“New Media Landscape Discussion with Al Gore & Sean Parker”

By Marcie Barnes

This is a live blog post from the talk entitled ”New Media Landscape Discussion” at SXSW. Speakers are former Vice President Al Gore – who now spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project – and Sean Parker who is an entrepreneur with a record of launching genre-defining companies that reinvent ways to spread information online.

Gore: Our Democracy has been hacked – it no longer works for the best interest of the people. Television is a centralizing force. Average American watches TV 5 hours a day. Now it’s the central place where politics are discussed and creates a very different “public square” compared to those of the past. The news shows and debates are sponsored by coal, oil, banks, pharmaceutical companies. Wants to see “Internet Democracy.”

Parker: Is optimistic that the rise of new media can reverse the mentioned trend of corporate washing in politics. Most people have an online identity and are wired up in networks – so there is potential for new media to engage with the political process. Social networks have always been around, they just weren’t online. What changes need to happen? We need to start replicating the tools that campaigns, non-profits etc. use. Founded Causes, Votizen – very early tools but still trying to leverage the power of social media to activate people.

Gore: thanks those of us who were involved in the stop SOPA campaign. We need to protect this medium and protect it’s fantastic potential. The victory with SOPA, many similar examples of social media being used for important causes. “Need your help to solve the climate crisis” [applause].

Parker: Networks and tools available today initially have focused on rapid growth, viral, etc. Causes has been too focused on short-term goals and needs to look at more long-term goals…the system will not be transformed by government (Gore confirms) and new media will have a role in forming politics, can make it more efficient, less expensive to run for office.

Gore: on the role of money in politics has grown and grown and grown and the quality of Democratic discourse in our country has declined. It’s getting even worse – corporations are not people.

If corporations can just purchase legislative seats, the beneficiary of that is going to pay close attention. TV can be hypnotic, there is a massive audience sitting and watching TV – 75-80% of campaign budgets go to TV ad spending. They are mostly negative. The politicians that don’t have the cash have to beg. There was also an online campaign to stop debit card fees. How do we get people connected and hold those in charge accountable?

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