Re:publica 08 #2

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Today is day 3 of re:publica 08, the last day of this year’s installment of this conference. Re:publica is the biggest and most important blogger & social media conference in Germany, organized largely by the Newthinking Team (i.e. the net activists whose most prominent member is probably Markus Beckedahl, author of Netzpolitik.org. Thanks Markus, and all the others who don’t get the same media attention.)

So far, it’s been a great event – the organization worked pretty much smoothly except for minor wireless outages, although of course the most interesting conversations happen in between session, in the lobby, the hallways, the surrounding bars.

Right now I’m sitting in a panel on video in political communication with pretty harmonic panelists (representatives of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, ver.di as well as social media scientist Jan Schmidt).

Turns out everybody agrees that yes, video plays a more and more important role in online election campaigns, but no, it’s not crucial yet. Also, I’m getting the impression that while the strategists know very well what to expect and how to use online media, but this seems rather detached from their constituencies’ new media expertise. Basically, whenever it’s time for an election campaign, the parties get out their new media toolkit and are surprised their voters don’t really care as much as they expected; maybe it’s because in between election campaigns the parties are not very active in social media?

I know of a few projects that look promising, like the Social Democratic Party’s social network meineSPD. (I’m sure there are others as well that I don’t know off the top of my head.) But generally, there’s hardly a political social media scene in Germany, although it’s growing. This is also what political journalists told me when I interviewed them for my M.A. thesis on the relevance of weblogs for political journalism in Germany. Their conclusion: There are no relevant, i.e. quote-worthy, political weblogs in Germany as of now. The journalists explicitly wished for better political weblogs, though.

Hopefully conferences like re:publica can help establish this kind of political blogosphere in Germany.

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