Social Media and Democracy- transforming citizenry

This is an emerging phenomena in the industrialized and the developing world, that the information highway is getting more decentralized and ‘democratized’ that the common man has more access to diverse streams of data in order to make an informed political choice. Elections come periodically and the official campaigning for the polls have a limited time period but online political campaigns begin away before. Twitter has started official political twitter accounts for the 2012 presidential polls. With the power of smart phones and facebook, twitter at a push of a tab; social media is transforming citizenry in a way not seen in decades.  Online forums like blogs are the platforms for independent commentators and citizen journalists. These are not checked for authenticity of data unlike the Lesbian Blogger in Damascus who eventually turned out to be a Brit guy!  More often than not, blogs are the only source for videos and other content to escape out of repressive regimes like North Korea and Burma or even Southern Thailand.

Arab Spring and how Social Media was used to organize protests from Tunis to Tahrir to Pearl Square is now a legend.  Some commentators like Malcolm Gladwell, have suggest that protest in the late 1980’s against the communists in the Eastern Bloc were aggregated and triggered in the absence of any technology; emphasis of message over medium. Thats a valid argument; but here is the difference- the flood of credible accessible content as a source of digital activism with real world impact is changing a dormant electorate and making it into an active group of people who dynamically influence policy. The Third Sector- the civil society has gained an amplified voice in this context.  As the world is more than ever living in smaller settlements in cities, with access to the information super-highway, legislative pre-process will be more than ever dynamic. The Corporate-Politician Complex Nexus is increasing being exposed with sting journalism and independent documentary film makers getting a platform to upload their films and getting popular virally.

Now the Medium is amending the message to be more popular. Gen Y does not watch TV anymore, or atleast it watches TV on the internet. Its changing citizenry to be a more active part of governing themselves. This change is for the better instead of depending on a cabal of wise men in the executive branch. Better feedback from Civil Society will make for effective socially constructed bottom up policy implementation.  The 2011 Singapore Parliamentary Polls are case in point of a opposition campaign completely dependent on Social Media for publicity and it did work in patches. The Anna Hazare movement was led by a army of social media volunteers, in order to mobilize the middle class (the author of this post did his tiny bit as well to spread the message), It will be interesting to notice how electoral democracy changes in the coming years in the onslaught of social media. The test case will be the 2012 US elections. More updates in this domain will be coming up.

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