Louder.

This is a blog post about a new social-campaigning tool. It is also a blog about apathy.

I am fed up of being told that my generation is apathetic.

My generation is absolutely and wholly not apathetic.

Disengaged perhaps, but that speaks of the end of a political era which is simply waiting to be reformed in a hyper-connected age. All of the demonstrations, meetings and online activism I am involved in are full of people my own age, I know many people my own age and younger who blog about global politics, about feminism, about the environment, about party politics.

What has disappeared is person-on-the-street working class union-led activism. There are far fewer people talking to and about the working classes anymore because they have been written off: that horrible phrase ‘Chav’. The 80s broke down traditional working class communities and then told them that the way to prove themselves was to consume – labels, gold, cars. The Loadsamoney generation, whom the middle classes look down upon as somehow gauche. The lesson taught by Thatcherism was that it was immediate proof of consumption that matters, not slow burn, drag yourself socially-mobile through education, which used to be the way to go.

My generation is the generation of the celebrity machine, which began in earnest with the advent of the manufactured pop band. ‘Don’t worry’ celebrity promises, if you are pretty enough, if you can sing, if you can kick a ball, you have a golden ticket to celebrity. Boys! Become footballers, Girls! Marry them! It was all about the golden ticket, not how you earned it, or how realistic the acquisition of it might be.

That’s the kind of hope that our modern brand of capitalism needs to keep us buying, to keep us racking up the debt. This is the age of the empty spectacle. The big show.

If society is organized around consumption, one participates in social life as a consumer; the spectacle produces spectators, and thus protects itself from questioning. It induces passivity rather than action, contemplation rather than thinking, and a degradation of life into materialism. […] Desires are degraded or displaced into needs and maintained as needs. P.8 source

But this big show, this spectacle, the media circus, unites us, it has “made almost everyone a member of a new proletariat, and thus a potential revolutionary” p.10 ibid

Traditional areas of radicalisation have been reigned in – monetised: universities are a prime example, you are indoctrinated into the debt system from the off, and the transaction becomes about what you’re due, rather than what you seek. But people are finding their political feet in new arenas. Online ones specifically. There’s a reformation coming. Because this is also the era of the global village, of hyper-connectivity.

Louder

I believe in an open-source wiki-ethic driven political system. This is not as silly as it sounds. I believe a lot that is wrong about our political system (not the people in it) is how closed down and archaic it is. It needs new forms, and new methods of communication. And I mean communication – that is listening as well as speaking. Too much policy is driven by the media acting as a self-appointed intermediary – they don’t speak for us, yet they affect change more than we ever could. I believe social media and the internet are key to unlocking the relationship between people and policy, and developing politics which are people driven, not media-told.

My thoughts on it all are still formulating, and someday soon I’ll publish them in a #wikipolitics manifesto. Until then I and my generation shall continue to be loud-mouthed.

Enter Louder.

Louder is a new socially-networked hub for campaigns which aims to;

…help make your campaign louder you will be able to connect up with other campaigns and those running them. Providing a much needed online space for campaigners, from international NGOs to grass roots activists, to link up collaborate and share experiences.

You can follow Louder on Twitter @louderdevelop.

This is the beginning. I know I’m prone to fits of passionate hyperbole, but I really believe that there is a reformation coming in the way our political system operates – a necessary return to grass roots, but now with the ability to be amplified, to produce genuine discussion and truly informed policy/politicians. Imagine if the debates for the next election didn’t happen in the mainstream media, but on youtube, recorded on the flip cameras of doorstep debate, with genuine worries being listened to and tackled by street-level activists. Imagine if you genuinely got to pose questions, engage. Who says the press is necessary?  (Apart from the press, obviously). They (including the BBC) need to earn their keep, prove their worth. At the moment they’re too lazy. (NB – we also need to remember 30% of the UK have no access to the internet, and 10% of those who do only have dial-up – source – something else which needs tackling).

I have been testing the beta of Louder over the past couple of days, and it promises to be really really exciting. Louder allows the easy creation of a home page for a campaign, events, and the plugging in and aggregation of key social media platforms, currently including images, video, youtube, twitter feeds, blog feeds and more. Here’s a quick screenshot of what I’d done in about half an hour of playing:

skitch of louder

It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s powerful, almost like the Posterous of online campaigns.

Louder is launched this Friday at the ICA in London (at Tuttle), and needs as much feedback and participation as possible so they can hone the tool so it’s genuinely useful. Louder will open up and consolidate the process that’s been happening via the closed down world of facebook, and the disparate world of the blogosphere, bringing people together in a global grass-roots manner much more suited to our global village era.

Anyone following #guardiangag/#trafigura injunction outrage on Twitter over the past day, cannot deny that the internet is going to prove one of the main battlegrounds of future politics.

So get on there on Friday, if you have a cause, set up a campaign, if you don’t, have a play and provide feedback, it all helps, and it’s important.

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21 Responses to “Louder.”

  1. Steve Lawson October 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    Hannah, I’m really glad you made the link with the trafigura situation. It’s the perfect example of what happens when people decide that enough’s enough. Having a space like Louder to co-ordinate such thing, to aggregate all the stuff around it (which reminds me, must get adam to add the option to follow a hashtag ;) )

    It’s a really great project, and I’m sure will be in progressive beta for a quite a while, give the MASSIVE scope for development to meet the myriad demands of the full range of campaign situations.

    Posterous is another great thing to mention… wonder if they have an API… :)

  2. Steve Lawson October 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    …further thought: part of the problem with our generation (OK, your generation, I’m old as shit ;) ) looking apathetic is that the tools we’ve got so far in their disconnected form are great for ‘raising awareness’, but not so great for corralling the interested parties into action. That still seems to happen mostly via email, via old school broadcast methods – one person or org contacting lots of people on their mailing list and telling them what to do (there are massive notable exceptions, but they are a statistical blip, if not an impactful blip ;) )

    Hopefully louder will, among other things, allow us to establish a link between awareness and action – by putting the content and the calendar in the same place, by curating the discussion in a space with planning tools, we’ll be able to use it motivationally, to harness the energy that happens when we get excited and start typing, but which sometimes has dissipated by the time we are confronted with the booking details for whatever the action is… If that makes sense… :)

  3. Adam October 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    Awesome write up… thank you Hannah (and thank you for the incredibly useful feedback!!! I mean that… incredibly useful and insightful)

    Hashtags… yup, thanks steve :-)

    Yes… progressive beta would be about right… this is going to be a massive undertaking but to get it right… so sweeet

  4. Hannah Nicklin October 13, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, guys,

    @Steve. shut up are you old :-p and yes – the appearance of apathy comes from disconnection, but it’s just waiting to connect again, looking for new ways, that’s what the ‘digital revolution’ is all about (I inverted comma it, because I don’t believe it’s really begun yet).

    @Adam I actually just sent a couple of other thoughts that occurred to me to Liam – one of which was hashtags :) as well as more general RSS…

    Also think the whole progressive beta thing needs to be emphasised, we need to help you build the tool that we want to use – that’s the whole wiki-ethic thing I go on about so much – so make sure you emphasise the value of that- Beta is not just ‘testing’ – it’s asking and listening too. And Louder are doing that.

  5. buddhamagnet October 13, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    Love this. Steve, how do I offer my development services for Louder?

  6. Adam October 14, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    “Also think the whole progressive beta thing needs to be emphasised, we need to help you build the tool that we want to use – that’s the whole wiki-ethic thing I go on about so much – so make sure you emphasise the value of that- Beta is not just ‘testing’ – it’s asking and listening too. And Louder are doing that.”

    Hannah… got your feedback from Liam and I so rarely never get feedback that fires me up to get back into the code and get to changing things… we want more!!

    I’m gonna get Liam and John to agree to put that quote up on the front page somewhere:-)

  7. Jay Jay October 14, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    So.. I’m trying to get my head round this – is this not just an aggregation tool where you pull in other feeds from other social media websites? – but in a campaign context?

    Are they just for politician campaigns, or can it be for any form of campaign (fundraising, awareness, friendraising – just some examples of the top of my head)? From what you said and looking at the website, I’m gathering that it is a bit like justgiving (which allows people to raise money for charity and deals directly with the admin and the gift aid etc) but this is more about a profile page for displaying political agendas?

    I guess my question is – where is the action? When do we move from simply aggregating our existing content – to actually forming dedicated campaigns for change – I just worry that setting up separate social networking platforms can be detrimental to the cause, generating small and defragmented groups of people, moving it away from the bigger platforms.

    (Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic concept but I’ve seem very similar start with a great and almighty push from the usual suspects, only to pitter off because more than one gesture is one gesture too many..)

  8. Liam Barrington-Bush October 14, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Hannah –
    You’ve captured so much of what we are trying to do with this site, in such eloquent words!
    I think we should give up our current promo strategy and just send people to your blog:)
    Thanks for all the feedback and helping us get this beast ready to face the world!
    Liam

  9. Adam October 14, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    @Jay Jay: Valid critique and concerns… yes, Louder is built around an aggregator and disseminator model, but core to that will be some action tools that the aggregation and dissemination is intended to draw people to via existing social media networks… these include petitions, campaign newsletters, fundraising tools, email significant individuals… that sort of thing. What we hope will be different is that *anyone* (within T&C conditions) from the local donkey sanctuary to a national campaign for legislative change can use this tool to further their campaign ends AND receive constant updated feedback about the efficacy of their campaign strategy and tactics… how many of the desired actions have been carried out and by whom, so that they can constantly tweak their campaign. These are tools (particularly the feedback re actions) that are often out of technological or financial reach of individuals and small campaign groups.

    And as Hannah and Steve point out… I’m looking forward to being surprised about the ways in which people think of using these tools :-)

  10. Jamie Potter October 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Great post Hannah. Although I agree with much of it, and believe a reformation of politics in society is occurring, I have to disagree with the idea that our generation are not apathetic.

    From personal experience, I don’t particularly see much politicisation of people our age. Just over a year ago I campaigned for my friend in the student union elections. Out of ~23,000 students only 2,000 voted, for people who make a direct difference to their lives as students. While this was a great increase on the previous year, it’s still a paltry number and in places the campaign was reduced to little more than a popularity contest to gain votes. When I think about my friends, I can’t think of any who have gone on a protest, for example. Even my supposed ‘socialist’ friend was more interested in taking her Chanel bag to get fixed then going to Climate Camp in London. When I post something political on facebook, it’s the few, same faces that will comment. When I received a letter from the House of Commons, my housemate thought I was in trouble with the police. When I tried explaining political issues to many people at university, the ignorance was downheartening. Even my politics classmates rarely uttered a word in our seminars.

    So while indeed there are many young people blogging and taking action online, I wonder to what extent these are just the ‘usual suspects’ and if there’s maybe an assumption of a more [digitally] active society than actually exists. My experiences are entirely anecdotal and don’t offer conclusive proof that this is the case, but it’s enough for me to approach the idea of political interest with a heavy dose of skepticism. (This is something I’m going to look at in my MA)

    That said, I do think we are undergoing a transformation and the state of youth employment and the prospect of higher tuition fees could act as a catalyst for a more vibrant political scene amongst the young in the near future.

  11. Hannah Nicklin October 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    @Jamie I think that I could have put my meaning a bit clearer by emphasising that I don’t think our generation is any more apathetic than previous ones, I think just as many people are politically active, it’s just that they are less visibly so. While previous generations’ grass roots political activism was loud and in view (unions) there’s been a gap in that sphere for a couple of decades now, so people who do care can’t find the vocabulary or space to act upon their concerns/worries. Our generation is far from uncaring – but what it doesn’t see is why MS politics is worth caring about. But I do think people are eking out spaces for themselves online, which is why I’m arguing for a new grassroots arena.

    People of our generation vote in droves for TV talent shows. I don’t think we should dismiss this – instant golden ticket success is what we’re told to value, and when we can see the direct result, understand the motivations behind the participants, we’re willing to participate. This isn’t apathy, just because it’s not directed in the way some people decide is ‘valuable’. It’s disenfranchisement, which is another problem altogether.

    by-the-by I have very different experiences of student elections, they are the only elections I’ve never voted in because in all the unis I have been a part of they have been palsy, pathetic popularity contests, full of people who just want to get paid to live the student night-life for another year. And although the winners are never allowed to fail (they are looked after by proper staff) I have never seen a campaign promise worth a damn (more playboy nights at the union!) or one followed through that made a difference. That’s why no one voted in the ones I’ve seen.

    And RE political/historical understanding, yes it is poor, but that’s all to do with the devaluing and monetising education (sounds like a contradiction, but I don’t think it is), transaction culture.

    I think sometimes ‘politics’ (sweeeeeping generalisation) unwittingly revels in its ghetto-dom, I would definitely accuse Climate Camp of that. Likewise I would accuse the boys-club of parliament of the same. The point is they are not speaking the language of this generation yet, I don’t think that employment and tuition fees will prove any catalyst at all if there’s no viable battle ground, and if politics doesn’t start listening as well as telling.

  12. nommo October 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    “People of our generation vote in droves for TV talent shows.” Nail. Head.

    Why FFS? That is a very very good question. I have never voted for a TV show, but have signed a number of petitions on number 10 etc, I even started up my own campaign…

    What is the ‘X-factor’ of campaigns? What is it that makes someone vote for someone on a TV talent show? Is it the same thing that makes people go out and vote in elections or participate in an online campaign?

    Is online campaigning just lacking the glitz of the spectacle? Or is there something about believing in one’s ability to influence the outcome. Did the (fairly) recent TV vote phone-in scams affect the mentality of voters..? Have numbers dropped? Is there a ‘turn-out’ crisis for phone in votes like there is for elections?

    Hmmmm…

  13. Hannah Nicklin October 14, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    @nommo well I can’t pretend to speak for everyone , but I would say it has a lot to do with the ‘everyman/woman’ angle of the story they tell. Both politics and celebrity are built of spectacle, and I think there’s an understanding that both are constructed, but whereas this is characterised in politics as ‘spin’ it is simply ‘story’ in the world of celebrity. They aren’t paternalistic authority figures, they are you and me, from a poor background, or who have suffered a family death, or over-come adversity in some way. The story of celebrity says ‘we are all the same, you can do this too’, the spin of politics says ‘we have this under control, we have your best interests at heart’ coming, by and large, from people who could never even understand your working class, female, or BME interests. I’m not saying they don’t believe they’re trying to build a better world, but I’m saying 645 people haven’t the tools to truly understand how to do it, or to communicate regarding it.

    TV talent shows, IMO, demonstrate a collective longing for society, for shared and common values, for people like me and you to have a better life, the best way we know how – that golden ticket. This also explains the success of the odd, very clever politician, look at Boris Jonson, loved because he is imperfect, because he babbles, and because he has constructed adversity out of a very very privilidged life – the facade of struggling against his own ineptitude.

    I may be over-analysing this slightly, but I basically think it all boils down to an urge for a collective experience, and common ground. Parliamentary politics never had that, grass roots and unionism did. This is why I think we need to return to grass roots, albeit in a digital sphere, and also why I think it might be more effective than live grass roots alone – because it also has the potential to be amplified far and wide…

  14. nommo October 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    @Hannah Nicklin

    Thanks for the thought provoking response.

    It has been a while since I examined the underlying (or overarching) socio-cultural drivers of participation & engagement. I make a living out of what has commonly referred to as social networking (with a vaguely campaign based approach) these days – but am not always mindful of the thought processes that led me down this path in the first place over a decade ago. So long in fact – that I may gibber incoherently here ;-) (all these names/theories popping into my head now – De Landa, Foucault, Kant etc).

    Although I don’t have access to statistics of TV voting and how the failure of technology and processes behind it might have affected voting – it is fair to say that based on the proliferation of TV talent shows, that the numbers of voters has not significantly dropped.

    I think you are right that the technology itself is not the motivating factor. Most people vote for TV talent shows by telephone.

    So authenticity (‘transparency’ in SocMed speak?) could be the X-factor..? Politicians have great trouble with this :)

    Spin is to politics what PR is to business (and NGOs).

    But shouldn’t that mean that perception of authenticity could work too?

    Being seen to be transparent – giving the impression that you are grass roots. Astro-turfing. Are we just to media savvy to fall for that? Does a little bit of transparency mean that we can see through the ruse? What role will there be for PR impresarios and spin doctors in the world of transparency?

    I have carried out one successful and high profile campaign that involved me making a concious decision to select a campaign spokesperson from the community of ‘victims’ that I helped bring together. I knew that having her as the front person would be better for the campaign rather than me – the actual founder. (It was also something to do with me not wanting to get dragged in the media circus and puffed up to be a saviour as well, but that’s besides the point – although that was perhaps my ‘golden ticket’ moment and I rejected it – that’s another reason I go under the name of ‘nommo’ rather than my full name).

    I wonder if my authenticity and transparency was one of the reasons for the campaigns success as well as selecting someone that the majority of the campaigners would identify with?

    Sorry – brain hurts now. Better get back to the day job…

  15. Tony Ratcliffe October 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    You may be interested in having a look at a new project started by a social media company here in Canada. It allows the public to participate by providing input, and voting on ideas, to bring community concerns to the politicians. There is a short video introduction.

    Future Edmonton
    http://futureedmonton.ca/about

  16. Hannah Nicklin October 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Hi Tony, thanks very much for that, I’ll check it out :)

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