Tuesday 8 September 2009

Generation 1.5: Inactively interactive?

In a fascinating blog post, Steve from the European Parliament web editors shares the feelings of what might be the pre-web 2.0 generation, those already acquainted with the internet in all its forms, but still hesitant to get heavily involved in what is now called "Web 2.0".

And while the article is already an enlightening read, especially taken into account that it is written by a web editor, it also contains notions of generational conflict within the EP web editor family - which is not a bad thing if it results in such paragraphs:
"The pressure is always to be cutting edge, to be doing the latest thing, surfing the latest trend. We need to do that, but we cannot do only that. If our notion of digital democracy is to focus ALL our efforts on Facebook and Twitter (or whatever’s next), we win plaudits from the in-crowd online, but we arguably open up a digital divide of our own, cutting off an otherwise completely sentient crowd of people (I know many of them) who may have heard of Facebook and Twitter, but still think it’s a bit of a waste of time. They exist, yes, they use the internet, and they vote…"
As a standalone paragraph it sounds a little flat, but it fits into the whole article. It fits because it raises the important question whether doing more democracy 2.0 is actually involving more people, or if it is just raising the applause from the "in-crowd" (which many of us in the blogosphere are definitely belonging to), making it sound like reaching a larger share of people, without actually doing so.

I am a little too tired today to further elaborate on the topic, but I'll definitely take it into account when writing my next post on EU politics 2.0 at the Personal Democracy Forum Europe.


Steve said...

Hello Julien,

First, I am delighted to see that we are perceived as a EP "web editor family": it's a nice image and reflects much that is true about how we feel about working together (you know that families aren't always harmonious, right?).

Second, I am interested in your interest. This post was one I hesitated over at some length - yet another symptom of precisely the phenomenon I describe - but decided was worth saying after all. I am still not certain of the conclusion I want to draw. I am really committed to all the social networking/social media we are doing; it has real value, and might, as you suggest elsewhere, be part of the beginning of a real European political space. But I worry at the same time about groupthink. Just as we EU types get wrapped up in our EU world, might we online types also be so self-involved and self-referential, that we forget that a huge proportion of the real world doesn't obsessively log on to Facebook every day? Who are we talking to? We need to keep asking ourselves that question.

Maybe ten years (less?) down the line, such sentiments will appear quaint, the sort of thing one cites to demonstrate just how benighted things were back then, but we live necessarily in the here and now and have to take the world as it is rather than as we would like it to be. Which means we need to cater for people who aren't like us (or who we wish we were) as well as those who are.

That's all really.