New media’s finest hour

Who would have thought it only two years ago? A black man in the White House, a gay stewardess the Prime Minister of Iceland and the nationalizing of banks all the rage through the western world. 

A republican president overseeing the largest nationalization in modern times and leaving behind a record deficit after eight years in office. And that the economic miracle of Iceland would culminate in Britain casting Icelandic banks on its terrorist list along with Al-Queda and the Independent Party running to Moscow for money.

You could not make these things up.

Change is a powerful force today. We’ve witnessed it in the technology sector with the rise of the internet and the changing way and pace of life that comes with everyone being connected all the time, everywhere. Now politicians need to catch up. 

Since the economic disaster hit in October, a miracle has happened. Icelanders are talking about things that matter. They’re not leaving the talking to some bobbing heads on TV while spending their own time barbecuing and discussing furniture from Epal. Since the country capsized a much needed discussion has emerged in blogs, talk-shows, media, family gatherings, on Facebook, hot tubs and coffee houses. 

Everyone is talking and it is scaring a lot of people who are used to controlling the conversation. Mainstream media and politicians are having a hard time grasping the speed and wealth of information that is currently out there. It used to be that things could be swept under the carpet or killed in conversation. Now every politician imaginable is running towards Facebook. 

I just got a phone call from a guy in Maryland, USA who seems to know what is up. He’s got his own podcast, Humor for the Soul where he discusses politics, news, economy, culture, sex and weed. While the mainstream media is still in the mode of putting two theoreticians up against each other in a four-minute argument on topics like the Gaza crisis, Jonathan calls up people who are being affected, talks and listens. It is hard for handsomely paid PR executives to deal with that kind of a channel for information. 

The best media outlet in Iceland today is Eyjan.is, a webzine with blogs and current news. Facebook is the new place to gather and organize interest groups. The protests that saw the government finally leave would have been much harder to organize if people were not so comfortable with these new tools. 

 I started this blog in November to keep track of proceedings in Iceland for those on the outside. I don’t get any money for it, nor do I have any personal political ambition, but I have since been on TV from Hong Kong to Helsinki and I get quite a few letters and requests from the strangest places worldwide. Would people abroad really know about what has been happening in Iceland if they had to rely on mainstream media only?   

You could say new media is having its finest hour in the worldwide economic crisis.

Things are otherwise the same here in Iceland. David Oddson doesn’t think it appropriate to reply to his Prime Minister’s letters although one of his co-governors saw fit to resign yesterday. Jon Asgeir Johannesson started out in business with nothing and he’s pretty much got most of it left. I met my uncle Halli yesterday, and all he wanted to talk about was the wonderful furniture from Epal.

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1 Response to “New media’s finest hour”


  1. 1 Einar Jón February 8, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Why is everyone defining the PM by what she did 40-50 years ago?
    She was a stewardess for less than 10 years, when she was still in her twenties. It’s not even an education (apart from a few weeks training) – just a job.
    Since then she’s spent over 30 years in alþingi. So she should be at least 3 times more a politician than stewardess.

    Using this logic, shouldn’t we call Steingrímur J. “whale-cutter” or “truck-driver” instead of geologist?


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