It’s hard (for me anyway) to not continually reflect on technology and emerging behaviors–and how that cycle manifests in the next technological development. I was reading Citizen Marketers today and the authors mentioned McLuhan’s remarks about the political changes resulting from the widespread introduction of television. This got me to the larger implications of the subtle changes in our culture from these amazing news tools and systems of connecting. In particular, I was thinking about how the incredible democratization of social media is threatening to seriously change the political arena. We saw how Obama effectively used social media to reach a new voting population. We also see him intensively using television communication—more frequently than any administration before him. (That is not a value judgment, just an observation.)
It struck me that politicians of both affiliations should prefer traditional media, not just because they are ‘digital immigrants’ (thank you Marc Prensky) and don’t get it. They should prefer mass media sources to social media and the Internet for the simple fact that they can better control their own message and other information flows that do or do not support their opinions. When applying social media in marketing, obviously you have to consider the implications of the energy generated by citizen coalitions and collective intelligence. What are politicians but marketers? But they are marketers with the power to change the rules of the game.
This line of reasoning makes me think was that it wouldn’t be altogether surprising for legislators to decide it’s a good idea to impose controls on the Internet, new media, mobile media and social media. Let’s get the FCC involved in the guise of protecting the public (usually our children) from “bad stuff.” Politicians generally launch these campaigns based on very little solid research but with a lot of whipped up fear.
We can (and should) certainly debate whose job it is to set standards and responsibility. That is a separate issue. Here I was more thinking along the lines that political careers are heavily invested in controlling information. Whether or not to regulate new media technologies is an argument where politicians should recuse themselves because it is in their best self-interest to control information flows–and they know it. Since that isn’t very likely to happen, we need to be especially vigilant when politicians get all fired up over issues that restrict freedom of speech and access to information.