“Digital Democracies: the good, the bad and the OMFG LEAVE ME ALONEs” – Alex Blandford at 300 Seconds
300 Seconds might be primarily about providing more speaking opportunities for women to talk about interesting geeky things, but there is no ban on men talking. And Alex Blandford did. You can also download the full set of my blog posts about the evening — including four exclusive blog posts — as a free ebook for your Kindle, iPhone/iPad or as a PDF.
Alex Blandford, who formerly worked in the digital team at the UK’s Parliament lamented to all too often “digital democracy” means “someone being a bit of a dick to their MP.” There is also a disconnect between the ambition of getting citizens more involved in representative democracy and the fact that something like the Pensions Bill is a really really dull long 94 pages that you need to be a professional to understand and interact with.
Alex suggested that MPs are overwhelmed by email, and that a lot of the tools built on the web to help users contact their MPs are effectively broken. Having worked on TheyWorkForYou a tiny little bit way back in the day, being able to contact MPs by email seems to have gone from a scarcity to a futility in a decade. Alex said some MPs have even changed their email addresses to avoid the deluge of messages and petitions coming out of tools like Change.org. And the email that gets through is carefully filtered by staff who see organised campaigns as just copy and paste with no legitimacy to it. A common attitude among researchers apparently is that “It’s just people on the internet”. Incredibly reminiscent of the Mail Online’s view that two critical messages on a BBC website is evidence of “viewer’s fury” but that thousands of complaints about Jan Moir articles are simply orchestrated Twitter campaigns which can be easily dismissed.
Twitter got a bit of a kicking from Alex as well. It is good for being funny, he said, but it isn’t good for engagement with elected MPs. “The amount of Twitter nasties you get,” he said “is just depressing.” I should add that I slightly disagree here about MPs and Twitter. Walthamstow’s MP Stella Creasy is absolutely aces at it. But Alex made a really good point that people shouldn’t think the quick click of digital democracy and online tools was the only route to their MPs — they still have surgeries which are by far the best way to get their ear, he said.
And for my next trick, my notes on Darci Dutcher talking about the struggles of getting UX to work with Agile…
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