Communication on the Periphery

At different ends of the continuum, the texting between M.T. and her paramour D.B., on the one hand, and President Obama, friend to and of both new and old media (so far, anyway, although there seems to have been some resiling from free and easy use of social/new media – if only that had been the case with M.T. And D.B.), on the other, are reminders of how peripheral I feel – am – to how one interacts with society. This last sentence is proof that I’m not a natural for Twitter, but I’m pretty well out of the game with everything else that seems to constitute communication, too (except talking in person, telephones, emails, occasional videoconferences and gasp! actual letters in envelopes).

Now if this were just about me, it wouldn’t matter. But I wrote last week about the Federation of Law Reform Agencies of Canada Symposium in snowy Victoria and I’ve written in the past about the Law Commission of Ontario’s intention to post-modernize our website (coming soon!). As law commissions, the whole group of us are outside a major cultural development – communication across physical/technical/personal boundaries – and in that, we are on the periphery.

Now maybe this wouldn’t matter, either, if we just wanted to communicate with the government and the legal profession, both of which we can do well enough with old school tools (or not well enough regardless of whatever tools we use).

But those aren’t our only audiences, or they shouldn’t be. I’m not sure that other Canadian commissions approach consultation the way the LCO does. The LCO has committed to widespread public consultation, to being pro-active in establishing connections with community-based groups and to carrying out research and analysis that takes their experiences into account as relevant for particular projects. Not all those who direct community groups and speak on their behalf use the new media or newest forms of communication, but more will. More generally, for those of us who felt proud when we got the hang of email and for whom it is still a major communicative tool and for someone for whom this blog is the biggest tech advance, there is, as they say, a “whole different world out there” – except it’s not out there, it’s right here. I really doubt that the LCO will do a whole lot of consultation through texting, but that’s not the point. If law commissions really want to have an impact, if they really think that they are part of the society in which they function, they have to stop being on the periphery, looking in.

Now — and maybe this is even more significant than how law commissions communicate is how how they communicate affects what they communicate. A topic for another blog.


  1. Your last statement (i.e. the “what” being influenced by the “how”) is the heart of the issue. The medium should always suit the requirements of the message, and the messager shouldn’t have to worry when there’s a mismatch.