The politics of interactivity

reboot_logoI’m currently convening a number of sessions at a Nesta conference on the 6th July called ‘Reboot Britain’, running a strand called ‘PICamp’ – Political Innovation Camp.

I’m looking for local government communications staff that have had any experience or thoughts about the changing relationships with the local media – and particularly issues around the politics of this.

I don’t mean the left/right/Lib/Lab/Con politics, I mean questions like….

  • the politics of neutrality and incumbency – if local government communications staff aren’t going through the filter of professional journalists, will this cause problems from a democratic point of view?
  • are local on-line communities – often very effective ways of communicating – suitable mediums to use to interact with people? Are such groups an effective substitute for traditional communications through the local press? Are they, perhaps, simply havens for unrepresentative sub-groups of local society?
  • is there a way for councils to use social media to improve the quality of local democracy – or is it a minefield that is best avoided? And would an unwillingness to engage create a vacuum of any kind?
  • how far are the local government rules on political communications being applied in an inflexible way? Does the uncertainly around this result in local government – particularly councillors – being unusually inactive in this space? And how can local authorities provide a leadership role in on-line communications without becoming de facto political press-officers?
  • the politics of decentralisation: The changing relationship between local government and the mass media may provide scope for councils to change the way they communicate and reassert the primacy of local government in addressing local problems. Is there a political opportunity to promote the ‘decentralisation’ that all of the political parties claim to want?
  • getting the obstacles out of the way. How can we remove the barriers that stop institutions from interacting?

These sessions have already attracted some great participants – the interest has gone well beyond my expectations with some real innovators putting their hands up to participate as well as a smattering of interest from prominent local and national politicians as well as mainstream-media journalists.

The schedule is still being finalised at the moment, but I’d be really interested in hearing from anyone with practical experience, or with considered views on any of these subjects – particularly from councillors or people working in local government communications / democratic services / electoral services?

If you have any ideas for sessions at this strand of Reboot Britain, please visit the PICamp site, register and let’s hear them?

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A few signposts off

Reboot Britain

Reboot Britain

We can learn things from the way they elect Popes – and the way they used to.

Chris Dillow reprises his ‘extremist not a fanatic’ theme – that it is rational not to care too much about politics – and that politics benefits from our indifference.

And finally ‘Reboot Britain’ will be worth keeping an eye on – it will have a significant strand covering democratic renewal.

I’m hoping that it will provide another run-out for the PICamp project that started very successfully in Belfast last month.

Political Innovation

picamp-logoI’ve just got back from the PICamp event in Belfast. For a first-time event in a relatively small polity, I think it went extremely well. Steve Lawson has posted a really good round-up of the day.

It highlighted the importance of ‘gamechanging’ as opposed to campagning, consensus-building and caucusing. Mick Fealty, the MC for the day put it well towards the end of the day (here’s the audio file) as he tried to pull the event away from identifying the problems and towards how positive action can come from informal gatherings such as this.

A number of people who came to PICamp were people who didn’t often go to political conferences.

Politics geeks and social media geeks come from quite a different background, and some of the people who had attended events like Barcamp, had seen the effectiveness of them as a way of addressing issues, saw PICamp as an opportunity to explore political issues.

The convening blog for the event, Slugger O’Toole, is a powerful player in Northern Ireland’s politics (Slugger’s PICamp round-up is here), and it attracts lots of comments on a regular basis. But many of the people in the room confessed that they regularly visited Slugger, but didn’t often comment because they either didn’t feel strongly enough to commit thoughts to paper, or they were worried about being attacked by the more fanatical trolls that inhabit all large comment blogs.

@alaninbelfast summed this up nicely here.

Announcing picamp Belfast

picamp-logoOver the next few weeks, I’m going to be promoting and working on ‘picamp’ – the political innovation camp event in Belfast on the 26th of May.

This project is being done in conjunction with the Northern Ireland political weblog Slugger O’Toole, with NESTA-sponsored Amplified ’09 and Queens University Belfast who have kindly allowed us to use their premises for the day.

The event will be a unconference – it will be managed in exactly the same way as a conventional conference, but there won’t be any listed speakers, any agenda or any charge to attend.

We’ve seen a proliferation of these unconferences recently. In Washington DC, Transparency Camp took place in March and one is planned for the UK in July. New applications that drive different forms of community are widely seen to have a disruptive potential. Continue reading