We do know that people use Facebook for all kinds of activities, raising money to cancer sick children (started by the sister of a friend of mine), support candidate/president Barack Obama, or to campaign “Against Tony Blair being EU president”.
But does membership in a Facebook group actually reflect political opinions and engagement, or is it so easy to join that it doesn’t actually “counts”?
That is what a friend of mine, Anders-Waage Nilsen (who is also blogging, in Norwegian), is testing. He wants to see whether joining a Facebook group in support of a political initiative equals signing a petition according to Norwegian law. By creating the Facebook group “Borgerinitativ: Svevebane fra Bystasjonen til Haukeland”, he wants to test the municipality law § 39a, citizens’ initiative (my translation). According to this paragraph, “1.Citizens of the council or county can raise suggestion that concerns the council or the county’s activities. The city- or county council has the duty to consider a suggestion if at least 2 percent of the citizens supports the suggestion. Still, 300 signature on the council level and 500 signature on the county level will always be sufficient” (again, my translation).
Waage Nilsen has suggested there should be a aerial cableway or “express gondola” as he calls it, from Bystasjonen (in Bergen, Norway) to Haukeland.
So far, the group has 521 members, i.e. has long passed the goal of 300. I’m excited to hear more about how this initiative will be welcomed or dismissed in the local city council in Bergen. Jill/txt has also written about “Joining Facebook group as a political action”. She writes:
Rather than poo-pooing the presumed laziness of all those Facebook users who join groups to fight for their causes, perhaps we should look at this as a perfectly valid and effective way of being politically active in today’s world. I’d love to see a study of this.
Carl Christian Grøndahl has already done studies on this. He wrote his master thesis on “New media’s influcence on political activities and participation” (pdf, Norwegian). I haven’t had time to read it yet, but will try later this week (I’m travelling, and that’s when I get most reading done:-).
In Denmark, a guy called Anders Colding-Jørgensen (internetpsykologist with a special focus on social media and viral marketing) has taken this kind of experiment even further. He started a Facebook group about a fake problem, called “No to the tear-down of Storkspringvandet” (my translation) in Copenhagen. No tear-down was planned, but Colding-Jørgensen wanted to test whether he was able to grow and spread the group. Shortly after it was established, the group had more than 27 000 members! You can read his blog post about the experiment (in Danish) here, where he apologises if people feel offended by the experiment. The group has now changed name and is called “I also ♥ Storkspringvandet in Copenhagen“… (I read the story first at Harddisken).
On my search on Facebook, I came across this group that might be interesting or extremely provocative for Norwegians (reminder, Norway is not an EU member) – “European Union – for those who are European Union (EU) citizens (or wish they were …)”
One of the members of the group, a Norwegian girl, has written this question on the wall:
doing a dissertation on norway and the eu, if someone’s got a (educated..) view on the future between the 2, please share:)