Alea Iacta Est

Alea Iacta Est is a Latin phrase that translates as ‘the die is cast’. The phrase exists since the time of Julius Caesar and is still used today to mean that events have passed a point of no return.

Caesar on Twitter

Latin proverbs on Twitter are a surreal combination. Even more surreal would be the fact that just one Latin proverb (in this case the ‘Alea Iacta Est’) would make a government tip and fall.
You are right: only in Belgium. Belgium is a country divided by a common culture and unified by different languages: no better way to explain the word ‘surreal’, is there?

As I am writing this Belgian Policy makers are on their knees and all was sparked by one simple tweet. That is right: one tweet can potentially tip an entire government.

The Point of No Return

Crisis negotiations are head-on in Belgium and the dividing factor is a complex geographic and demographic play of ballots and voting departments. It’s all tense and stuck and even the most talented politicians with a proven track record cannot untie the knot. You can imagine in these circumstances the media is constantly looking for scoops and breakthrough news.

And breakthrough there was. Due to his tweets and thereby passing by of the media middlemen, Minister of Economy and simplification Van Quickenborne has allegedly been nicknamed the ‘real man gearing the decisions in the background’. In turn, this even forced him to publicly contradict that he is leading the decision-making in the current crisis.

The Die is Cast for Media Middlemen

As tragic as this event may be and regardless of the distrust the government is projecting on its citizens or even the intertia we are being propelled into (again!); Minister Q did highlight the state of affairs: newspapers are dead and new media lead the way.

Huis Clos

This is the title of a 1944 play by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Huis Clos translates as ‘behind closed doors’. It is also the name of an experiment that was conducted some time ago by a group of French Journalists. Closed out from reality they solely relied on Twitter and Facebook status updates to reconstruct wat has been going on for a full week.

Unfortunately, reporting about this experiment led to MORE incomprehension about the real value of new media. The tweets were dissected and valued against factual newsgathering according to journalistic deontology and standards. Duh…

The surgeons did not click on any included link of the tweets and did not join the conversations. Twitter – as yo may now by now – is essentially sense-making through conversation: amplifying, regulating and diminishing opinions and eventually coming to grips with what s going on around us. Approach it with a hammer and you may find that it’s just another nail.
Too bad.
Missed opportunity.

It’s the conversation, stupid!

The co-creation of meaning – that is the essence of new media. And newscompanies can be very fruitful in their endeavours. Just look at the Huffington Post and Mashable.

The new word is ‘crowdsourcing’: instead of being the monopoly of the information distribution (the old model), newspapers must recognize that access to information is the default now.

Be a Platform

When Mr. Q tweeted the breaking news – which could be interpreted either way – a conversation took place on Twitter and the sense making had begun. Newspapers and TV reporters were at the same time … waiting outside. Outside of the meeting room… but also outside of the platform.

Newspapers could have been that platform. But instead of being that platform they pride themselves in articles explaining why Twitter is for people who have too much time. I’m afraid they too have passed the point of no return, but they chose a different lane…