The 2007 Federal elections were the first in Australia to engage with the Web 2.0 world of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, twittering and Wikipedia. These elections sorted the networkers out from the broadcasters when it comes to engaging with MySpace and Facebook. The Howard Government (www.myspace.com/howardgovernment) (which is labelled Liberal and not Coalition) MySpace site shows that the Liberal Party has only nine friends. The site is now relegated to archival use, due to it being labelled the “Howard Government”, perhaps a symptom of the problems that led to the downfall of the Coalition.
In contrast, the Official Labor Space (www.myspace.com/officiallaborspace) has Kevin Rudd with over 23,000 friends. Howard refused to enter Facebook while Kevin reached his limit of 5000 friends within two weeks, started a fan page and a group, “I want to be Kevin’s friend too”.
Political parties of the future need to realise that social networking sites will be the equivalent of party membership today.
The challenge John Howard rightly identified was the commercial nature of these sites. It didn’t stop him from appearing on commercial television. But of course our TVs don’t have those annoying Smilie voices inviting us to click our way to spam oblivion.
On YouTube we have channels for The Liberal Party (http://au.youtube.com/user/liberalparty07) with 40 videos, Australian Labor (http://au.youtube.com/user/australianlabor) with 60 videos. Australian Democrats (http://au.youtube.com/australiandemocrats) with 32 videos, Australian Greens (http://au.youtube.com/australiangreens) 39 videos, Family First (http://au.youtube.com/familyfirst) 27 videos. Unfortunately for the Greens the number of videos didn’t translate into votes.
It’s early days for these political channels. What we’re seeing here is the dominance of talking heads low on entertainment value and little that will ignite creative and constructive feedback. What I’m hoping is that in between elections we’ll see these channels used to ask questions of the public rather than fire shots at the oppositions. Web 2.0 after all is about members of the public creating culture together rather than consuming broadcast messages.
Speaking of consuming, one of the most popular videos of Kevin Rudd shows his analysis of ear wax. 370,503 people have seen the newmedia video of Kevin Rudd chewing his earwax on YouTube. Not to mention the 531,070 views of the Quez Time version since it was uploaded in October.
Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube
Spin doctors should have pointed out that Kevin Rudd was clearing his ears to listen to the concerns of Australian working families. No? OK you’re right. When you’re in a hole stop digging.
Not many people have heard of, let alone used, Twitter, the mini blogging/messaging service in which people share one sentence answers to the question, “What am I doing now?” Someone thought it would be a good idea for Kevin Rudd (http://twitter.com/kevinrudd) and John Howard (http://twitter.com/johnhoward). The unauthorized Twitter channels had Rudd writing, ““Thinking about toilet papering Kirribilli House. Who’s with me?” and Howard responding with, “Have alerted security at Kirribilli House to keep an eye out for Harry Potter and his little band of toilet paper toting miscreants.”
Speaking of identity theft it’s time to look at identity formation on Wikipedia. The Prime Minister’s office hit the news in August when it was revealed that computers there had been used to remove the words, “AKA Captain Smirk” from Peter Costello’s page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Costello). Political fame, or fame of any sort, leaves us vulnerable to the whims of private historians. That’s the way it is.
I believe that the most interesting development during this election was the growth of political advertising outside that of the political parties. We’ve had union advertising on our televisions and in our newspapers for a long time. Now we’re seeing a ground swell of activist organizations such as Get Up Australia (http://getup.org.au) entertainers such as Chasers War on Everything and individual satirists such as Hugh Atkin (Chairman Kevin).
Getup Australia earlier this year launched ‘Oz in 30 Seconds’, a call to arms (or digital video cameras, actually) to create, rate and air television ads that promote a better, fairer, more progressive Australia. 10 finalists were chosen from the 160 entries. The finalist’s entry, “This is what we Australi-are”, challenged viewers to reconsider priorities when naming and expressing values.
The wave of user-generated political advertising is likely to continue in 2008, 2009 and 2010. We’re moving into an era in which consumers move to become custodians, collecting the creative works of others online, and creators, developing collaborative and individual works of art in response to today’s issues. We’ll see right wing, left wing and centrist approaches to Australian life. We’ll see a broadening range of ethnic and age-related voices. Hopefully, now this election is over, we’ll be able to get over the personality driven obsession with opinion polls that narrowly focused on John and Kevin.
This is a revised version of an article originally written for Transit Lounge before the election.