This evening the Shadow Chancellor will deliver a lecture on ‘Politics and Media in the Internet Age’. Download a pdf of the full address.
George identifies four main themes of the ‘internet age’:
- "Google-isation" where people can access quantities of information that were once the preserve of exclusive professions: "Each day seven and a half million Americans use the internet to get health information – more than double the number who visit a doctor. They are investigating their symptoms, swapping notes with other patients, comparing experiences of different drugs. They no longer think doctor knows best. And they may be right. Last week there was a story that the diagnosis provided by Google is often more accurate than the diagnosis of an average GP. Why are we so surprised? Doctors have been estimated to carry 2 million facts in their heads to help them to diagnose disease. But Google gives patients access to over 3 billion medical articles, completely reversing the balance of information." Earlier today I noted George Osborne’s very welcome application of this phenomenon and his commitment to
create a ‘Follow the Money’ website that will produce real public scrutiny of government
- The rise of online networks: He mentions networks like MySpace before describing America’s MoveOn.org political network: "If you had logged onto Moveon.org last Tuesday, tapped in a ZipCode, you would have been directed to the nearest house where you could go to make phone calls on behalf of Democrat candidates. 6,921,000 such calls were made via the website." Forget CCHQ’s old Geneva Call Centre. This is the kind of Skype/ home phone-based network that Lord Ashcroft should be investing in today!
- User-generated content: "700 million videos are viewed on YouTube every week. The size of the blogosphere is doubling every 230 days. One million photos are up-loaded onto Flickr, the on-line photo album, every day… In the recent US elections some candidates were followed around with a video camera 24 hours a day. The moment they said something stupid or lost their temper the video clip was posted on YouTube. That’s what happened to George Allen, who went from presidential front-runner to losing the Virginia Senate seat." Howard Flight had some experience of an early manifestation of this phenomenon before the last General Election…
- The wisdom of crowds: "A study last year by Nature magazine looked at a sample of entries on science and found that Wikipedia’s entries had only four errors to Britannica’s three, and of course they could be corrected in minutes instead of waiting for a reprint. What is more, Wikipedia has over a million entries – more than ten times Britannica’s – so in many cases it’s a question of facts versus no facts at all." George will say that "In my Party’s current policy review we are certainly taking a much more open approach. The on-going work of the different review groups is posted on our websites. The public are invited to take part and submit their views. And they do." This is perhaps the weakest component of George’s otherwise excellent speech. The policy groups are not running a particularly open policy review process. I know that the Social Justice Policy Group is moving to a blog-like format but most policy groups are using their sites to publish material. There is no Wiki-style policy formation taking place.