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Risk management and real communication

I was reading a post by Dave Snowden that really got me thinking.

In his post, From oratory to the soundbite, he discusses the changes in how our politicians engage with us.  Noting the change from the days of Lloyd George, who would speak for an hour without notes and engage with hecklers in the audience, to that of the manicured and controlled soundbites of modern politicians.

It also got me thinking how we have become conditioned to manicured and carefully prepared speeches and presentations in many areas of our lives nowadays.  And this shift is all about risk control.

This shift to carefully manufactured communications can likely be attributed to the way you can sound easily sound stupid or ill-informed if speaking off the cuff (cf. Barnaby Joyce).  Then that comment can be amplified endlessly (and often mercilessly) via social media.

In the days of Lloyd George his engaging speeches were not recorded for posterity.  They were ephemeral.  Nobody pored over the transcript and excerpted poor phrasing to regurgitate for weeks afterwards in media releases and media interviews.

Our ability to document every happening is changing how free we are to express ideas and opinions.  No longer can we have an amusing interplay with a heckler at a speech that is heard by only those present.  That interplay can now be taken out of context and used as a weapon against you by people of ill-will.

This is one of the reasons I believe we are seeing the growth of the politics of NO. In the past oppositions and governments could make bipartisan stands and it was hardly known by the populace. But now a new transparency means that it is easier and simpler for oppositions to stand against things than to work together for the common good on issues.

Perhaps once people understand how transparent things are becoming we can evolve new ways to communicate in less manufactured ways?  But for that to work we do need to accept imperfection.

1 thought on “Risk management and real communication”

  1. Kate,

    Thanks for a considered post. So many things are becoming clear right now – the accelerated trend of mobile information access, the sharing of processing and information storage retrieval in the “cloud”, the integration of social nuances (personal – right brain) through IT into work tools (professional – left brain).

    What makes it interesting right now is that we’re on the cusp of the change. A time where there are still many more people whom consume broadcast media (print, TV, radio) than interactive media (email, blogs, social media).

    As much as I work in the industry, and my work colleagues all have smartphones, blogs, and twitter accounts; this is by no means true at church, or with my neighbours, friends at a BBQ.

    So what we see is an inability to create the common etiquette and language we need for this new “remember for posterity” era, but the increasing need to do so.

    So we have politicians manicuring their soundbites for the (increasingly vocal) minority, ensuring they entirely miss the majority.

    Nevertheless, I think we have a real opportunity to smarten up public debate. Without the Lowest Common Denominator constraint imposed by the high cost/barrier to entry of broadcast media, everyone has the opportunity to publish their opinion. Complex, niche, multi-layered, reasoned rhetoric to tackle issues.

    Also, the audience have the ability to discuss, respond, interact, and build upon.

    This is a huge opportunity. Imagine crowd-sourcing the Northwest Rail Link or (dare I say it) Internet Filter? Instead of this becoming a political football, it could become a genuine civic challenge to be solved by the people, facilitated rather than mandated, by the government.

    What we need is critical mass. More people interacting more online. We need to reverse the snail mail deluge senators are getting from churches promoting the Internet filter and zero attention to the online detractors. Only when there are more people seeking to be heard online than offline, will politicians swing their attention. Only then will we be able to discuss these issues.


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