As Australia draws to the end of its five-week election campaign, I’d pretty much given up on the political parties doing anything beyond the odd YouTube or Facebook campaign strategy. As I wrote in 2007, Australia has lagged some other countries in the use of virtual environments for politics, and this campaign hasn’t changed that, with the debate over competing broadband policies about as substantive as it has gotten.
You know for certain that our politicians are truly lagging in this area when the mainstream media beat them to the punch. Channel 9 have announced that their election coverage on Saturday will be centred on a bunch of ‘virtual sets’. As the video below shows, it’s fairly standard green-screen technology, but its an evolution all the same.
Although the interactivity will be limited to manipulating election data, and the communication will be one-way (presenter to audience), it’s a step forward for a couple of reasons. First, it’s provides an in-your-face example of virtual environments as a collaborative and/or information-sharing tool. Second, its use will be a major eye-opener for the strategists in each of the parties, who still appear to be wedded to 2D technologies for campaigning at the expense of everything else. The reaction of the public to Channel 9′s coverage is likely to be mixed, with some pointed criticism likely at gimmickery over substance. That doesn’t matter to a large extent: the cat is out of the bag over at the Fourth Estate. Two of the other Estates (‘the Church’ and the public) already have a good sense of this technology. There’s only one left looking backwards – the one that should be leading the debate or at least actively contributing to it.
Watch the Channel 9 spiel for yourself: