This post was part of my coverage of the Liberal Party’s Biennial convention for And, with thanks to Arrested Development for the post title.

There’s a great deal of focus on “digital” at the Liberal Convention.

There are constitutional amendments which enshrine specific digital channels into party voting, entire sessions devoted to networked intelligence based on social technologies, and a section of the convention floor (apparently) showcases purpose-built digital tools for party communication and collaboration.

However, digital remains a mystery.

I walked the floor with a microphone to ask delegates about the role of digital in the party. My hope was to tie the answers back to Don Tapscott’s morning keynote, a rallying cry for the party to get creative with online engagement and reinvent political participation. However, none of the 20 people I spoke with attended Mr. Tapscott’s session.

Of the 20 people I cornered:

  • eight declined my request saying they didn’t feel informed enough to comment (six of those were Young Liberals)
  • seven said the party needs to ‘do digital’, specifically Twitter and Facebook
  • two suggested online voting is imperative for a modern and sustainable political system (both were Young Liberals)
  • one highlighted the need for strong Canadian policies to support innovation
  • two identified the need to select and use tools strategically, with specific goals in mind, and integrate their role with traditional means of public engagement

Candidates for party positions are light on innovation when it comes to integrating digital in their printed collateral. Only three candidates have embraced QR codes. Essentially, you’re facing lots of text and familiar campaign platitudes: ‘change’, ’empower’, ‘inspire.’

I was disappointed to learn the Liberalist Lounge, a cool curtained area with lounge chairs and desks adorned with technology, is a ‘no media zone. Perhaps reporting for iPolitics and holding a microphone makes me suspicious.

For a party that leads others in creative use of technology by doing things like running live video streams with interactive chats during party events (across in the country), and holding Twitter and Facebook town halls, there’s little here to suggest meaningful and strategic decisions have been made (or communicated and understood). Of course, as a journalist pointed out to me earlier today, there’s also little to suggest these initiatives have been effective.

Maybe that’s because only two out of 20 people I spoke with seem to have a handle on digital.

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