The fate of the state
This week’s readings discussed the idea of new media in relation to politics and government. They touched upon what might happen to the government in years to come as well as how media may influence/ impact on their prospective project plans.
I want to discuss two topics today, one being transparency and the other the role and influence of social media on the government.
Lessig (2010) discusses how the idea of a transparency movement aims to liberate data (especially government) “so as to enable the public to process it and understand it better, or at least differently.” Lessig promotes this idea that the public should actively engage and have access to projects that happen within government as well as how the government uses their personal data.
So does social media allow for more transparency in government?
I’d argue yes but only to some degree. Politician’s use social media devices to portray themselves as accessible and relatable and answering tricky questions that people might ask in an effort to gain their confidence and votes, thus achieving some transparency – that is showing via a public permanent forum that they have nothing to hide. Obama used Twitter during his presidential campaign as a means to create an intimate relationship with the people, which was believed to be a crucial component in his election.
The role of online news outlets have increasingly become more proactive into releasing and exposing government behaviour thus making the government more transparent and accountable to the public.
But is transparency a good thing? Do people need to know everything that happens?
Lessig (2010) argues that there are both positive and negative implications from transparency. He believes that management transparency will improve how the government works due to making government agency performance more measurable through public visibility. Negatively Lessig (2010) states how “systematic understanding can happen as a result of bypassing or misinterpreting important details thus possibly resulting in the public’s trust in the government.
In my opinion, I believe that current technology such as social media gives people a great platform to communicate their thoughts on anything they like, however do I think that everyone deserves equal say about topics? No, because not everyone is informed or educated enough to make a comment on what is happening/ or even protest change for something they do not look the like of (unlike how experts etc are educated and therefore can access/ comment on their fields of expertise). Hence why I believe that total transparency, which is where all government information is publicly visible to society, should not be allowed. I do believe, however, that certain transparency, such as where government funding is spent exactly, to hold the government accountable for their actions.
In relation to my final research project (which explores the role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution), I can see important connections forming between the use of Facebook and Twitter in the revolution by activists and how, as an older institution, the Egyptian government tried to limit and control social media’s use and influence. Many of this week’s readings helped me identify key themes through their exploration of the role of social media in the Occupy Wall Street events which will also help me in my research project.
I think that one of the main focuses of the project will be on how social media gave a voice and a platform to the people that would not have had the chance otherwise because of the repressive government, therefore social media clearly challenged existing political frameworks while the government tried to resist. I need to do some more research into how widely social media was used after the revolution and how much it is accepted by the new government in power.
[online] Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>
[online] Pilkington, Ed (2011) “Anthony Weiner resigns over Twitter photo scandal”, The Gaurdian, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jun/16/anthony-weiner-resigns-twitter-scandal>