor = ‘#fff’ }); }); Aug 2008 Political Engagement and th… trackback from post […Online politics anyone? Way to GO! The Web gives anyone — candidates, […]

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