Last night’s GetUp get togethers — across Australia — showed that the political use of emerging technologies doesn’t have to be confined to YouTube or online petitions. In fact, new technology also opens a whole new world of possibilities for “offline” political action.
In a first in Australian politics, from 7pm last night more than 170 simultaneous climate action sessions were held in homes, offices and pubs in electorates all around the country, facilitated by the online political movement, GetUp.org.au.
All up, more than 1,500 people – from Hobart to Queensland’s Thursday Island – used GetUp’s new technology to organise themselves at the click of a mouse. They gathered in lounge rooms and cafes around the nation to plan their own local actions to fight global warming and put the pressure on election-sensitive MPs to act, leading the charge from their own neighbourhoods.
The technology allows GetUp members to find each other and self-organise locally: any GetUp member can sign up to host an event, which other members can then sign up to attend.
GetUp provides hosts and guests with an agenda for the evening, and gets back in touch to hear their next steps and offer further support – say, for writing a press release to the local paper.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
These so-called ‘GetTogethers’ form part of GetUp’s ambitious electoral plan, but their significance goes further: the internet and technology revolution in politics and activism isn’t just happening ‘somewhere else’ — it’s happening on your doorstep.
And in China. Last month, Chinese activists used text messaging to spread the word against a toxic chemical plant to more than a million residents in the province of Xiamen, successfully delaying the plant’s construction, with Vice Mayor Ding Guoyan quoted explaining how “the city government has listened to the opinions expressed and has decided, after careful consideration, that the project must be re-evaluated.”
The possibilities inherent in new technologies like the GetTogethers are endless. As always, of course, change creates winners and losers. In this case, I believe that the biggest winners will be the Australian people, and the biggest losers may well be the established powers – including parties and the traditional media – who don’t adapt quickly enough.
As a wise man once said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”