Sunday, 8 February 2015

Isn't this #libspill just a slow motion train wreck?

As Monday approaches it seems the pressure got too much for Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister who has been fighting off pressure from the wider community to step down from his post. A party meeting scheduled for Tuesday, at which a spill motion put forward by two Western Australian backbenchers was to be put to a vote, has been brought forward to Monday. Next week is a parliamentary sitting week, and it was suggested on Twitter that Abbott was afraid of facing the full house under current circumstances.

For whatever reason the decision was made to bring forward the party meeting, it's clear that people are getting a bit tired of waiting. This morning there was a story on Fairfax mastheads about pressure being brought to bear on the supposed contender for the position of PM, Malcolm Turnbull. There are many people in the community who would prefer to see a resolution sooner rather than later, and so the PM is not alone.

The speed with which circumstances change is a defining characteristic of this year's #libspill.

Yesterday morning it was revealed in a Fairfax news story that Liberal Party supporters had set up a hashtag on Twitter to use to generate support for the PM. The #ImStickingWithTony hashtag was however hijacked around midday by people in the community opposed to the PM, and they made merry with it for the rest of the day, although activity there has slowed right down by this morning. Everything changes at a rapid pace as facts and ideas are received online by the broader community and are quickly digested. Online influencers deploy their personalities in this process, and the combination of emotion and information serves to speed up the process of assimilation. Events get crunched in rapid time.

People get involved online in a way that is impossible in the real world. A story appeared yesterday from Medium, the Silicon Valley-based magazine, that showed how use of social media can stimulate the brain with the result that people receive pleasure from using it. Memory retention is also better with social media use than without it. The story's authors relied on a new Australian-developed technology to find the scientific evidence they use to describe how social media improves the quality of interaction with information.

Given this, it's not surprising that Australian voters are spending so much time on Twitter discussing the #libspill and associated events. Nothing seems to be too insignificant for them. All this online activity is also serving to speed up the political process, so that what might have been left for days or a week now has to be completed immediately in the real world by politicians keen to limit damage and to maximise opportunities. There is no time to dally any more. People have no patience. They want to know it, and they want to know it now.

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