Democracy is the road to
socialism social media, declared Karl Marx. In a sign of the times, it’s social media that could infact lead us closer than ever to reaching true democracy.
The reach if not power and influence of digital including social media is starting to be recognised, especially with the UK General Election 2015 taking place on 7 May. Citizens are now making everyday decisions in ways never before possible using evolving and ever more accessible tools and technology, which is why the run-in to election day and its aftermath will offer opportunity and challenge.
Regardless of whether you define digital democracy as promoting participation of all citizens in the creation of laws, increasing scrutiny, empowering marginalised communities to more effectively defend their rights , or use of digital technology to place your vote , what we can agree on is that this election is different. We may not be ready for Nesta’s prediction of the creation of the UK’s first e-political party but change is happening, now. Welcome to the General E-lection 2015.
Not convinced? Here’s 15 in ’15. That is, 15 digital opportunities in 2015 to help inform your opinions and make sure your voice is heard:
1. Register to Vote – deadline to register to vote in the general election is 20 April 2015: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote;
2. Find, Connect With and Challenge your local candidates through hustings listed on meetyournextmp.com (all contact details including Twitter handles are also accessible) – use the site’s contact form if you’d like more info;
3. Get Social – use the postcode search function on Social Media Surgery Plus to find nearby support and advice on social media. Other opportunities are available – follow Blether And Blogger’s next post to get more details about a range of similar opportunities in Dundee;
4. Insight – about how social media will be used in an attempt to influence votes: www.gtecmedia.co.uk/political-strategy.htm;
5. Follow Forecasts – such as www.electionforecast.co.uk (@Election4castUK on Twitter); or download the VoteBee app which tracks emotional opinions of the electorate in the run-up to the election (read more):
6. Swipe to Like – learn which local candidates’ opinions you are most in tune with based solely on selecting or rejecting their (anonomysed) tweets. It’s Tinder for Politics. Swipe right to like, left to dislike. Simple: www.getvotr.uk;
7. Surprise Yourself – disrupt your habits by comparing how your priorities actually fit Party promises. Pick from:
8. Attend #HolyroodTweetUp – ‘a regular and informal gathering for people who like tweeting about Scottish Democracy and Politics …and in this case watch televised political debate!’ Follow the #HolyroodTweetup hashtag on Twitter;
9. Bite the Ballot – Leaders Live presents opportunity for young people to put questions to Party Leaders directly, completely live and online. Described by Prospect Magazine as potentially ‘a new social media-based blueprint for political interviews…on a deeper level than mainstream debate shows like Question Time…‘ Follow the #LeadersLive hashtag on Twitter for more;
10. Go Hyperlocal – set up a blog or search for a hyperlocal blogger. Read more about getting hyperlocal via talkaboutlocal.org.uk;
11. After the Election – find your current MP including any details of their parliamentary career where relevant via either or both www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps and www.theyworkforyou.com;
12. Sign an E-petition or contribute to a consultation – think beyond the election and add your name to a cause you believe in by signing a petition on www.38degrees.org.uk or www.change.org. You can petition the UK Government directly, though The Guardian have their own thoughts on that. And besides the Scottish Government’s new consultation hub you can also share opinion through your local authority, such as for me Dundee City Council’s Consultations and Surveys page;
13. Go Play – OpenDataScotland.org encourages people to play with the data on offer so that you can better understand what data actually is and how it can be used as well as offering opportunity for innovative digital services;
14. Digital culture will become a part of daily life as digital technologies accelerate opening up more accessible experiences, say Nesta. Interact and play with experiences such as Democracy Street, a public-art project Artist Jon Adams is launching that will create unique maps to help celebrate the UK’s democratic heritage, develop participants’ creative skills, and inspire greater interest in today’s democratic processes. Visit democracystreet.com and follow @democracyst on Twitter for more detail;
15. And finally, you could help fund a campaign or movement close to your heart: www.crowdfunder.co.uk;
This is about more than one person one vote, Democracy is reinventing and redefining itself. Digital media can offer society the opportunity – and perhaps motivation, to more openly debate or share information. Old ways won’t open new doors. If you have other suggestions or thoughts then please add comment.
16. Rate the ITV Leaders’ Debate – Interact with the ITV News Leaders’ Debate in real time on 2 April, agreeing or disagreeing with each leader as they’re speaking live, via ITV;
17. Voter Power Index – Ranks your vote against the national average, claiming most citizens have ‘little or no power to influence the outcome of the election.
Take it easy
With thanks to James Baster for offering impartial discussion and direction which helped shape my thinking ahead of this post.