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Blog 9: Political Involvement

Online Political Communication Enhances “Real Life” Political Communication: Simply A Catalyst

While I understand my peers opinions on politics online, I think social networking and the Internet are simply a catalyst/grassroots effort for involvement in the “real world”.  It’s easy to simply like “Save Darfur” and “Free Libya” but its the actions users take afterward that define their political involvement.  Do they like a page, read relevant news stories and posts, and then actively talk about the issues in the public sphere?  This is where “real” political involvement steps in.

It’s too hard to separate the involved from the uninvolved on an internet site.  It’s the substance of the site, rather than the forum that activates political involvement.  Sites and Facebook pages that go beyond simply liking or following an issue and call for interaction are political forums, but the action need to be taken beyond the internet. The Libyan Republic’s website is simply a venue to display their overall messages that they take into the streets of the revolution.  As we saw in the video in class today, social networking informs the public, but it takes movement on the streets to make a change.  

A prime example of this is Khaled Kamel, a Egyptian student who has taken a large role in the revolution.  Here’s an anecdote of how Facebook got him into the revolution:

Last summer, businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by cops. A Facebook page entitled “We Are All Khaled Said” was created by an anonymous administrator. Kamel joined the Facebook group and became one of its lead organizers. He got to know the group’s administrator online, and the two began an e-mail conversation.  Now Kamel is actively involved in the revolution.

Facebook and Twitter are an “easy sacrifice” but political actions need to move beyond them:

A spokesperson for the Save Darfur Coalition told Newsweek, “We wouldn’t necessarily gauge someone’s value to the advocacy movement based on what they’ve given. This is a powerful mechanism to engage this critical population. They inform their community, attend events, volunteer. It’s not something you can measure by looking at a ledger.”

Implications of Online Political Communication on Democracy

The first major implication of online political communication is that non-participants are motivated to act IF they receive the right information.  On a negative side, these “non-participants” may feel that liking a page/following a Twitter account is enough to warrant political involvement; this only leads to laziness and harms politics in the public sphere.  These pages must motivate them to share and act, whether that be researching an issue or calling their Congressmen.

This political forum can also fuel and reinforce political beliefs – users socialize with those like them.  This eliminates the challenging viewpoints that a democracy brings and somehow this needs to be tackled.

Lastly, more people are engaged with these pages (and willingly do so), which can have a positive effect on our current culture.  Citizens can easily avoid the news, but if social networks can get them to voluntarily “like” and increase overall involvement, they are a positive catalyst for society.

Here’s an interesting piece on how former President George W. Bush could have provided a forum for political action in the 2008 election.  Follow the link due to video uploading issues.

  1. April 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    So, what is the “right” information that motivates non-participants to act? Can participants be motivated by “wrong” information? And do online political actions by non-participants (e.g., liking a Facebook page) actually harm the public sphere?

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