The last couple of years of campaigning – especially the last UK general election, the Scottish referendum with its “cyber-nats”, the Brexit vote and the Trump election – have made it plain to many that there’s a new set of elements at work in the public discourse – and they’re digitally-driven.
The problem? A subset of our journalists and politicians don’t – yet – understand this dyanmic. As Martin Belam of The Guardian puts it:
For political journalists it is increasingly clear that not understanding how technology is impacting on the way political narratives develop is a problem. You can easily see when the Tories buy a wraparound ad on a local newspaper – so it’s easy to report. It’s a lot harder to report how users are being micro-targeted on Facebook. And if your own personal Facebook presence isn’t geared towards receiving messages from these kinds of websites or the people pushing memes, you simply aren’t going to see what large chunks of the electorate are going to see.
The journalism world has always had – and retains – a slightly snobbish attitude to all things digital. And that is beinging to exert a cost not just on us – as journalists – but on the public discourse. Simply, snobbishness about digital is not something we can afford as a society any longer.