Passionately verbalising which government policies we agree (and do not agree) with to our friends, somewhere around the second glass of wine, is a British pastime.
These conversations make two things clear. First, that we all have ideas about how we think we would run a country, no matter how disinterested or disengaged we may appear. Secondly, no matter how well you think you know your friends, their political views will often surprise you, annoy you, or even have you leaning over a table to make sure that they definitely know they are wrong (and the other way round).
It is with this hook, that the technology billionaire behind Napster, Facebook and Spotify, intends to fill the civic gap in the social media market, through the creation of new social platform Brigade.
Creator, Sean Parker, explains that making a successful civic social platform is “more achievable than it may seem, because the average American is so disengaged that even a few marginal changes have a huge impact”.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a platform or application used to impact democracy however, leaving the gap in that market “littered” with failures and tumbleweed. Though most of these applications are concerned with U.S policy, the gap between clicktavism and policy is still apparent in the U.K.
The most recent example of the distance between clicktavism and democracy was in the run up to the General Election 2015. Russell Brand’s Youtube Channel The Trews ran a huge campaign against a tory government coming to power, Brand eventually instructing his hordes of followers to vote Labour.
Brand appeared to have 2M active followers versus the Conservative’s meagre (and passive) 171K followers in the run up to the election. Regardless of Brand’s huge campaign however, the Conservative party shot to power, completely unaffected. It was considered a ‘shock election’, as social media figures displayed the complete opposite of poll figures, leaving the impact of social media on democracy, ambiguous at best.
Parker’s app is incredibly simple, based on an “immediate visceral reaction” to whether our friends agree or disagree with us. The home page presents a newsfeed of topic statements, allowing users to ‘agree’, ‘disagree’ or state they are ‘unsure’. After making a selection, the user is then presented with feedback of how their choices compare to both friends and the wider population.
Will the data presented by Brigade affect democracy? Where slacktivism causes most of these platforms to fail, Brigade may help to bridge the gap between digital clicktavism and democratic impact. Though Parker acknowledges that past attempts to create a digital democracy tool have been disastrous: with Napster, Facebook and Spotify under his belt, it’s difficult not to hold a little optimism for Brigade’s future.
Blog by: Clare