John Prescott Goes Digital….

2. March 2009 – 16:52 by Julia Glidden

At a recent gala dinner for the Labour Party (long story why I was there), I was heartened and yet still suprised to hear the former UK Deputy Prime Minister extollling the virtues of Blackberries, Facebook and Twitter. ’I talk to Alistair (Cambell) all the time with this!’ - he says waving his Blackberry.  ‘And, yesterday 6,000 people joined my petition on Facebook.  6,000!!!!!  Do you know how long it would take to knock on 6,000 doors?’   

I was heartened because he did so with the gusto of a real convert.  Surprised because the power of the technology seemed so genuinely new to him, along with many others in a room full of party activists.  James Crabtree gave an excellent analysis (at last year’s London’s eParticipation Symposium) on the reasons why technology has taken off so much more slowly amongst British political parties than American ones.  But I still wonder how any politician or political group anywhere can only now be waking up to the power of technology to mobilize opinion.  After all, politicians spend their lives trying to communicate with the electorate and the Internet is nothing but the ultimate communication tool….  Only recently I spoke with a young local Councilor who told me that social networking ‘and other such things really had no value for him….’

I wonder if now that that the US has a YouTubing, Blackberry toting President things will change….  And if they do, whether politics will be changed by the medium, or the medium absorbed into a new form of ‘business as usual.’

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