Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surprise! Politicians Like to Talk AT You, Not WITH You

Reuters has an interesting article on Presidential candidates and their use of Web 2.0 techniques ("Politicians Falls Behind in Online Race.") In it, they make a couple interesting points about how politicians are using the Internet.

First of all, while some campaigns are using Facebook, MySpace and other social networking tools to get their messages out, they aren't using these tools to engage in a meaningful dialogue. In some cases, it seems as though they see this as just another form of mass communication. As the article notes ". . . there is a sense it is mostly one-way traffice -- from "them" to "us" and analysts say politicians need to expand their online ambitions towards interactivity and user-generated content."

Along these lines, it seems that once the campaign is over, all efforts at interactivity and creativity go out the window once the candidate becomes an actual elected official. Blogs, video-sharing, networks and other conversation starters online simply aren't used by many electeds. When they are, as is the case with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has posted a "petition gathering" tool on his site, it is seen as inelegant pandering to a powerful portion of the electorate.

The good news is that some people still see hope -- especially for those politicians who understand that these tools should be used to engage citizens rather than merely talk at them. Citizens expect to be able to interact, and if government doesn't provide that opportunity, someone else will.

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