Post-Social Media

Yesterday I was in Borås at the Social Media Day which is an annual politics and social media conference (ppt slides and movies here). This year was opened by the US ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, who gave an interesting talk (ppt) (much of it in Swedish, which was impressive). He spoke about the promise of technology and the difficulty of predicting the future and the importance of values in developing and using technology.

He also told the story of the Swedish engineer Laila Ohlgren, who, in the early days of mobile phones, solved an interesting issue of data roaming: by the time you finish dialing you have lost contact with the original phone mast. She proposed the simple – but breathtakingly fundamental – change of dialing the complete number first and then hitting the dial button. Fantastic, simple, basic… and totally revolutionary thinking.

Next up was Marie Grusell who spoke on the topic of party leaders use of twitter in their communication. She made interesting points on the differences between dialog and monologue and the relatively low usage of twitter among Swedish politicians. My focus on this was cultural and I wondered why the use was so low. An interesting comparison to the low numbers (the highest was Gudrun Schyman with 183 following and 9,447 followers) is the Norwegian Prime Minister @jensstoltenberg who follws 34,768 and is followed by 48,698.

This was followed by Per Schlingmann & Hampus Brynolf who held a low-tech (i.e. no ppt) discussion on social media now and in the future. There talk was experienced based and they seemed to be in relative agreement that social media would become a natural part of the political dialogue, that nobody wins elections through social media – but they may lose them through social media, that technology has led to the need for politics to be prepared with immediate answers for everything – which creates a need for an artificial, slowing down to think before you tweet. They also pointed to the unfortunate lack of focus on the everyday social media use in politics and the overemphasis on campaigning.

This was followed by Anders Kihl who demonstrated the ways in which Borås has been working to create multiple access points to municipal information and dialogues. As a practitioner Anders is very down to earth and the work done in Borås shows that everyday social media use in politics is important and engaging.

Jan Nolin introduced the concept of Wikipolitics into the discussion which had so far been very much focused on the concept of social media as a communications channel. He argued that social media channels does not take into consideration the importance of the possibility of using social media as political movements – not only in protests but provides a potential for the harnessing of the power of crowds in everyday socio-political life.

Next up was Grethe Lindhe from Malmö who presented the ways in which the region was using technology to enable citizens to propose and bring up questions into the political arena. By creating this possibility the Malmö region believed that politics would be made more accessible to a larger section of the citizenry.

Lars Höglund took his starting point in the large SOM-survey to attempt to deepen our understanding of the participatory elements of politics and the internet. My main beef was that I got stuck on the group they call “the internet generation” which was defined as those born between 1977-1997. What annoys me about this is that this groups’ aspect is that they have not experienced a pre-web age. Why this classification annoys me is that these digital natives (a term coined by Marc Prensky) are supposed to have special insights into technology. Let me give an analogy: While I was born during the age of the automobile this does not make me competent to talk in depth about the effects of cars on society, our dependence upon fossil fuels or the rise and fall of the car industry.

Last up – before the closing panel was me. I had been asked to talk about the links between social media and the law but I used my time to present some of the interesting points from my latest research into attempts by municipalities to regulate social media through policies. Its a work in progress and yesterday I addressed the concept of the municipality lawyer being negative to social media in a talk entitled Law is simple, people are not. Slides below

One of the things we were asked in the panel was whats up next? What will we be doing with social media today and in the future. What is post-social media? All in all it was a very good meeting. Lots of interesting people and discussions. I am looking forward to the next time.

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