Saturday, April 18, 2009

Building the Public thru the internet

The very nature of the internet is non-hierarchical and inclusive. I think perhaps the greatest purpose of the web is developing and encouraging a true “public”. The internet is so much more than an advertising tool or broadcasting device. To me, (and many others far wiser than me from whom I constantly steal ideas!)… the web is about engagement and equal access. It is about conversations and sharing information to build a collaborative culture.

As a District, we need to be willing to encourage authentic and informed inputs. We will need to be willing to expose ourselves to real conversations/criticisms and let go of the desire to control or synthesize inputs to find the average and blend away the rough edges. This level of synthesis is seen by many as “spin” and treated with a great deal of suspicion. People want the raw data, the real inputs. As Mr. Ken Chapman said in his presentation to Board this week, the public no longer trust figures of authority. From my perspective, this is true not just for the 20-somethings. This is true for the 30-, 40- and a few 50-somethings as well.

Reputation management will need to adapt to accommodate this level of transparency and the accompanying perceived vulnerability. Fringe or radical responses will be accepted as part of the public opinion and ultimately, they will be dealt with by the public, not through censorship. (I attended a very interesting session in San Diego where racism was dealt with by the public. See my blog for entry below.) Transparency, accountability and group discussion to find solutions…. this is what I see as the future.

Ultimately, the new democracy will be on-line and it’s already started. Behaviours that used to be only observed by a select few and were therefore perpetuated behind a veil of obscurity are instantly reported on twitter and known by thousands, who have the potential to spread that information virally to countless others. Paula Simons recently twittered on all the MLAs that were behaving badly. It was quite a democratizing moment.

There are so many bright, young minds out there who are well-versed on this topic. Despite my interest, I’m already lightyears behind. I hope, as a District, we can embrace this new reality and let the leadership come from our youth.

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