At Saturday’s Political Innovation event (you can see the full commentary on the #picamp hashtag on Twitter), we asked a panel of speakers if there is some social good that can come out of our interactive alternative to the mainstream media.
Pat Kane (Hue & Cry frontman and author of The Play Ethic) urged the participants to ‘embrace your inner and outer crank’, and in doing so, underscored one of the oft-neglected assets that online commentators bring to political discussion: A lack of interest in playing along with pre-prepared political narratives.
An interest in issues that don’t have the quick-win that many journalists crave (take Slugger’s own interest in the Northern Ireland Water story earlier this year as an example of that), and one that is highly disruptive towards ‘controlled messages’
There isn’t time here to feature the answers that participants (there were more than eighty there on the day) gave, but the questions they raised themselves were interesting (and many of them may come up again in Belfast on Saturday):
- Can this conversational space be made more conversational?
- Can it be more inclusive, or is it (using Caron Lindsay’s phrase) only be a blokesphere? (Caron had some interesting figures on the participation of women in the blogosphere in general, compared to their presence in online political networks. (This post was picked up in the ‘making women more visible’ session)
- Given the relative lack of think-tankery in Edinburgh compared to the Westminster offering, is there a way of crowdsourcing the research / analysis / political wisdom.
- Should mainstream funding bodies (like Creative Scotland) be thinking about how to seed fund the time and space to curate robust and original content some of these problems from a Scots, Irish, Northern Irish or Welsh perspective.
- On the political front, a few Scottish Nationalists believed that the mainstream media supplemented their antipathy to nationalism with a simplified and frivolous coverage of the nationalist agenda. They – and Joan McAlpine in particular, who has blogged this question in detail – wanted to know if the emerging competing online spaces would change this.
There are plenty more write-ups here on Holyrood Magazine’s site, on James Kelly’s blog (who, to be fair to him, was exhausted before he even arrived!) and this video of the ‘controlling the message’ session filmed by Robert Stewart.
One of my own win’s from the ‘unconference’ was the Bright Green Scotland blog. In particular Peter McColl has a lengthy and considered post which kicks off with one of the most salient points (and their were many, too many to capture on one or two blogs perhaps): ie, the mesmerizing effect of the Obama campaign on those trying to use social media for their own political ends.
And Joan noted there already is a tendency towards aggregation in the Scots blogosphere:
Like minded bloggers are grouping together on aggregated sites such Bella Caledonia and Better Nation. Two sites, Scottish Review and newsnetscotland take this further and strive to create online sites that hope to compete with the mainstream.
If there was a valid criticism it was we had such a surfeit of ideas that it’s difficult to focus on routes to action. That’s something we are working on, but one focus, of course, is to propose an essay which extends and develops an idea with the possibility of presenting at a London based event we’re planning for the new year.
The next one is on Saturday at NICVA in Belfast. We’ll have a plenary debate on News and the New Media, with David Gordon and Dan McGinn with others to be announced through the week. But the agenda is entirely in your hands. This is a bottom up not a top down event.
It is, to borrow Pat’s apposite term, an event designed to encourage the disciplined and informed cranks and those who want to find ways of engaging with them and figure out how to work with a whole new raft of public goods coming into a internet market somewhere near you.
If the virtual world is about words, this is an opportunity to share with the real individuals, make common cause and then in some cases move towards action. You can book yourself a place here.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty