This week’s digital literacy post focuses on the ways that digital media has changed politics, how this impacts Canada’s economy and why businesses need to be paying attention.
To get an in-depth look at this topic, I turned to Troy Wason (@imparo), President of WMS Communications Inc. Wason has over 25 years experience in the political sphere, with a particular focus on digital media, including acting as the social media manager for an Alberta political party during the 2008 provincial election and as communications officer (social media) for a legislative caucus.
According to Wason, digital media has influenced and altered politics in a number of important ways. In particular, political entities, including non-governmental organizations, have profited from the ability to connect with the public instantly, instead of having to depend on traditional methods. Wason says that this widespread availability of digital media has forever changed the way politics is handled because it allows for:
- Two-way discussions between politicians and constituents
- Test messaging by governments with immediate feedback
- Direct opportunities to lead debate rather than follow
- Swift damage control of problematic issues
Wason notes that this shift in the political landscape has somewhat levelled the playing field between the voters and those vying for political power.
“Much to the chagrin of those in leadership roles, the power of digital media and the ensuing engagement brought about by electronic connectivity has also empowered and emboldened the body politic.”
So, how is this impacting the Canadian economy?
Wason points to current debates around copyright, bandwidth throttling and net neutrality as prime examples of digital media’s impact on the economy. These topics have become hot-button issues. While telecommunications companies like Shaw, TELUS and Bell, lobby Industry Canada to protect their financial interests, the Internet community is fighting back to defend the freedom of expression and unlimited access to information the Web provides.
And, what does this mean for businesses?
Bottom line: businesses should be paying attention to and learning from the way political thinkers are leveraging social media. People are increasingly getting their information and news from digital media. Political figures are reaching out to such people to spread their message and create meaningful conversations. Businesses could be creating similar relationships with these same people.
“The interconnectivity of politics, business and media has a seemingly unbreakable bond and rightly so. Furthermore, the politically active are much more likely to use the Internet for news, information and online purchases than their tuned-out brethren.”
Of course, in order to communicate effectively through digital media, it’s necessary to be literate in the tools that make such connections possible. And this should be a priority for everyone in business, including management.
“The ability to access digital media will become more important as our knowledge-based society rapidly moves toward hyper-connectivity. Management of all ages would be wise to thoroughly educate themselves with respect to the integration of digital media in the workplace – it’s not coming, it’s here.”