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Politics Online (Read 15066 times)
freediver
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Politics Online
Apr 16th, 2007 at 9:48am
 
I just finished reading a book called "Politics Online" by Richard Davis (2005). He explored the role of online political forums, blogs, chat rooms and emailing lists in modern democracy. The main question he sought to answer was whether the online community is representative of the wider community and whether there were any risks in using the responses to current events given online as a gauge of community interst and views. He looked at the differences between the community, web users, forum readers ('lurkers') and people who actually post. He found that posters are over-represented by young, male, single, conservative, well educated people who rent. Thus caution should be used by politicians and the media in interpretting what they see online. Hopefully a lot of these differences between forum users and the broader community are due to the 'newness' of the web and will disappear over time. He also noted some interesting differences between lurkers and posters, though this may just be due to their familiarity with the internet and how long they have been using it for.

He also looked at some other problems and potential solutions, so that the internet could see greater use for direct or deliberative democracy. The biggest problem he found was a tendency towards personal attack, and also a tendency to talk through people and use forums to announce your views rather than discuss them. One possible solution he suggested was removing anonymity. However, he acknowledged earlier in the book [page 65] that flamers are actually less likely to be anonymous, perhaps because they want to get attention and build up a reputation.

A lot of his stats were from usenet in 1996 and 1998 and from groups with a strong focus on American Politics. Usenet is unmoderated, which explains the personal attacks. I only checked it out within the last few years and got the imrpession that most members were trolls. However, before 2000 it may have been representative of online forums.

Another of his suggestions was of course the use of moderators, though he did acknowledge the risk of censorship. Even moderation may not be enough, as it does not create the same level of accountability that real-world social networks provide. That is, you can get away with far more without having people stop talking to you. For example, while I hope I provide a reasonable mdoerating role for OzPolitic, someone could come in, wind everyone up, get banned and then move on to another forum or come back under a different name. Another potential role he suggested for moderators was to keep topics on track and encourage greater referencing, as one downside he noted was the tendency to change topic rapidly, not spend enough time on any given topic and not back up claims.

He also tried to come up with ways of creating online public space and suggested government control or cooperation between several private sponsors. He tried to describe what such 'ideal public space' would be like.

One problem he mentioned frequently was the tendency for online groups to fragment, due to the ease with which new forums can be created. This can lead to people only talking to those they agree with. However, this is just as much a problem in real life. Furthermore, while there may be many highly specialised or narrow forums, many people tend to prefer to congregate in areas for general discussion.

Perhaps the only really useful suggestion he made was to try to encourage 'lurkers' to participate. Apart from directly encouraging them, being less critical and more welcoming of newcomers would help with this. Another good suggestion was encouraging learning and the willingness to learn through 'education corenrs'. Politicians and public officials frequently complain that people commenting to them are not educated enough. I hope that I have helped to enable this with the articles on green tax shifts, electoral reform and science and welcome contributions from other people. Another suggestion was the use of rolling surveys. Polls obviously weren't that common when he did his research. Another idea was participation by public officials.

One salient point he made was that the new technology, with all it's drawbacks and potential benefits, may not make all that much difference. The ability of the internet to change or improve politics will probably come down to the same human traits that have limited other real world endeavors.
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« Last Edit: Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:00am by freediver »  

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Re: Politics Online
Reply #1 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:19am
 
"He found that posters are over-represented by young, male, single, conservative, well educated people who rent."

Is that really true? I read the other day that females outnumber males on the internet.
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« Last Edit: Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:46am by Christian »  

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Re: Politics Online
Reply #2 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:36am
 
He said the same thing. By internet use, females outnumber males, but not by the use of political forums. He didn't say how they compared for other types of forums. Again, that may be just usenet, which is not a very 'friendly' place.

From page 72:

Frequency of online discussion (%) Male Female

daily                            7 5
3-5 days per week        9 6
1-2 days per week      10 8
once every few weeks 10 8
less often                   15 11
don't discuss               50 61

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Re: Politics Online
Reply #3 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:50am
 
Political forums do tend to be dominated by obnoxious and belligerent Conservative types and they do tend to scare people off, particularly females who do not wish to engage in typical alpha-male hostilities.
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Re: Politics Online
Reply #4 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:56am
 
I think OzPolitic has far more males than females.

One of the most interesting stats was the dearth of Democrat supporters. Maybe it was something to do with Lewinsky. Any ideas?The high incidence of independent supporters could be explained by the tendency for extremists to go online and the flaws in America's democracy.

from page 114

Party affiliation (%)  Posters  Lurkers  General Public
Rep                     32 26 29
Dem                    
2
30 34
Ind                     33 30 37
no preference         7  9  0
other                      1  0  0
don't know/refused  0  4  0
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Re: Politics Online
Reply #5 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 11:35am
 
The fact that people only ever refer to the 2 major parties is a prime example of flawed American democracy. The fact that 3rd parties continue to get short shrift needs to be addressed.

As for Monica Lewinski, I do not think anyone is seriously factoring her in to their voting decisions. That's so old news and has nothing to do with current US politics.

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Re: Politics Online
Reply #6 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 11:40am
 
That particular stat was first published in 1999. It was from a sample of 202 posters and 672 lurkers.
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Re: Politics Online
Reply #7 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 12:21pm
 
How does one determine the political leanings of lurkers?
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Re: Politics Online
Reply #8 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 12:31pm
 
By asking them I suppose. I think it must be based on people that were approached offline.

It is from the Pew centre for the people and the press. The URL given was: http://www.people-press.org/tech98que.htm, but that is now redirected to the home page.
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Re: Politics Online
Reply #9 - Apr 16th, 2007 at 4:20pm
 
Quote:
Political forums do tend to be dominated by obnoxious and belligerent Conservative types and they do tend to scare people off, particularly females who do not wish to engage in typical alpha-male hostilities


Very interesting observation Christian.
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« Last Edit: Apr 16th, 2007 at 6:34pm by mantra »  
 
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freediver
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Politicians fall behind in cyberspace
Reply #10 - Apr 20th, 2007 at 10:24am
 
http://www.smh.com.au/news/breaking-news/politicians-fall-behind-in-cyberspace/2007/04/19/1176696984681.html

Politicians are lost deep in cyberspace, struggling to reach a new generation of tech-savvy voters through blogs, social networking sites and video-sharing.

In the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama used their websites to launch their 2008 presidential campaigns.

In France, supporters of the main presidential candidates have clashed over policy in the computer game Second Life, a virtual world that has more than two million users. In January, a spat between the far-right and left that featured exploding virtual pigs made a newspaper's front page.

Across the world political candidates have posted profiles on the social websites MySpace and Facebook, even set up offices in Second Life.

But there is a sense it is mostly one-way traffic - from "them" to "us" and analysts say politicians need to expand their online ambitions towards interactivity and user-generated content.

"Governments have been very slow to do this," said Professor Helen Margetts, director of research at the Oxford internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford.

"If you look at governments across the world, there is very little use of Web 2.0 applications (short-hand for the second, more interactive internet age), very little opportunity for citizens to generate content."

To reach an electorate bombarded with messages from the new and old media, politicians will have to make more use of online journals or blogs, and sites such as Facebook and MySpace. They also need to move into video-sharing sites and forums where ideas and policies can be challenged online.

"They haven't been very innovative," Margetts said, adding that old style politics of knocking on doors to recruit members and spread the word is no longer valid.



Anarchy of distance

http://theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21600944-28737,00.html?from=public_rss

The downside is that Web 2.0 may be destroying civilisation. That, at least, is the view of Andrew Keen, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and author.

He has written The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture, which argues that the web is an anti-enlightenment phenomenon, a destroyer of wisdom and culture and an infantile, Rousseau-esque fantasy.

"It's the cult of the child," he says. "The more you know, the less you know. It's all about digital narcissism, shameless self-promotion. I find it offensive."

British-born Keen is not alone in feeling queasy. Last month a report by American psychologists, titled Inflated Egos Over Time, suggested that social-networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube were promoting damagingly high - and illusory - levels of self-esteem among teenagers.

In Britain's The Times, Oliver Kamm accused bloggers of "poisoning debate".

"Blogs," he wrote, "typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide."

Web prophets tend to celebrate this revolutionary transformation in straight libertarian terms: it gives people freedom. But simple libertarianism is a meaningless and easy creed. It takes little or no account of Isaiah Berlin's crucial distinction between "freedom to" and "freedom from", the latter requiring external controls of the individual.

Or, as Kris Kristofferson put it rather more resonantly: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

In fact, the problem of blog abuse, which is now seen as damaging the entire medium, has led some of the most senior web prophets to dilute dumb libertarianism. Tim O'Reilly, entrepreneur and uber-blogger, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, have come up with a six-point code of conduct for blogs.

Psychologists have long been aware that the more people are distanced from each other, the easier they find it to do them harm. This degrades bloggery. But, more important, it also threatens all forms of authority.

Freedom has its uses. I'm a blogger, and I say what I like. But, in the end, Web 2.0 will only be good for us if, somehow, it succeeds in evolving towards an identity-based discourse. All else is mere anarchy.



Direct democracy in Australia

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1175406277

the need for political parties

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1173261822/0

Should preference voting be disabled

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1176974719

Republic discussion vs Monarchy (?)

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1174963616

A different Political System  ?

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1175233421

Liberals trying to gag voters..sneaky deceitful.

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1175730573

Rock Enrol

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1171784399

Politics Online

http://ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1176680937
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« Last Edit: Apr 23rd, 2007 at 1:07pm by freediver »  

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freediver
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Is this a good idea?
Reply #11 - Oct 16th, 2007 at 3:40pm
 
The 2007 Australian election was recently announced and a
new completely on-line based political party is running for election to
the Australian Senate. Senator On-Line will give Australian residents
eligible to vote a chance to vote in on-line polls for every piece of
legislation that comes to the Senate. The senator will then blindly vote
in accordance with the majority. The party has no position on anything
until it is voted on and has been approved by the Australian Electoral
Commission as a legitimate party. The party will be running two
candidates in each Australian state.


Not sure if this is a good idea. If this group obtains a balance of power then every bill that comes before parliament will be voted on by a very small percentage of the population, exposing it to scare campaigns, minority influence etc. By voting for this party you are voting for a person whose policies are totally unpredictable.

On the upside, it could be a way to achieve a far more direct democracy without any changes to the constitution. However I suspect that for direct democracy reforms to work they would need constitutional support due to the resources required. The form of direct democracy it proposes is unsuitable as it ignores the fundamental tradeoff between individual effort and accuracy of representation - it takes it to the opposte extreme of what we have now.

http://www.senatoronline.org.au/

Senator On-Line is Australia's only Internet based democratic political party.

Senator On-Line is not aligned to any other political party… it is neither Liberal nor Labor.

Senator On-Line (‘SOL’) is a truly democratic party which will allow everyone on the Australian Electoral roll who has access to the internet to vote on every Bill put to Parliament and have its Senators vote in accordance with a clear majority view.

We will be running candidates for the upcoming federal Upper House (Senate) elections.

When a SOL senator is elected a web site will be developed which will provide:

Accurate information and balanced argument on each Bill and important issues
The vast majority of those registered on the Australian Electoral roll the chance to have their say by voting on bills and issues facing our country

A tally of all votes which will then count in Parliament

Each person on the Australian Electoral roll will be entitled to one vote and only be allowed to vote once on each bill or issue.

SOL senators will have committed in writing to voting in line with the clear majority view of the SOL on-line voters.

Senator On-Line will enable broader community involvement in the political process and the shaping of our country.

If you like the concept, please register your details and tell others about SOL.

This is the pre-election website. To find out what will be available when SOL wins a Senate seat click here.



Internet not a force for Aussie pollies

http://news.smh.com.au/internet-not-a-force-for-aussie-pollies/20080201-1pi4.html

Some dubbed last year's federal poll the internet election, but research shows the net still has far to go in shaping the fortunes of parliament.

A study by the Australian Centre for Public Communication of the University of Technology Sydney has found that a significant number of politicians didn't use the internet during last year's federal election campaign.

Only two out of three sitting federal members and senators had a personal website leading into the election campaign and only one in 10 had a MySpace page.

The study also revealed only 6.6 per cent had a blog, 5.75 per cent had posted one or more videos on YouTube, 3.5 per cent had a Facebook site and only 3.1 per cent had a podcast, as at 20 November 2007.

But of those that did find their way online, a large percentage failed to go beyond traditional one-way communication.

The study highlighted the Labor Party's Kevin07 web presence, which it said was a watershed in election campaigning.

But the study went on to say that close analysis revealed much of the ALP's online communication remained controlled and packaged.

"Malcolm Turnbull was the only one we found who had negative comments posted and he responded to them and engaged in dialogue," Prof Macnamara said.

Another highlight of the federal election campaign was the rise of online political satire, particularly on websites such as YouTube.

"In this election we saw spoofs and satires being made very regularly," Dr Macnamara said.

"(But) rather then dismissing them, are they not genuine political discussion?"

"For the people that make them, if that expresses their political views and how they feel maybe that's part of the political debate."
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« Last Edit: Feb 1st, 2008 at 12:57pm by freediver »  

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