Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy


The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and the ICT4D Collective and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London convened a session on Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy (#SocMed4Dem) on 15th March at the ICTD2012 conference hosted by Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

This began with a debate on the motion that This house believes that the use of mobile supported social media is an effective means of promoting democracy.  Breakfast planning, led to a slight change of schedule!  So, the session began with Mario Maniewicz (Chief of Department, Enabling Environment and E-applications, ITU) providing an overview of some of the issues surrounding this complex subject.  Then the debate began in earnest.  Katrin Verclas (Co-Founder and Editor of MobileActive.org) set the ball rolling arguing vehemently in favour of the motion, to be followed by a sound rebuttal by Adam Salkeld (Head of Programme, Tinopolis).  Then the real challenge – both for me and the audience!  To balance things up, I filled in the gap by seconding the motion in favour – even though I would have preferred to speak against the motion.  Half way through, when I was arguing that anarchy is the only true form of democracy, I suddenly realised that one might say things that one does not necessarily actually mean when one is debating.  My short intervention should have had a health warning!  And the debate concluded with a brilliant tour-de-force by Alan Fisher (Senior Correspondent, Washington DC, al Jazeera).  After numerous interventions from the floor, the final vote (including contributions by Tweets) was 21 in favour and 19 against!  Thanks to Caitlin Bentley so much for video streaming the debate and managing the Twitter feed!

After the ‘refreshments’ break, we broke up into small discussion groups, each chaired by one of the speakers, to explore the policy implications of four of the most important themes to emerge from the debate: access (chaired by Mario), privacy and security (chaired by Katrin), the relevance of historical sociology of technology and democracy (chaired by Adam), and ICTs against democracy: the ‘dark side’ (chaired by Alan).

The mind map below provides a summary of the fascinating discussions as presented in the final closing plenary.

Click on the image for a large sized (readable) version!

Video of the debate

Caitlin Bentley has compiled a ‘story’ of the #SocMed4Dem debate at #ICTD2012 at http://storify.com/cbentl2/mobiles-social-media-and-democracy

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