Politicians struggle to make Net impact

While presidential candidates are trying their best to stay hip with the Internet, with blogs, social networking, YouTube videos, and SecondLife spaces, they're not quiting "getting" the heart of Internet culture, Reuters says. "They haven't been very innovative," said Professor Helen Margetts, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, adding that old style politics of knocking on doors to recruit members and spread the word is no longer valid.

While presidential candidates are trying their best to stay hip with the Internet, with blogs, social networking, YouTube videos, and SecondLife spaces, they're not quiting "getting" the heart of Internet culture, Reuters says.

"They haven't been very innovative," said Professor Helen Margetts, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, adding that old style politics of knocking on doors to recruit members and spread the word is no longer valid.

"They tend to hark back to the idea that they're going to have lots of members again and people are going to tramp the streets and persuade people. I think those days are dead."

In Britain, Tony Blair is trying to look oh-so-with-it by posting a video on YouTube launching his "Labourvision" campaign to allow ministers to speak directly to voters.

"Does he really think 'talking to the kids' like this comes across as anything other than a Dad trying to be cool at a teenager's party?" asked one YouTube user. Another said: "Fantastic! Now I can make fun of the Labor Party with much more immediacy."

Despite promises of future interaction with government and a new process that is much more democratic, many are skeptical. Dr Tony Wright, who chairs Britain's Public Administration Committee, said: "Just pressing a button to say that you're against something doesn't seem to me to be a great expression of democratic engagement," he said. "It should be seen as extending the normal methods of representative democracy, not supplanting them."

"User-generated content is driving the rhetoric of a new empowered citizenry but, in reality, you are left with the same choices you always had," Australian academic Allison Orr wrote earlier this year.

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