The people's voice: instrument for change or just a lot of noise


ABC broadcaster Jon Faine has led a panel discussion on the power of individuals to drive change at a forum hosted by RMIT University.

The People's Voice: instrument for change or just a lot of noise was the first event in the Social Enterprise Forum Series hosted by RMIT's Social Enterprise Group.

The forum discussed the ability of ordinary citizens to drive change through the use of SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Google and other social media.

On the panel were business journalist Paddy Manning, politics and media academic Dr Peter Chen and national director of activist group GetUp!, Sam McLean.

Jon Faine opened the discussion with his unique provocative style and reminded the audience that the term "media" can mean many things.

"I'm on air for thousands of hours and thousands of interviews every year - I've been doing that for 17 years now in this shift, 25 years across different media in the ABC," he said.

"I don't think what I do has too much in common with Today Tonight, I don't think what we talk about has much in common with A Current Affair.

"I share nothing in common with those other media outlets, I don't even share the same values as them.

"The only thing we have in common, maybe, is some part of the technology - that's all. Our worlds don't overlap, they almost never collide, and yet that's all 'the media', so let's drill down [further]."

Dr Peter Chen said people who underestimated the power of Twitter and Facebook misunderstood the importance of social networks.

"The power of social media is not in the channel, it is in the social grid," he said.

"It is the way in which it networks together and it's the incredible plasticity of the communicative environment that we are in, that we are both producers and consumers, judges and curators."

Julie Roberts, Senior Manager of RMIT's Enterprise Group, said the topic was timely with the continuing and rapid growth in the use of social media.

"It appears that it's easier than ever before to actually have a say to express what we believe in, to express what we think is right or wrong or good or evil and have our say," she said.

RMIT students and alumni were among the 150 people at the event, which was also attended by representatives from The Projection Room, Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, YGAP, HandUp Australia, Eco Innovators and CERES Inc.

Other organisations represented at the forum were Social Ventures Australia, SYN Media, Oaktree Foundation, BankMECU, Community Sector Banking, Department of Justice, local city councils and the Red Cross.

Guests also joined the conversation through the Twitter hashtag #peoplesvoice.

The Social Enterprise Group at RMIT supports students wanting to make a difference and create change in the world through collaboration and partnership.

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