In the encounter with the professor Lance Bennett Comress-Incom UAB asked him about the political implications of technology and media. Bennett is professor of Political Science in the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, and director of the Center for Communication & Civic Engagement
Some people say that the Arabic revolutions have been “social networks riots”. Which previous public sphere is needed to make successful these recent protests that have had the social media as a relevant tool?
I do not think that the Arab Spring has been a riot. It seems to have a lot of coordination and focus, considering the relative absence of formal organization. Indeed, the results have been quite impressive. Overthrowing political regimes often takes a lot more traditional organization. I think that the uses of social media have been important for turning communication into a kind of political organization. In addition, activists and bloggers have become news sources, creating a bridge between media spheres. In this way, we are seeing how different media spheres can link together to communicate with larger publics. In this case, individual activists were able to engage with global publics. There may of course be limits to these network organizations. How the Arab Spring 2.0 will work is still an open question.
“Entertainment and comedy will continue to be important pointing out
a staged media world until politicians change how they communicate”
The president Obama was a little silent about the Occupy Wall Street movement and something similar happened in Spain with the 15-M one. Do you think politicians must take more into account these protests and interact with their members?
It is difficult for politicians to figure out how to interact effectively with these protests because the politicians are part of the problem (in the view of the protesters). This means that if they want to be credible with the protesters, the politicians will have to really change their policies, and this is difficult. However, the important thing is that politicians on the left are not condemning the protests and some are even saying that the protesters have legitimate demands. This has opened a space for discussing questions of inequality and democracy that have been ignored in most of the democracies. This is already an important change.
You have written in many essays about the entertainment elements in political news, drama and personalization. Have you observed any changes recently? How do you think that will evolve?
Entertainment is where many people find perspective and clarity in a media world of spin and staged performances. Politics for many people has become like bad reality TV. Entertainment and comedy points this out, and helps people work through the spin. I think this will continue to be important until politicians change how they communicate.