Power to the People: Democratizing Democracy with Social Media

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Until somewhat recently I stayed as far from politics as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a very politically engaged household and always ensure I am aware and educated on issues so that I can responsibly exercise my privilege to vote.

In November 2008 that changed.

Like so many people I sat on election night watching with great elation as Barack Obama powered his way into an historic Presidency (one that’s now carrying a whole new level of historic markings, unfortunately), but I couldn’t be happy. In between watching the national election results, I had one eye on the numbers for Proposition 8 and watched as the rights so recently given to me by the California State Supreme Court were being yanked away.

Don’t worry this isn’t yet another rant about the loss on Proposition 8. I’m well over that by now, and have – like many others – found myself newly minted into the world of political activism; an experience that is for me fueled largely by technology.

The debacle of Prop 8 served as fuel to the fire, inspired and motivated an entire new generation of activists who, given new tools and platforms, exercise their voices and engage in one of the most critical aspects of moving the needle for the LGBT community when it comes to equal rights – and that is personal stories.

So that’s the big picture for how social technologies are playing into politics, but what about the day-to-day side of things? Increasingly governments from local municipalities to major federal agencies are dancing, wrestling and otherwise negotiating their way through how these new applications and networks can play into civic engagement.

In one of the most hotly contested District Supervisor races in San Francisco’s November election, the battle for Harvey Milk’s District 8, a collection of candidates are jockeying for position. One candidate, Rebecca Prozan has splashed headfirst into the social media pool leveraging Facebook and Twitter as core aspects of her campaign. In an interview I did with Rebecca for my weekly, online broadcast she talked about the way in which new technologies integrate to traditional campaign techniques and how she’s navigating those waters. She also outlined the way in which San Francisco already is taking advantage of these same platforms for law enforcement and to keep citizens safe. Here’s a link to that archived broadcast (her interview is 13 minutes in.)

At the end of the day, even in politics it’s about the people and the connections between them. With some more use and responsible stewardship, social applications, networks and platforms could well become precisely the spackle necessary to smooth the chinks in the broken asphalt of our Democracy.

About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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