Two different stories bring together how Facebook is becoming used more in public life. The first is from the MIT Technology Review dated 12 July 2012 by David Zax and is entitled “Facebook, CNN, and the Rise of Social Voting“, the second appears on The Register of 18 July 2012 and is written by Neil McAllister and headed “Washington State to allow voter registration via Facebook“. The first piece with its subtitle of “Can technology disrupt democracy” is possibly the scariest, although it mainly concerns the development of a Facebook app by CNN that permits endorsement of candidates and issues, along with a commitment to vote, by Facebook users. The piece also names a few related applications: ElectNext, Votizen and PopVox. What is perhaps concerning in the first case is that due to the ‘now’ factor involved in social media voting might be reflecting journalistic leads from CNN.
The second piece is a much simpler use of Facebook with Washington State (not DC!) harvesting names and dates-of-birth from Facebook into their voter registration system. This will obviously require the originating user to be real and the data to be accurate. I recall attempts in the UK to register Mickey Mouse and the pet hamster on more than one occasion!
In general it does indicate a general look to social media to increase democratic input. However, if someone can’t fill out a registration form occasionally and turn up at a polling station every so often, representative democracy is dead and we need to be looking at a new way of delivering it – as Marshall Ganz has said “the chance for people to become actors and not just spectators in the drama of life”. [New Statesman, 16 July 2012, p.54].
EROs are going to have great problems in the individual registration of new voters in 2014. Several methods will need to be used. Not just the unreliable DWP data. Why not schools, universities, colleges and social media data? Why not the vast amount of data held by the likes of Experian?
Given my personal experience with Experian in the form of HMRC I wouldn’t trust their data as far as I could spit! (To put it politely)
If data cleansing is poor in the public sector, it must be absolutely s**t in the private, since they have less legal compulsion to have it spot on.
As a local politician in the UK, [Southwell Nottinghamshire] trying hard to engage with my local residents I welcome the development of a Facebook app or other apps such as ElectNext, Votizen and PopVox that permits endorsement of candidates and issues, along with a commitment to vote, . However, despite strenuous efforts, my personal penetration of new media is very low, about 10% of residents.
I find that traditional methods are still far more effective than social media, with the possible exception of 16-20 year olds. in engagming and involving my residents. I will be interested to see how my involvement with this sector pans out electorally, and whether there wil be an electoral shift to reflect different levels of engagement.
It has already been shown [apols ref not avail] that those in this sector who are active in ‘political’ social media have a higher propensity to vote. Whether it changes how they vote wil be interesting to measure!
It may be noteworthy, that after four months of trying Twitter, my local MP has given up! Unfortunately far too much of Twitter is widecasting and too little is used for gaining feedback. I suspect he was just telling everyone what he had for breakfast…
Twitter and Facebook are both opt in media, with very little geographic integrity. This results in widecasting until non-residents get fed up with my parochial postings But this also seems to be off-putting to those, even with a local interest, who are motivated by the other nuances of social media which I find irritating and irrelevant so don’t post personal matters. So these folks leave too – hence a diminishing return, with little engagement.
However, having said that, I probably get more feedback from Tweets than I do at my surgery. I would point out that my surgery is held in the local Market Square so is fairly high profile and reasonably well attended. The difference is that tweeting is daily, whereas surgeries are monthly.
Moreover I do drive traffic to my website blog through social media posts, and some officers have commented that there is increased interest in some local matters when I post issues of local concern.
Thanks Peter, it’s great to see it from the politicians point of view when so few even appear to try it! You should be congratulated 🙂