Thursday, 23 September 2010

Topic 1.6 - Politics Julia Gillard is my Facebook Friend

READ:
Nagourney, Adam. The 08 Campaign: Sea Change for Politics as We Know It. New York Times. 2009-01-19.


This week we were asked to look at two political websites from a choice of four, and think about the degree to which people's political engagement and participation is affected by Internet communication, and also the role played by the Internet in assisting the democratic process to identify and resolve the main social issues.
I chose to look at www.pm.gov.au, the Prime Minister of Australia's website, and also www.GetUp.org.au, a citizen/interest group which I've become interested in over the past year.  While the Prime Minister's website pretends to display a "participatory" look via prominently displayed "PM Connect" links to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr on the front page, the reality is that the site is presented in a traditionally mainstream media format which is effectively a one-way broadcast platform containing advertising and press statements, that allows the Prime Minister's office to carefully control the information that is released.  The social networking pages don't appear to be actually used for social networking, but more as an extension of the main website, to broadcast news, and there is no interaction with followers.  It is questionable whether the Prime Minister has ever personally touched any of these websites!  The overarching message is one of "follow me but don't speak".

On the other hand, www.GetUp.org.au is an independent political movement which aims "to build a progressive Australia".  Their organisation including their website is participatory with many contributors and they actively utilise Web 2.0 and social media to keep the lines of communication open.  They encourage individuals to join up, either as free email members or paid contributors, and contact members directly to ask which issues they would like to address and to get feedback on campaigns.

I found both websites interesting because I think they both ultimately achieve their current goals, albeit in vastly different ways.  The Prime Minister's office are using the Internet and social media as a way of showing that they are modern and up-to-date, without actually interacting with followers in any significant way.  GetUp are using the Internet to inspire and drive a grassroots movement of political change, by interacting and participating with their followers as much as possible.  Both sites are targetting different groups in different ways and for now, they are probably both achieving their respective goals.  But in terms of assisting the democratic process and dealing with social issues, the Prime Minister's one-way communication website is hardly promoting democracy and it could be argued that they are missing the value of internet-based communication which is free, broadly available and has a wide reach.  By contrast, GetUp offers it's 350,000+ members the opportunity to identify and participate in a broad range of political and social issues including changes to the electoral registration process, opposition to the Government's proposed mandatory internet filter and currently, a class action regarding bank fees.  It's a shame that the peak political website of our country is one-dimensional in it's approach to the democratic and social issues of the day.

Cheers,
Nicky
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