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The medium is not the message

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

Blair on YouTubeThere’s been much comment recently about politicians reaching out to the ‘yoof’ vote through sites like YouTube, and Labour’s embarrassing efforts thereon. Why is it that politicians believe that they can reach a politically disaffected youth by doing old things via new media? The problem isn’t that teenagers don’t want to see a speech by Tony Blair on TV, it’s that they don’t want to see a speech by Tony Blair. Sticking it on YouTube doesn’t help.

It’s a lot like Blair’s idea to woo the MTV generation by appearing on, erm, MTV. That, too, was a bizarre idea. People watch MTV for The Osbournes, not for a party political broadcast. The medium is unimportant – if The Osbournes was broadcast via YouTube, it would be as popular as it was on MTV. A party political broadcast is as unappealing on YouTube as it is on the BBC. It isn’t the medium politicians are getting wrong, and trying to hijack a medium won’t get far.

The (relative) success of WebCameron comes from the fact that it does things differently. It allows users to post videos like this without complaint. It engages (albeit somewhat reluctantly) with the blogosphere’s proclivity for awkward questions. In short, it allows people to disagree, mock the site and the system, and hence engage in something resembling a two-way conversation (however staged and controlled it is in reality).

That’s why Labour, who are stuck in the Blairite era of tight media control can’t hack it. They fear nothing more than discussion, debate, and a news cycle with a life of it’s own. So they can’t engage with a youth currently obsessed by the idea of the democratisation of the media. Prepared speeches and crafted videos have no place and hold no interest for this youth, whether on YouTube, their iPod, or the BBC.

One of the great historical strengths of British politics has been the administration’s ability to do almost anything it likes for four or five years, after which they will be judged by the electorate. As the electorate becomes more connected, and the sharing of ideas takes hold, then we enter a new form of democracy, where politicians are judged constantly, and opinions are constantly formed and reformed.

And that’s the real message. People want to be heard, consulted, and involved – through any and all media. The political game has reached a tipping point, and however you disguise old-style politics, it just won’t cut it in the brave new world.

This post was filed under: Politics.

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09:02
10th September 2007.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » The medium is still not the message




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