E-Gov Bulletin from the UK suggests that social networks could sweep away political parties. Dr. Ian Kearns, former Head of the e-Government Programme at the Institute for Public Policy Research, tells the House of Commons’ Parliamentary IT Committee that Web 2.0 is giving people the tools to recognize and use their power to organize and campaign.

Dr. Kearns is speaking in the British parliamentary context where third parties have a reasonable shot at making a difference. I’m not sure social networks would have as easy of a time upending one of our two dominant parties. However, his point that parties can (and must!) take advantage of the technology is proven by the Howard Dean and Barack Obama presidential campaigns. The Internet and social apps (plus a good spreadsheet) put as much organizing power in the hands of two local advocates in a back office as could have been mustered by a national campaign office a couple decades ago.

While the technology is powerful, Dr. Kearns emphasizes that the big shift is in how we use the technology, how we expect to be involved in the information process. Yes, it’s the consumer-producer-conducer paradigm shift! Politicans need to get out of “broadcast” mode and recognize that politics is much more a two-way, participatory endeavor. The new politics is all about openness and engagement. If you’re running for office, you can’t just put up a website; you have to invite your voters in to build that website—to build its content—for you.

Advertisements