I’m posting this from the University of Amsterdam, where we are now well into the final day of a fantastic three-day conference called Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space. We have quite a gang of participants here from the QUT Social Media Research Group, and we’ll collect all our papers up and post them over at that website soon, but in the meantime here are the slides and notes from my paper (co-authored with Theresa Sauter). It’s the first public outing of new work I’ve been doing in collaboration with Theresa and also Anne Galloway, which will come out in due course as part of a book project that Nathan Rambukkana is putting together for Peter Lang (the book has the working title ‘Hashtag Publics’).
Sometime yesterday I noticed that now ex-Premier Anna Bligh’s Twitter account, @theqldpremier (which had been going great guns, by the way, and props to her for that among many other things), looked all wrong:
There had already been plenty of half-joking speculation as to what was going to happen to the Twitter account. At first, like several other people, I thought that somehow amid the adrenaline rush, sleep deprivation and media frenzy of the election, that Anna Bligh’s team had ceremonially handed over her Twitter account along with the custodianship of the State. Perhaps there was a Social Media Account Handover Policy sitting somewhere in a filing drawer in Parliament House?
Then I dug around a bit and realised that Anna Bligh still had her account (and therefore her history and followers, etc), but had simply changed her username – which is something anyone can do at any time, of course:
But then I thought, hang on. Campbell Newman seems to have taken over the @theqldpremier handle instantly. Automagically, even. Did someone really organise this? Surely his team has better things to do the day after the election? Maybe social media really has arrived.
A wee spot of forensics ensued – it looks like someone (@samueljacksonmp) unconnected with the Newman team noticed the username was free, had the foresight to grab it for himself, and passed it on to the new Premier’s team (who have yet to really do anything with it). I also note that it isn’t a ‘verified’ official account, and never has been I don’t think.
Anyway, here’s some screenshots from my little expedition:
I’ve no way of verifying that this is how it happened, but it makes a lot more sense than the Official Social Media Account Handover Policy theory.
Like many others, I was floored by how utterly uncynical, uncompromising, and genuinely empathetic Rudd’s speech turned out to be this morning. I’m actually proud of my government for the first time in a very long time. I’m struggling for words, and that’s quite OK.
The message was loud and clear. Australia is sorry. There will be no more lies and evasions; the government of Australia apologises for what it did. The first business of the new Parliament was the making of a long overdue forceful and formal acknowledgement of dreadful wrongs and a sincere expression of sorrow for the pain and grief these wrongs caused. It is not incongruous or wrong to feel joyfulness and optimism because the joy is for what might come of what was done so well today.
For readers who weren’t able to watch the apology live this morning, here it is (part 1)
It’s very significant, it’s about time, and it’s (only) a start.
The sense of occasion around it has produced spaces in the cultural public sphere for the thousands of stories that have been told and retold, but not necessarily heard; in a way the speech itself is an act of listening.
A couple of personal remarks:
Earlier I was curious about how much anticipation of the event was building on YouTube; and of what kind.
Can you guess what the top result for a search based on the keywords ‘sorry Australia’ is?
I couldn’t bear to actually embed the image, let alone the video. I will have to think long and hard about the implications for my stubborn optimism about participatory culture.
A couple of videos that date from around the time I (probably, far too complacently) assumed a government apology would happen any day.
This is Keating at Redfern in 1992, a moment which feels slightly bizarre and tuneless to me now, not least because it is so very long ago; and politically, so very distant from where we are now. Notice the one and only audible burst of applause, at about 01:42 – you can probably skip to there:
And Archie Roach – another remembered moment from the early 1990s, which probably did more to sear the need for an apology into the hearts and minds of non-Indigenous Australians than anything else at that time: