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Excerpts from a speech held at the National Forum of the Democratic Party on 10/27/2018 titled “Is politics still needed or is the Web enough?”
Do you still need politics or is the internet enough?
The arrival of web 2.0 and Big Data has allowed political organizations to learn about the habits, intentions, and thoughts of citizens and voters in unprecedented ways. Until the diffusion of social media, it was organizations and institutions who questioned the subjects they were interested in to obtain information. The digital revolution has completely overturned this structure. Today, it is the subjects themselves who voluntarily communicate their habits, opinions, thoughts, and intentions.
Psychopolitics, a term introduced by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, is the ability of political power to make predictions on individual and collective behaviors through the analysis of Big Data. The potential of technology radically changes the relationship between parties and the electorate and, according to some, threatens their existence.
Contemporary examples, however, tell us that technology intensifies and encourages the relationship between political parties and citizens, creating an opportunity for interaction. Obama started the creation of a technological culture within the Democratic Party and more advanced forms of mediation between political parties and citizenship are envisaged for the 2020 U.S. election campaign.
There are also examples of the relationship between the internet and politics that are anything but virtuous. A team in San Antonio, Texas, where Trump’s campaign headquarters were located, exploited the weaknesses of Facebook’s security system to produce fake, targeted news and memes. For example, if a Michigan citizen had racist traits in his profile, the algorithm would make false news appear on his Facebook page that showed the increase in crime due to migratory flows in his area. The conservatives’ goal was twofold: to dissuade Clinton voters not to go to the polls and to convince the undecided to lean towards Trump. This analysis was carried out by Cambridge psychologist Alexadr Kogan.
The use of technology in politics continues to grow, allowing party organizations to intensify relations with citizens by building a digital infrastructure and making decisions based on reliable and accurate data. Though imperfect, the role of representation is strengthened by the use of technology, an instrument that seems indispensable for winning political competitions and reinvigorating the relationship with citizens. As Jamie Susskind says in Future Politics, “in the 21st century, digital is political.”
Public Affairs Consultant presso Adl Consulting