Thursday, February 15, 2007

Politics: Honing in on the Social Enthusiasts

Slashdot links to an article about a US presidential candidate setting up in Second Life, the virtual world reminiscent of Snow Crash. What's intriguing here is why John Edward is doing it - not for any features or particular press coverage (he says), but for the kind of people that inhabit the space.

The new social networking craze has, in a way, re-embodied the thing that many feared the Internet would threaten in the first place - social interaction. OK, perhaps "re-captured" or "re-structured" might be better phrases, as I'd go so far to say that the kind of interaction taking place is fundamentally different - location, and all the issues that stem from it, is absent. The community here is self-selecting. Thus, the kind of community that emerges will be different.
While SL users do not have the same numbers as, say, MySpace, they have communication skills, and a desire to communicate, that, I humbly say, exceeds that of MySpace users.
This highlights an interesting facet of politics within a liquid network of networks. The question faced by a politician is: who should I address - the people who are interested in politics and who are likely to vote, or the masses (the majority, one would suspect) who can now be reached, but who aren't so interested? To be so crude about it, quality or quantity?

Mass media has meant that the latter has become more "efficient" over the last few decades. But can we now expect this to shift dramatically as group formation gets easier, and (more importantly) group selection becomes more readily available? Or is Second Life simply a one-off novelty party, which it makes sense for politicians looking to be "hip" to tag along with?

Certainly, the strength and "fluidity" of groups is one theme that I'll definitely be following here for a while.

Update: After reading David Wilcox's piece on local on-line centres and "confident citizens", I wonder if there's a similarity. Just because people aren't in a certain place (whether it be the centre, or a 3D virtual world) doesn't mean they're not social, or not politically interested. Nor does socially "enthusiastic" necessarily equate to politically enthusiastic - in the same context. That is, we may be political in one group, and completely apolitical in another. Perhaps it's more important to focus on appropriate engagement forums, than making efficient ones? (Going into Second Life to garner discussion because people are there is efficient from a candidate's point of view, but ignores all the people who aren't there, or who can't get there.)

Is it all about getting the right mix of setting, attitude and topic?


insane scribbler said...

well, it seems that political campaigns are the latest targets for social networking...
Here's a funny and a more futuristic insight into the social networking aspect.
Enjoy :-)

Anonymous said...

wow great work... never actually thought about it , in this manner... seems you have a knack of interpreting things in a different light.
Was just surfing around when I came across this funny link...
worth a look