Social Media and Political Awareness: How do we manage it for long term societal good?

While looking at the blog, I came across a matrix proposed by Professor Simon Baddeley from University of Birmingham to develop a model of political behaviour using “political awareness and acting with integrity” as two dimensions to create distinct behavioural categories for the public.

With the growing talk of the role social media can play in the rise of political awareness and political activism, an extension of this matrix, which I explain in this article, might just add insight into the social media landscape. Using the matrix, I aim to bring out:

a) the affect social media has on political awareness and;

b) how public attitude determines the nature of political activism that results out of political awareness.

In the matrix, Political Awareness maybe defined as the extent to which the public is aware of the politics prevalent in the society. Politically aware society possesses the following characteristics, “foundation and contemporary knowledge of politics, access to elite opinion, forum to discuss individual opinion” (above dimensions taken from a research paper).

Public integrity maybe defined as the extent to which the public is able to look at the long term and societal implications of a political action thereby ignoring the short term personal gains.

Public attitude determines the extent of integrity with which public is able to evaluate and take actions having a political aim. I differentiate between public attitude as either “good” or “bad”.

Using the extension of the 2X2 matrix (see above), I analyse the impact social media and public attitude can have on the political awareness and public integrity.  My adaptation of the 2X2 matrix by Professor Simon Baddeley adds the perspective of how social media and public attitude affect the movement of the public from one quadrant to another. By acting as source of sharing and discussing information social media essentially increases the political awareness of the public thereby moving the public towards the quadrants lying in the high political awareness half.

The arrows in the matrix depict that by acting as a source of information social media improves political awareness of the public, whereas, the influence of public attitude depends on its nature. If the public attitude is “good” it will invariably lead to shift of the public towards the quadrants lying in the high integrity half of the quadrant. However, “bad” public attitude leads to a shift towards the quadrants in the low integrity half.

A few other important features that come to mind while looking at the matrix are:

a) It is important to ensure that majority of people lie in the Wise quadrant. It will be usually the public in the Wise quadrant that provides the “good” public direction to ensure that maximum number of people moving towards the Wise cell.

b) Social Media is an information amplifier. It amplifies the distribution and impact of information leading to better political awareness. Therefore, it is critical to manage “good” public attitude to ensure that it never leads to misinformation.

c) Social media constitutes the people who are a part of it. Its participants define and communicate its purpose. Social media reflects what the society thinks. It is important to ensure that social media is democratic, transparent and it promotes healthy dialogue & constructive criticism. Therefore, “good” public attitude becomes important.

All of these assertions point to the importance of developing “good” public attitude and therefore raise questions about; how we manage the public attitude to get the most favourable benefit from the social media penetration? How to create suitable environment to ensure that the majority of the public is moving towards the Wise quadrant?

So, again, same as previous articles, this one has raised more questions in my mind rather than providing me with answers. I hope some readers comment and come to the rescue!

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About Ankit Sharma

Born in Kashmir, Alumni of London School of Economics, Currently working for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Living in London with absolute passion and hope in the user of Information Technology to solve social problems.
This entry was posted in Models, Political Activism, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

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