Young communicators and the shape of future communication

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting a very active young blogger on the EU scene, Julien Friesch. I admire immensely the energy and enthusiasm that people like Friesch (Jon Worth is another) put into what is in effect no less and no more than an integral part of the evolving democratic fabric of what Margot Wallström used to like calling ‘the European sphere’. Then, today, I met another young European communicator. Polly Akhurst is part of a networking organisation called ‘The Hub’. A simple idea, The Hub brings together people in a non-partisan context to meet up and exchange ideas and experiences. Faithful readers will perhaps also remember my encounter with RENA, an Italian version of The Hub, but with an explicit vocation to contribute to the democratic development of a country and of the Union. As a political scientist, I have often written about the decline in the paradigm of mass membership party politics in our democracies but increasingly I realise that those democratic forces are still ‘out there’ – they just express themselves in different ways, ways made possible in large part by rapidly evolving net-based applications. What I find fascinating about these developments is that they are ‘messy’ – by which I mean that they are organic and their evolution is unpredictable and uncontrollable (think of ‘viral’ videos). They are thus the antithesis of what public administrations like. Yet, as internet access spreads, that is the world where increasingly communication battles will be fought. Young, committed Europeans like Julien and Jon and Polly are the footsoldiers of the European ideal but, the thought occurs to me; in such a world, is there any place or role for generals? And since I used a picture of Uncle Sam, here’s a question: will there ever be an EU equivalent of Uncle Sam and, if so, what would s/he look like?

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