There are precious few MPs in the UK government who are aware of, and actively support digital inclusion and engagement. But there’s really only one who genuinely engages: Tom Watson. In his latest act of digital engagement, he has invited people to comment on and draft/amend his pledges for re-election.
This takes enormous guts as well as trust in the people who follow his blog and his twitter feed. But most of all it takes one skill that has been systematically removed from most professions: the capacity to listen.
In an age where (broadcast) messages have been equated with business success, speaking rather than listening has been valued. And indeed, one of the reasons why blogging became so instantly successful at the turn of the century was because easy access to a soapbox – the capacity to be heard – was highly appealing in a society that worships celebrity. But true engagement is about listening to commentary and responding to contributions made by the community. Not all will be valued, and just as Google has become the guide to accessing valued content online, there will develop semantic applications that assist listeners to identify quality contributions. But to open oneself to comment, and to enable collective drafting and refining of ideas is crucial to a genuinely participatory society. And politicians have an opportunity to lead the way here.
I applaud Tom’s efforts at drafting these pledges and if you have an ounce of interest in participatory democracy I urge you to visit his uservoice site and have your say. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics is irrelevant. You have one real opportunity to engage: seize it.