As foreshadowed in May, MySpace has launched its Impact channel, which sits within MySpace and features a range of Australian politicians (among other things). I set up a MySpace site a month or so ago, which will be amongst those featured on Impact. There is a formal ‘offline’ media launch in Sydney, which I won’t be at as I’m travelling around far north Queensland this week.
Impact is being marketed as a “new channel designed to empower politicians, non-profits and civic organisation to connect with the online community, and empower MySpace users to make a difference in the world.” Anything which attempts to genuinely engage more people with the political process, and vice versa, is worth trying, and I’m happy to support it. However, I’m not sure just how much extra ’empowerment’ it will provide to MySpace users. I think it’s also an open question about whether it be of much help to most Australian politicians, (not that politicians probably need any more ’empowerment’ themselves).
Something new isn’t going to work just because it’s new – at least not beyond the initial novelty value. It will only work if it’s useful and meaningful for the people it’s aimed at. I’ve seen regular articles appear in the mainstream media for years now, talking about how blogging will be the next weapon in Australian politics, and how savvy politicians are already turning to it, etc etc. Despite that, until Labor Senator Mark Bishop started one up a couple of months ago, I hadn’t seen another effort at a genuine blog by a federal politician in the three years since I started this one. It doesn’t make me cooler than any other politician, just because I’ve had a blog for so long. Rather, it probably shows that it’s actually not a terribly valuable political tool (at least for politicians wanting to win votes), because otherwise plenty of others would be doing it.
MySpace has quite a young readership (although not exclusively), and I’m not sure the nature of Australian politics will suit its informal style. But it could well be that I don’t really ‘get’ MySpace – it wouldn’t be the only thing about human communication I don’t ‘get’, so it will be interesting to see what its impact is.
Any method of communicating is worth a try, but these both seem to operate (so far) mainly as networking sites rather than sources of substantial information and communication in their own right. I can see how they could be of more value in the USA. As was noted in this piece, Australian politics is quite different, with its compulsory voting, rigid party discipline and centralised party fundraising.
However, these sites are also organic to some extent, so maybe they will develop a value and life of their own. And as I mentioned, maybe it’s a great new way to empower the populace, and I just don’t get it yet.
PS: A little bit more blurb from the MySpace folks about what the Impact channel is meant to be about:
The new channel will enable the community to learn more about the candidates, experience the political process online and offline, and uncover issues and organisations relevant to their lives.
What will be on the Channel?
- Voter registration tool
- Links to all politicians that have come on board
- Candidate-created content
- Links to environmental projects – Planet Ark
- Deadly Impact – relates to Indigenous affairs