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Live from The National Infrastructure Summit

Posted on January 27, 2011

Even though it’s mostly on the part of reporters and city staff, there’s some tweeting going on at this week’s summit in Regina. “We’re tweeters,” said Mayor Pat Fiacco after telling us about council’s last-minute lesson in the ways of the Twitterverse.

Interestingly, most of the tweets were coming from the session on civic engagement, with city staff–and a few Leader Post reporters–typing up a pretty good synopsis of the session in 140 character bursts.

The useful, update tweets were, of course, cut with a fair number of tweets about how much Calgary’s new mayor, Naheed Nenshi, rocks (go here for some actual for some better coverage of his fairly standard comments), and about the napkins at lunch, or the cool ice sculpture at the snack table.

Tweets were scrolling behind panellists as they spoke and the audience was reminded that they could tweet their questions to the panel. Slightly odd, considering they were sitting only a few feet away from them. Our audience opted exclusively to ask their questions the old fashioned way.

What to make of all this focus on social networking?

One of my co-panellists at yesterday’s afternoon session on policy and governance called the term “infrastructure deficit” a product of “1980s branding” and chalked it up to a marketing tool. Just like the word “tax” has a more negative connotation that “user fee,” the word “deficit” sounds dire. He said, what we really have in our Canadian municipalities is debt. The same is true of that all too ubiquitous term, “social networking.” It’s become a marketing tool, a buzzword, a blanket statement to mean, “We’re doing the new thing that makes people listen to us and attracts young people.”

That said, it doesn’t hurt. The audience didn’t seem to find the twitteroll distracting, and some may have found it useful to see what was being said in concurrent sessions. I found that it informed my comments to see what other panellists were saying (about, for instance P3s, over in the financing session).

What would be really interesting is to see various departments at all levels of government using tools like this (not Twitter, but a similar platform, perhaps) to better communicate with each other–keeping up with what other staff are doing and thinking is part of the solution to what our panel seemed to agree is a struggling, outdated governance model. But more on that after today’s wrap-up session.

One Response to “Live from The National Infrastructure Summit”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Gamble, Philip Mulder. Philip Mulder said: RT @JDGamble: Blog by @ReNewCanada on role of twitter at National #Infrastructure Summit in #Regina: [...]

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