Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'Like' button elections - the future?

Some strange quotes swarmed into my consciousness today, starting with...
The means of communication the electorate can use and enjoy are becoming more and more inaccessible while the fantasies of those who seek to influence us become more and more powerful.
from AL Kennedy in the Guardian.
Which got me thinking about influence and where people in this day & age ascribe credit. Is it that society is simply addicted to the trivialities of 'reality' TV, instead of wholesome political discourse, like junk food vs a healthy diet? Maybe the problem with politics and economics is not content but presentation. Opinions about reality TV are social & frivolous. They are sport: accessible, fast-evolving interactions, with 'like' buttons, blogs and discussion threads. Whereas politics and economics are weighed down with gravitas, and as such find it necessary to spurn lightweight interactions.

Perhaps the true electoral reform would simply be a Facebook Election page, with 'like' buttons next to the candidates. Referenda could be conducted the same way. When you think about it, opinion polls are simply models to compensate for a lack of capability: historically, it was impossible to get everyone's opinion about a topic, at least in a time frame that was reasonable for research purposes. Now, with the internet, and social networks weaving their way through it like ivy up a tree, there is a capability to rapidly grab and even validate votes online.

Obviously, in practice, the validation mechanisms would need to be more robust than Facebook (I think there are 6 other Neil Taggarts in the UK on there, and any one of those could be an alter-ego for an enterprising immigrant), but the principle is sound. Let the fast-flowing opinions pour forth. Sure, the crowd is fickle, but as any Pericles fan will tell you (shortly after explaining that, no, he's not on Facebook) that just means the oratory must be better. More immediate. More intimate. Shorter feedback loops. For politics to be more active, it must become more interactive.
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