Saturday, 18 February 2017

Keyboard warriors of the world unite

A Brave New World?

Last week I attended a  talk in Swansea given by a gentleman called Mike Klein on digital activism. Mike who hails from the States but who now, very sensibly in my opinion, has made Swansea his home is the former presidential campaign manager for Congressman Dennis Kucinich. I have to admit to being a little sceptical about this whole digital activism thing prior to this talk but Mike gave me plenty of food for thought some of which I hope to share with you here.

Anybody recognise this?

Although this is a bit of a generalisation in the past life was more homogenised and centralised. People tended to live and work in one place, often for much of their lives and would get their news and information from a few sources as well: what was said at work, through the BBC and maybe the church. Today however we live in a very different world where people throughout their career often move from job to job and where populations are a lot more geographically mobile and where we are bombarded with information and views from many additional sources such as the plethora of television channels and social media platforms. In this multicultural, multifaith, multi voiced brave new world it would seem reasonable to argue that traditional forms of social and political activism need to be rethought.

In the past ten years, particularly since the launch of the IPhone in 2007, there has been a massive change in the way we use and interact with the media. In 2016 71% of the UK population owned mobile phones, up from 39% just four years earlier and among under 35 year olds the figure in over 90% and as of 2015 the smartphone is the most popular way to access the internet   Research has shown that more than a third of all adults (34%) use their smartphone within five minutes of waking up, a figure that rises to almost half (49%) of those aged 18-24.

A386 anyone

It would seem that the traditional model of people catching up on what is happening in the world by switching on their radio or television in the morning or reading the newspaper on the way to work is rapidly being replaced by people switching on their mobile phones and accessing their social media accounts. Any political or social movement that fails to engage with this change is at risk of going the same way as traditional newspapers seem to be going.

Love him or loathe him, and no prizes for guessing which one I do, but President Donald Trump has utilised this change in the media to great effect. Just 7% of the US population use Twitter although nearly 90% are aware of it and although I don't have hard statistics to hand I am pretty sure I am on safe ground to argue that the percentage that have read a Trump Tweet is also around the 90% mark as his Tweets are often faithfully reprinted word for word in various other forms of media.  I'll ask you to reflect yourself; now you may or maynot be on Twitter but it's a pretty fair bet that you at some point have read a Donald Trump tweet. Twitter has given him to opportunity to bypass the traditional filters and spin associated with more traditional forms of media and talk directly to the people and whatever you think of that it has worked, he made it to be president even against the odds.

Labour and The Left in general are not in a good place at the moment, there is no denying it but it would also seem true that we are bound to lose the next war if we use the same weaponry, tactics and strategy as we used to lose the last one.  Times they are a changing and while there is still a place for the old door to door door knocking and face to face interaction (for as Mike pointed out in his talk quoting that clansman of mine Tip O'Neill "all politics is local") the day of the keyboard warrior is now upon us and getting our message out there using these new forms of media is more important than ever otherwise we will become left behind and be seen as out of touch, particularly by the young who are our hope for the future.

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