Capturing Brief Conversations

I’ve been really enjoying watching the use of the web around the UK General Election. From what media coverage I’ve been able to glean, it’s not seemed so heated as the blogging-focussed US election furore, but instead a number of sites have appeared that focus not so much on expressing opinions as to provide a space for conversation.

Much conversation, particularly political discussion, is a fleeting thing. With a few exceptions, the news media and ‘the public consciousness’ have short attention spans. While many of us would like to find ways to use new technology to support a deepening of public debate that will necessarily require a lengthening of such debate, some things that are only of short-term interest deserve to be captured and there’s a possibility that by doing that we’ll learn more of how to engage those longer-term discussions.

The two sites that have been most impressive in this regard are the mysociety and lazygov sites notapathetic (which allows those who are choosing not to vote to explain why) and ivotedforyoubecause (which allows people to leave messages for their new MPs about why they voted as they did). The personal stories, and the comments on them, have been quite fascinating and will hopefully help plug visitors into the longer-term related sites.

The emergence of such sites is encouraging simply because it shows that tools have developed to the stage where it is possible to quickly deploy applications of this sort. It’ll be interesting to see where they take us.

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  1. I also thought it was interesting and cool that despite not having a TV, I was able to watch the whole of the election as a high-quality TV feed on the BBC website. Pretty amazing stuff… and the java (?) application on their site which automatically updated as seats were won and lost was pretty useful too. I wonder what stage it will all be at in the next election?

  2. I think the application they used to update seats won and lost was javascript rather than java (the one I was using was), and I agree that the BBC coverage was excellent. Being outside the UK, I definitely appreciated that. Not having to stay up late to see the results come in was nice too!

    But I think these sites I’ve highlighted illustrate a different paradigm. It’s a paradigm the BBC are engaged with (the creative archive, the Radio & Music Interactive work, etc) but not one that was represented in how the BBC coverage of the election worked out. The personal storytelling and the participation are what I really enjoyed.