Keeping mum

I frequently cringe when I see Mumsnet established as a standard for e-government style engagement. This was confirmed by a piece in the New Statesman of the 26 April 2010 by Alice Miles entitled “Don’t kid yourself about Mumsnet“.

Alice clearly picks out the iffiyness around those who believe social media are making headway in politics when she says “The strange relationship people have with “online” is a challenge for adherents of “e-democracy” and undermines the fashionable theme of the “Mumsnet election”. Will Mumsnet make such a difference on 6 May?”

She’s also done her research when she looks at the usage proportions of the various media and states “Compare these with the proportions expecting to get information from blogs (3 per cent) or social networking sites (2 per cent).” This and research from Professor Graham Smith results in “a distinctly limited role for mature online political debate.”

This is also supported by the comment on my “The twittering parties” by Andy Williamson of the Hansard Society who stated “the latest Audit of Political engagement asks some of these questions and shows that 4% of the general electorate follow a politician on Facebook and 2% on Twitter.”

We’ll soon see the results, but how much of this is directly down to the Internet I believe will be little and remain unclear.

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One Response to Keeping mum

  1. A different way of framing the question – but much harder to measure – is to look at the second and third order effects:

    how far do online conversations influence offline conversations?

    how far do online conversations influence conventional media coversage and/or politicians’ behaviour in ways which in turn influence offline conversations?

    Or to put it a bit differently, are we looking for signs that social media are a primary driver of change, or that they act as catalyst for change?

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