Students learn impact of internet on politics

May 22, 2014

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Students in Murdoch University’s Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs (SWMS) have been learning from high-profile opinion leaders about the revolutionary impact of the internet on politics thanks to an innovative new graduate unit.

Students completing their E-Politics Unit have gathered together each week for five weeks to listen to the following speakers via Skype:

  • Simon Sheikh, the National Director of the political organisation GetUp! from 2008 to 2012;
  • Allan Gyngell, founding Executive Director for the Lowy Institute for International Policy and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments;
  • Australian Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam;
  • Oscar Morales, the creator of One Million Voices against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.  He was among the first people to use Facebook for mass mobilisation, mounting the largest protest against a terrorist group in history; and
  • Ranya Alkadamani, previously Press Secretary to Kevin Rudd and currently the Strategic Communications and External Affairs Director for Minderoo, a national organisation founded by Andrew Forrest.

SWMS Dean, Professor Benjamin Reilly, said the unique E-Politics unit was a success with students and would become an annual offering.

“The E-Politics unit is a good example of the kinds of innovative classes the Sir Walter Murdoch School runs,” Professor Reilly said.

“Most of our classes are held in intensive format, many in the evenings or, like the E-Politics unit, on weekends.

“This not only allows students to combine work and study commitments more easily, but enables a wider range of participation by busy public figures such as politicians and opinion leaders.”

Professor Reilly said the format of the E-Politics unit reflects its content.

“The key theme of E-Politics is how the internet and other new communications technologies are radically changing how politics works at both the domestic and international levels,” he said.

“The structure of the Unit reflects this same theme, with heavy emphasis on new technologies in political campaigns and Skype-base participation of senior political and business leaders.

“The Unit itself has attracted students from across a range of disciplines including public policy, international affairs, media and communications, which underlines just how game-changing the internet will be for local, national and international affairs.”

Adjunct Lecturer of E-politics, Fergus Hanson, said he drew from his own learning experiences at other universities in Australia, the United States and Sweden when developing the format.

“The unit is innovative because as well as being able to listen to national and international speakers first-hand, students also do live, real-world assignments,” Mr Hanson said.

“For example they run their own online campaigns on a topic of their choosing.  They may be raising money for a charity or be lobbying a company to change the way they do things.

“With small class sizes of around 18 people, students actively build their own invaluable network. Everyone walks away knowing everybody else, well. With Murdoch’s incredibly rich international student profile this means students finish with an enduring global network to draw on throughout their professional lives.”

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