In a recent interview, Don Waldie, now-retired public information officer for the city of Lakewood, California, reveals some thoughts about the role of social media in politics. On the one hand, Waldie laments that “cities haven’t fully learned how to use digital media” to their full potential. And on the other, that “I’m not convinced that social media creates the relationships that generate true citizenship. At this stage, social media invites little of the depth that leads to the give-and-take of true politics.”
So, what is the challenge we need to solve? More use of social, digital, and new media in politics? Or should we rely on it less, as it creates a false sense of connection between constituents and representatives?
In all likelihood, social media and our reliance on it for news, opinion, and social connection is not going away. We’re going to have to learn to leverage it in the right ways, if we hope to achieve the ideal direct democracy that some have claimed services like Facebook and Twitter offer.
Companies like Momentus Media and Wildfire have already built up a strong presence in the gap between social media networks and politicians (like Jerry Brown in California). Can these services be expanded for Gov 2.0 processes like participatory planning or more systematic dialog between constituents and city officials? It’s going to take innovation on both sides of the isle – public and private – whereby public officials start to understand more about social media’s power, and private companies learn to leverage that power in much more focused ways.