Go Bottom Up

The extent to which the use of social media by campaigns follows the command and control model, or a more bottom-up, decentralized approach. (Source – the LSE blog)

To selectively adopt digital tools that fit with the traditional top-down model; in other cases, the dynamics created by linking to other grassroots organizations can have transformative effects.

A study of the use of twitter suggests that campaigning in the digital age is shifting towards hybridity, a combination of the professional co-ordination of activity from above with greater bottom-up, decentralized participation from a range of loosely connected non-elite actors. 

However, there is significant variation in the extent of hybridity – some campaigns don’t take much advantage of the transformative potential opened up by digital technology.

The traditional top-down control approach, targeting carefully controlled messages at uncommitted voters can be tagged as ‘project fear’; employing digital media in a way that fits with the command and control model dictated by the leadership, with supporters encouraged to echo the line adopted centrally and thus act as brand advocates, and to perform highly targeted conventional campaign activity.

Command and control is balanced by the perceived need to provoke and harness the enthusiasm of supporter organisations and networks, many more of whom used Twitter to develop their own arguments, and engage with each other directly rather than via campaign headquarters. The emphasis on self-expression, empowering and mobilizing corresponds with the characteristics of a de-centred movement in which different groups of supporters are given more autonomy to organise and to develop their own messages, placing bottom up much further along the spectrum of hybridity than the top down.

The top down campaign sees itself as a professional short-term machine, concentrating, from their position as front-runners; they thus regard ‘freelancing’ and a ‘thousand flowers bloom approach’ as liabilities. 

In contrast, bottom up see engaging with and energising grassroot supporters as an instrumental and pragmatic necessity. 

The consequent lack of interconnections between top down aligned accounts most closely resembles the hub-and-spoke or star structure associated with centrally managed hierarchical networks. The pre-dominance of the principal node, corresponding to the official campaign, reflects its high degree of centralisation. 

In contrast, although the official bottom up campaign is the biggest node, the breadth of interconnections and levels of activity between intermediate nodes shows a much lower degree of centralisation. The latter pattern is indicative of a more hybrid, movement-like structure, combining autonomy and control, a blend that is essentially absent for the top down side.

Digital media were an important platform in harnessing and providing a means of expression of the energy and enthusiasm of bottom up supporters during the campaign and beyond it. 

The fact is that social media and its networked peer-to-peer interactivity has the potential to generate greater and more inclusive engagement in political activity, opening the door for individuals and groups to participate in ways that are neither controlled by conventional media gatekeepers, not by official campaign organisations. 

This is not to say, however, that the way these channels of communication are used may always be regarded as benefiting the democratic process. Either way, with the hollowing out of mainstream centrist forms of political organisation and discourse in many Western democracies, the role of digital media as a mechanism through which a wider assemblage of supporters can influence the trajectory of political campaigns is undoubtedly of increasing importance for understanding changes in political activism and effectiveness.

Practise doing the bottom-up:

See Ubuntu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy)

See Servant leader (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership)

Care for Minorities 

Seek out the Dandelion children: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201901/why-some-children-are-orchids-and-others-are-dandelions

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Colin Hicks

A lifelong global, cosmopolitan and progressive character I work locally and think globally to counter the worst excesses of my generation

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