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Europe in Blogs and Social Networks @ #ViaEU – Going local instead of European?

There was one question/remark by a professor who attended my talk on “Europe in Blogs and Social Networks” yesterday – the pre-workshop blog posts are here and here – that quite hit the nail on the head.

His question was in how far blogging/social media actually impacted EU politics. And he added that if blogging/social media would not have any impact, people might simply (re-)concentrate on what’s going on locally around their corner instead of caring for EU politics.

As I’ve said in my previous post, there are probably not that many recent examples where EU blogs and social media influenced EU policy, maybe Citzalia (project dead, it appears), maybe through #NoToHuEU (the blog action against censorship in Hungary), maybe on SWIFT but for all these examples you’d find reasons why they have not been that successful in the end.

Given this situation, the professorial question struck me because it pretty well reflects what I’m thinking these days. Is it worth caring for EU politics if there are so many useful initiatives around me here in Berlin? Is it worth wasting time trying to impact institutions whose speed of change is so slow that generally they lag behind technological and social developments by 5-10 years where the same amount of time invested locally can actually bring change in a short time?

I’d say that what the professor was implying actually goes to the heart of the matter:

Either EU institutions start taking citizens seriously, or even those who took these institutions seriously until now will turn their eyes away and go local. Or, as I’ve said earlier this year:

6 Responses to Europe in Blogs and Social Networks @ #ViaEU – Going local instead of European?

  1. avatar Jon Worth says:

    I understand the frustration. But conversely there are already too few people who care about processes at EU level, and so the problem can become self-fulfilling. If we cannot hope or aspire to a European Union more conscious of citizens’ needs then the project is surely doomed?

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Well, then maybe those who work professionally for “the project” should start changing and give the project back to us. Because they fail, and they fail badly.

  3. avatar mathew says:

    Reminds me of the council Twitter wall, and how shocked those in charge were that people didn’t take it seriously. As I remarked at the time, “did anyone really think that EU leaders … are going to be glancing at a Twitter stream for policy ideas, guidance, spiritual enlightenment …? Really?

    Few of the people Tweeting did. People aren’t idiots. They know they won’t have any constructive influence via Twitter, and – moreover – they’d also probably agree that they shouldn’t. Democracy doesn’t work like that.

    If someone is not expecting their constructive contributions to be taken seriously, then their contribution will not be constructive, nor serious. Quite the opposite (destructive, flippant, sarcastic …). ”

    General social media like Twitter and Facebook is not for policy development. But highly curated and managed communities of practice, online and offline, supported by social media … That’s another matter.

  4. Thanks for mentioning my post on SWIFT from last year.

    While I am not taking for granted that my post convinced even one single MEP, if it did then probably because I sent a copy of the blog post by fax to about 100 MEPs the day before the vote 🙂

    Blogs as such, in my view only serve as a starting point for influence. It gives the possibility to “publicly” discuss a topic, get to know people with the same interest, exchange views, learn, etc … You can then build on that. But blogs in itself have probably zero political influence.

  5. avatar Ronny Patz says:


    That’s kind of what I said at the workshop yesterday: If blogs have influence, then because what they have written is picked up by the media (often re-enforcing itself afterwards by more discussions in social media).

    What I mean however is not so much the interest to “influence”, it’s more that it’s hard to see any movement towards more open dialogues, curated in the way @mathew proposes or a little more “chaotic”, as social reality can be chaotic sometimes.

    I don’t see any movement on the side of the institutions that seeks to open doors for “constructive influence” (@mathew), open doors towards channels that are actually used by human beings and not channels artificially created like the public consultations of the European Commission such as this one on Eurobonds.

    Maybe many people would have something to say on this, even very constructively, but this consultation has to go where the people are instead of waiting for the people – mostly interest groups in the end – to come to them.

    This would mean entering into a dialogue like Reijo and Jakob did here on this blog earlier this year.

    I don’t think that individual bloggers, Twitter or Facebook users need to have any particular influence, but unless those who actually involve in what’s going on get the feeling that they are listened to – not just by 2-3 social media experts working in the institutions – and that they can thus become part of a broader debate that at some point feeds back into a democratic process, why should anyone bother spending time on debating substantive policies or any other aspect of EU politics if going local demands much less effort with much more positive impact?

  6. avatar mathew says:

    Actually, I think that blogs can have a more direct influence than introducing ideas that are then picked up by the media.

    For me, influence is about developing ideas which get picked up and integrated into policy. This is why I think Klout is mis-selling what it measures, as ideas are not something that Klout, or anyone else, can possibly track.

    However, just because it can’t be tracked doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. For example, I first blogged about the importance of online community management for the EU Institutions in June 2009. Lacommeuropeenne blogged about it in 2010. It appeared in an EU strategy document later that year. And the Fondation Robert Schuman recommended it this year (albeit via copy, paste and Google Translate 😉 ).

    Does that imply a linear relationship, from me to lacomeuropeenne to the EC? Of course not. There may not be any link at all – convergent evolution, where different people come to the same conclusion, is always a likely possibility.

    My first point is therefore that ideas enter an ecosystem, often multiple times from different sources. They circulate and in the process evolve: morph, combining with others, generate new ideas, mutating. Eventually they end up somewhere fertile, or wither and die.

    Blogs are an excellent way of supporting that process, as they allow for detailed explorations of issue and support both their evolution (via comments, pingbacks, etc.) and their circulation.

    Unfortunately, while this does happen some of the time, it is almost impossible to know whether it happened in any particular case. Which makes convincing people of their usefulness of blogging and online platforms difficult, particularly when the Institutions treat them as promotional tool, rather than collaboration tool (see my first comment, above).

    Improving the transparency of the EU Institutions would encourage greater participation and buy-in, as it would allow people to see ideas circulate and get some idea of whether their ideas are getting any traction.

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