Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Stiff Upper Facebook

Canadian expatriate Matthew Fraser has been posting a number of interesting links about this week's election in Britain and the potential influence of Web 2.0 technologies.

The Guardian quotes Fraser in a story that announces its own thesis: "2010: The first social media election."

On Friday, will we be declaring that it was Facebook wot won it? Or Twitter that tipped it? Though the idea seems outlandish – such sentences would have been meaningless during the 2005 election, as Facebook was still restricted then to US university students, and Twitter didn't start until March 2006 – this will very probably be looked back on as the first "social media election".

So what difference, if any, has it made? For a start, if you watched the past three Thursdays' debates on a single screen – just your TV – then you were experiencing the campaign in a past mode, even though the debates are a new format for a British audience. That's because thousands of people, and especially first-time voters, were watching them on two screens: the TV screen and their mobile phone or computer, which they used to monitor and respond on Twitter and Facebook, giving instant reactions to the candidates' appearance, words and policies.

The article acknowledges that social network sites are still not as accurate as time-tested polling methods, because they skew results toward the young, the liberal, members of politically homogeneous groups, and tech-savvy subpopulations. Nonetheless, it looks like Facebook's own election is calling it for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

It will be interesting to see what other speakers at Gov 2.0 will be saying about the race later this month.

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