Wednesday, May 20, 2009

picamp - Political Innovation Camp - time to bring the lurkers into the conversation?

picamp logo

You’d think that the Scouts had taken over the world! What with BarCamp, Creative Camp, Tech Camp, Measurement Camp ... it’s a wonder that we’re all not permanently living under canvas.

Next Tuesday afternoon, it is the turn of picamp.

“[Political Innovation Camp] is a conversational event, designed to promote a more conversational politics. It is promoted by Slugger O'Toole. We're looking for people with clever 'gamechanging' ideas - disruptive suggestions that can change the political landscape in a small or a big way. Come along, pitch your idea, ask others to help you finesse it and take it forward with you.”

You can sign up over at their website, and find out more about the ideas that are brewing up for sessions:

  • What happens to politics when the mainsteam media stops doing journalism?
  • How citizen photographers and journalists can alter politics ie directly influence politicians and their policies
  • Removing the obstacles - getting government involved in the conversation

Personally, I wonder what it would take to empower the invisible band of politically interested to uncloak? What would allow us lurkers into the conversation?

“Don’t talk about politics or religion.”

For a long time, local society seems to have been divided into those who breached this rule, and those who stuck by it. Even on a site like Slugger O’Toole that has done much to lower the entry bar to talk about politics, there are many more lurkers than commenters!

I suspect few people are truly “politically neutral”. I sometimes use that phrase to describe myself, but the reality is that while my views cannot be represented by one single party, I am an avid follower of politics, the political system and individual politicians. I’m politically interested, and keen on the idea of sustaining civil society, but shy of practising that hobby in public.

But it’s pretty rare for me to poke my head above the parapet and get stuck into a comment thread on Slugger. It’s feels like being in P5 and trying to join in the P7’s breaktime football match in the school playground. It’s a bit rough, my moves aren’t as mature and well though out as the big boys, and being that bit taller they look over my head and don’t really know I’m there. (Notethat it’s a perception, not the whole story, and not peculiar to Slugger ... so no ranting about it!)

And while a political event or milestone may occasionally feature in a blog post over on Alan in Belfast, “politics” is one of the lesser used tags, even below “religion”, and I never nail my colours to the mast(s).

But do I really want someone - my employer, a future employer, a neighbour - to google my name and discover that I believe this, that I wonder why that happened, that I’m critical of her saying that, and that I wish the following would happen? (Might be too late!) Somehow political comment is more raw and dangerous than complaining about airlines and the price of tea bags!

So structurally, how can we make the online world more welcoming and accommodating for those who are political, but currently keep it hidden? How can we widen out the conversation to listen to more voices? What can be done to forums and blogs and meetups to allow us wishy washy liberal scaredy cats to feel safe to join in? Never mind what can be done to encourage engagement in the real-life world.


Anonymous said...

I think it is more difficult than that here in Norn Iron. I have lost family members who stuck their head above the trenches to wave at their neighbours on the 'other side'. I don't tell anyone who I vote for, let alone take an active part in politics here. There are no parties that truly represent me, so I choose the least bad one. The last thing we need are the Tories crawling their slimy bodies among the undead of the UUP. Good luck with the event, I wish you well. But I won't be there!

Alan in Belfast said...

Thanks for leaving the comment.

Your reality and loss is exactly why I was brought up to abstain from any form of public political opinion or expression.

picamp's also about seeing how our political representatives - good an bad, individual and party - can better engage and communicate with those who vote them in, and those who don't vote too.