Sunday, January 09, 2011

PR can ignore if you like but the internet is now for turning

In examining the legitimacy of new media as pivotal or central to public relations theoretical development I have re-read the recent European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies ‘Envisioning Digital Europe 2030’(PDF).

It offers four scenarios:

In the Open Governance Scenario, users
will enjoy unprecedented access to information
and knowledge. By shifting cognitive capacities,
the work of memorizing and processing data
and information will be passed onto machines,
while humans will focus on critical thinking
and developing new analytical skills. This will
enhance collective intelligence (both human
and ICT-enabled).

This is something we know and many prefer.

The Leviathan Governance Scenario assumes
that an ‘enlightened oligarchy’ will emerge
that uses high-tech tools and systems to collect
and manage public information and services.
Judgment and decision-making will be based
on analytical processing of factual information
from the many by the few for the benefit of
all.

This is not so far fetched as its seems. Europe went there twice in the 20th century.

In the Privatised Governance Scenario,
society will be shaped by decisions taken by
corporate business representatives. Discussion
on social issues and about the role and behaviour
of citizens will be muted, as people will be
pawns whose needs and desires are managed by
large corporations.

How far do we trust our clients in such a scenario? Can we adopt the Stockholm Accords and engage clients with them sufficiently for this scenario to be tolerable?

The Self-Service Governance Scenario
envisages a society where citizens will be
empowered to play the role of policy makers. In
small expert communities, citizens will devise
policies in accordance with the do-it-yourself
principle; they will choose from a menu of public
services those they need and consent to. This ICTenabled, self-organised society will be able to
address emerging problems faster than traditional
government could.

This has its attractions and I can see this as being possible.It will be very disruptive, of course, and society will need to be brave led by ethical PR practitioners operating in quite distinctive constituencies that cluster round values not unlike brand values we know today.

As the paper explains, in such a scenario "The process of gradual disappearance of institutions and lack
of trust in government will result in the need for new trust providers. Reputation management, for content and people, will play a significant role in service provision."

PR is now at a crossroads if these ideas are to be believed (and the people involved are at the top end of internet thinking). We choose between taking sides between these ideas.

Do we have the leadership to guide us?