Networks and Communities: the way the new media have changed us

Open Democracy – Using the Web to Change the World is the title of the panel that took, place on the 27th of September as part of the Web We Want Festival (Southbank Centre, on 27-28 September).

The panel
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
It has concerned the widespread communication via social network and, in general, via the Web.
To communicate means to exchange opinions, ideas and beliefs with the others. Therefore, the question now is: this kind of transmission has actually affected issues such as politics?

Robin Priestley (Campaigns Manager at 38 Degrees), Emma Howard (digital journalism trainee at The Guardian), Ellery Biddle (editor of Global Voices Advocacy), Timothy Karr (Senior Director of Strategy at Free Press), David Steer (Director of Advocacy at the MozillaFoundation), Chi Onwurah MP (Shadow Cabinet Office Minister for digital government and cyber security) were the panellists who took part at the event.
Keiran Pedley (Associate Director at Gfk NOP and political and media commentator with expertise in polling and elections), instead, was present in the role of mediator.

After a brief presentation from everyone, there have been some questions and, afterwards, some other concerns raised by the audience.

From my point of view, as an Italian citizen, the answer to the question if social media are so essential to modern life couldn’t be more obvious.
Five Stars Movement is a political party which raised from the common people and which constantly uses the web as the fundamental mediator among their representatives and the electorate.
Apart from political considerations, this experience has been probably the most emblematic about the actual changes: it has shown to my country how intrusive and unavoidable the networks have become in the modern era.

The opinions of the panellists weren’t too much dissimilar. “Technology and policy are the twin drivers of the progress”, said Chi Onwurah MP.
Whereas, talking about her work, Emma Howard cannot disagree with the fact that the media have changed our thoughts. “There are certainly more exciting ways now to tell a story”, she said.  “But fundamentally for me what is really exciting is the shift in power”, referring to the pressure felt by the reporters as billions of readers now are waiting for journalist’s work every day.

Keiran Pedley started the panel stating that the Web offers many opportunities, but, at the same time, also many challenges.
The agencies, that the people involved today work for, try to enhance wider connections among bloggers, reporters and their audiences. From38 Degrees, which asks to its members for the issue of the next campaign, to GlobalAdvocacy, whose contributes come from different places with unusual and local points of view. From Free Press, with its “Theory of the Change” (“what do you do to make change happening?”, as Timothy Karr explains), to MozillaFoundation, whose aim consists in teaching everyone how to use the Web.

We have the technology and the people are able to use it.
The next step is to recognize this mechanism and take action.