Digital Handshakes in Networked Publics: a Case Study

On: October 6, 2008
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About Heleen Kerkman
After finishing my BA in Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam I recently started the Ma New Media.

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http://www.heleenkerkman.wordpress.com    

In her essay Digital Handshakes in Networked Publics: Why Politicians Must Interact, Not Broadcast’ Danah Boyd explains how politicians in the United States are misinterpreting the new options opened by current social network sites. Instead of using these SNS’s as a tool to interact with their -potential- voters, they create a site that still uses the old means of one-way broadcasting to reach their imagined audience.

‘Much to my dismay, American politicians primarily treat the digital world as yet another broadcast medium. They seem to think that they will be worshipped online if only they port their TV-styled material to the Internet.’

When taking Boyd’s comments and applying them to the presence of Dutch politicians on the SNS Hyves it appears that the same phenomenon is happening here. This small case-study of Boy’s article shows how Dutch politicians are also still not adapting to the social rules and social possibilities of SNS’s, while they are making an effort to create a digital -Hyves- identity.

When visiting the hyves-profiles of the leaders of the main political parties it shows that a lot of effort is made to create an extensive, up-to-date profile. Most profiles contain blog posts that were recently updated. Politician Mark Rutte for example updates his blog almost every five days, mixing political news with personal content. This effort made to connect to his imagined audience shows how conscious politicians are of the power of this SNS but use it without using the tools provided by this application. Instead of campaigning in meetings and on the street, politicians could easily use the wall provided in hyves to reach out to their potential voters. As Boyd stated, politicians still use this new application through the idea of one way broadcasting.

Politician Femke Halsema actually tells her audience in one post that she often doesn’t reply to her ‘krabbels’ (notes) and is therefore missing out on the new options of communicating and connecting with her online audience.

When going to the profile of the prime minister this becomes even more clear. Here, the prime minister has posted a short film of his meeting with some of his Hyves-friends at his office. Strangely enough he wouldn’t  have needed this meeting if he just posted some ‘krabbels’ on their walls and started to engage with his hyves-friends. Here, Boyd statement that politicians do not act by the social rules of these SNS’s becomes clear as the prime minister needed to interact with these hyves-friends offline and then broadcast the film online instead of using the communication tools provided by hyves itself. As Boyd stated:

‘Much to my dismay, American politicians primarily treat the digital world as yet another broadcast medium. They seem to think that they will be worshipped online if only they port their TV-styled material to the Internet.’

This case study has shows how not only American politicians misuse these new SNS’s, but how this is also happening in the Netherlands. Politicians need some kind of gestalt-switch to really start using the communication tools provided by these social networks. By providing extensive digital profiles the politicians do acknowledge the importance of these applications but do not use them the right way. It would therefore be interesting to use Boyd’s article ‘Digital Handshakes in Networked Publics: Why Politicians Must Interact, Not Broadcast’ and examine in what way this gestalt-switch can be made and advise politicians on how to step away from the old ways of broadcasting online  and move forward to truly connect and interact with this online audience.

Website Danah Boyd<–>

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