The power of the State in the face of decentralized communication

For a number of years, the central power has sought to amplify the decentralization of responsibilities, decisions and the communication that accompanies it. Communities have become relays of a new way of communicating and lead to a transformation of the top down and centralized approach of a country.

The Prince of Cambridge was born in July 2013. His birth was acclaimed by the web and archived records on social networks. Especially when a modern-day herald, Tony Appleton, appeared before the whole world to announce this news. However, this town crier was not mandated by the British crown. On that day, it provoked a model of short-circuited information diffusion mixing old oral methods and modern technologies thanks to social networks. By the time the imposture was unveiled, the news had already spread and amplified at the speed of lightning. The official broadcasters were caught on the hop and Tony Appleton remained forever bound to the life of, perhaps, the future King of England. The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge did not blame him, and again it was Tony Appleton who announced in 2015 the birth of Princess Charlotte.

Towards a dissemination of decentralized information

For centuries, the state authority was using town criers and other drums to diffuse news. They went from town to town to spread the important news. In the vertical transmission model, in top-down model, sometimes, the people received the official content from the top of the power with delays of up to weeks or months. Moreover, this pattern did not involve any dialogue and operated only in the direction of the transmitter to the receiver. Progressively, the press completed this device to inform about the significant events that were taking place every day. The information had become independent and de-correlated from its single central source. This system multiplied the input points of the news but remained on a downward pattern and limited on the number of transmitters of the information.

At a political level, in France, for several years, the central authority seeks to amplify the decentralization of responsibilities, decisions and the communication that accompanies it. In this way, it has strengthened and put in place administrative structures to give more responsibilities to local authorities without giving them adequate resources to manage these new charges. Partners in this new method, the regions, departments or other local authorities have become a new way of communicating and lead to a transformation of the country’s top-down and centralized approach.

A revolution in the means of communication

Confronted by digital technology’s massive arrival and the sharing economy of some of ultra-regulated segments of economic life, our country began to learn that the rules can have other ways and that it was not the most surprising of innovations.

In the age of ultra-information and ultra-connection, last year’s events have shown people can also change their modes of reception and act in a matrix way to spread the news much faster than before.

Thus, social networks have accentuated this liberalization news phenomenon and the sovereign power and centralized management era of content seems to arrive to its end. The exclusivity of the authority diffusion smashed to pieces and people around the world have built new organizational models to communicate.

Networks that signal alerts

Faced with this rapid resource evolution, sovereign powers are confronted with a much freer and more visible circulation of news. In all societal spheres, networks have been set up to manage alerts between their members. Thus, when the radars are multiplied, the company Coyote, and its competitors, appeared to replace the headlights flashing. Organized and structured, the management of network alert notification proved its effectiveness and forced the authorities to take measures to limit their impact.

Social networks at the center of the matrix

At the level of the diffusion news, all the last events that marked France have found ways of resonances particular via the social networks. Whether it was the almost direct follow-up of the attacks and the ensuing war situation, or movements such as “Nuit Debout”, each time the inews circulated faster than the old centralized sources Information could deal with. The gap impression was more and more evident.

Two events have accentuated these lacks of transparency, feelings and questioning of the official way (or voice). They have increased the digital gap between the pyramid top and a connected and informed population.

Thus, the case of the gasoline shortage illustrated it was enough to be connected to the right applications to have an almost direct mapping of the stations that were closed. The rapid increase of petrol station closures, faced with the risk of not being able to continue using vehicles, accelerated to the pace of the record downloads of dedicated applications on smartphones. Faced with this exceptional situation, official information was meant to be minimizing and reassuring in order to limit the impact of this shortage on the everyday lives of citizens.

In the match between the “top-down” information on one side and the matrix and decentralized on the other, users had made their choices.

The Loing flood and then the Seine continued to show that French people’s appetite for more reliable information, and desire to understand what was happening without filters, was constantly increasing. Thus the website vigicrues.gouv.frhas become a reference to analyze the flood progression and the wave that spread throughout the probes placed on the Seine. As the flood recession began in the East, Paris and the West were beginning to worry about the massive arrival of water and the risks of overflow that it could generate. It was possible to know in real time the difference between the levels of 2010, 1982 or 1910 and to prepare for the possibility of new overflows of the Seine. Thus, soon the residents of these areas prepared themselves for the risks of the arrival of water and the power cut or cutting-off of the drinking water.

A perpetual evolution

These events show that crisis management and news have changed so much in recent years that the image given by the government must now integrate these new constraints. Not knowing or being vague becomes catastrophic to deal with in a population that knows, or who feels like, using a terminal.

The disconnection with respect to the digital means is materialized more and more with each new impacting event with the risk of creating a distrust regarding the official information. For the moment, citizens find ideas and organize themselves but very quickly, solutions will have to be found in order to alleviate this lack of trust that is settling in. Internet with its interactive features, social networks with multiple and real-time broadcasting of information, are a chance to manage these unforeseen events more effectively, to improve transparency in communications and to more effectively reassure the community in the event of an accident or a sudden threat of risk.

Alban Jarry

Blog :

Linkedin :

Twitter :

Translation with Sophie Perrin

Translation with Sophie Perrin