February 28, 2009

Web 2.0 Means New Questions For Political Candidates

IN THE old days when you ran for office, the local newspaper would invite you to appear before their editorial board. Three to five journalists would gather around a wooden conference room table and with pens and notepads ready, they'd fire questions at you. Normally those questions were limited to inquiries as to your top priorities if elected. After about 45 minutes of grilling the session ended, everyone shook hands and the candidate would leave thinking, "why didn't I say this, why didn't I use that example" - and the next candidate would show up for her interview.

But with the advent of Web 2.0 and social networking (social media) along with the lessons learned from the Obama campaign, it's time to ask a new series of questions of candidates.

The new questions center around social media - specifically, for instance, a candidate might be asked, "once elected, how would you use social media to strengthen Democracy, improve public sector transparency, expand civic participation and generally create a situation where the people have a stake - a voice - in the future.

For those of you who might be new to the idea of "social media," Wikipedia defines it as: "primarily Internet - and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM)."

Social media comes in many different forms, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Examples include Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook , YouTube, Second Life, Flickr, and Twitter.

With that in mind, here are some questions you and/or editorial boards might ask the candidates in your area:

1. How do you use social media in your campaign? If so, how?

2. How do you think social media can change governance? If so, how?

3. How do you intend to use social media if you are elected?

4. What are the biggest issues facing your jurisdiction and is there an opportunity to solve those problems through social media?

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