Sunday, February 25, 2007

If blogging is the answer...

Yes, you guessed it, ...what is the question. According to Captain Sensible, founder of the Blah Party, Councillor Stephen Tall, Lib-Dem blogger of the year, among others; blogging and the Internet more generally is the way that politicians can connect to their public. But is this really true?

Clearly some MPs can connect to some of the public via the web, Boris Johnson gains a lot of feedback on his blog, and Anne Widdecombe's Widdyweb seems to get a lot of hits; is this making a connection though. There are huge issues of access for many, there is also the question of involvement, or more simply how many of the public are really motivated to seek out their or any MP on the web. Yet the current culture is that every organisation or individual that seeks public attention and support (in whatever form) must be online. It is hyped as the nirvana of communication and image management, but is this true?

The real answer is that we don't yet know. Like any form of communication it works, for some individuals, among a section of the public, for certain purposes etc, etc. Measurement of effect is not impossible, but it is difficult; arguably there is potential for vote winning and connecting but it remains limited. What is surprising is that some MPs appear to have total faith in the idea of an online presence with almost religious zeal: so are the prophets? Or prats as Benjamin Wegg-Prosser was recently described? More importantly are resources being channelled into the web presence that are more effective elsewhere, this is the big question that perhaps many MPs have faced and their zealotry is partly an expression of trying to convince themselves. History, one day, will show us whether they were right or not!


David Phillips said...

Perhaps the idea that new media don't kill old media is a bit hard to grasp. New media changes old media and old media changes new but that is about it.
I am with Howard Rheingold who asks how we judge the conversations of others. Deod it always have to be by standards of Donne, Dickens or some other person of a different age.

That a politician can't engage on-line says more about the politician than the constituent - after all, there are millions in MySpace, millions in YouTube and a goodly number in Digg all living in communities quite happily. But then, I guess, they are still being seduced by Freeman and Porter and have not quite understood the segment of one (Pine 1993) or the Relationship Value Model.

Darren Lilleker said...

The thing with Myspace etc is that we choose to join that community and see it as a community of equals. A brand may join that community, but we are yet to know how they are perceived. Possibly, like with other communities, where members try to exploit the community mechanisms in order to sell something, they get rejected.

The other question here is whether new media is the correct way to build a relationship between politicians and the electorate. Develop a relationship maybe, but there needs to be a basis for that relationship.

Perhaps research needs to look at community members, how they use the community and how they perceive other members of differing statuses, that may give us some clues as to how new media can work for a politician and what functions it may serve.