Youth, for example, have pledged to vote and have been spreading the word in ways never seen before. The first generation of digital natives is now of voting age, and they have high expectations for freedom of information. Many universities have, in collaborations with engagement organizations like Leadnow.ca, held vote mobs during which students get dressed up, meet, sing, chant and dance with the aim of encouraging fellow Canadians to vote. YouTube videos of these vote mobs have gone viral, creating an unstoppable wave of engagement and voter education. Canadians have also seized online engagement tools like Vote Social to help get out the vote. Social media appears to have moved politics in Canada by making them less about personality and platitudes and more about a two-way dialogue between engaged citizens and candidates. If nothing else, the numbers are suggestive: At the beginning of the election, pundits told Canadians this would be an uneventful one. Canadians have used social media to change the story -- in turn creating historic advanced poll numbers and a huge, unforeseen upsurge in support for the NDP.
Canadians are following the election on social media like never before on services such as Poli-Twitter. Traditionally, there is a media blackout for a period of time after the polls close that prevents media outlets from posting early results. That law is supposed to apply to the Internet as well, but don't expect social media to be silent. In fact, if you want the results first, you'll probably hear on social media from one of your fellow citizens, rather than from traditional media -- a rather emblematic close to this election.
Steve Anderson is the national director for OpenMedia.ca, an organization that's mission is to advance and support a media communications system in Canada that adheres to the principles of access, choice, diversity, innovation and openness.