Wednesday, June 20

Supernova 2007 - Changing Politics

Question from JD: what is your personal interest in politics and culture?

Victor: Is the Internet capable of rewiring politics? Possibily of bringing in people who have tuned out politics. may be able to bring in some very temporarily. Will we have the same as
Does not think it will rewire politics - no evidence from the blogosphere, electronic town halls, podcasts - nothing is changing the landscape. What does technology do to politics at all? Information flows can be rechanneled and optimized to existing stakeholders - a slight improvement on decision making.

Andrew: got into politics when he was running a night club in NY - concerned with Guliani - joined the community board where the club was - got very active in the local community. 3000 students, 97% on schol lunch, not a computer anywhere. Asked 10 friends - 200 people helped wire the school - became MOUSE for technical support for schools. Public education funding was through politics - discussing technology and education. Politicians do not know the difference between a server and a waiter. Began to give advice to various Democrats - Gephardt, Clinton, - only followup was fundraising requests for $$$.

Became the chairman of the Howard Dean Technology Committee - helped raised money and visibility - raising money generated visibility. In 2003, started Personal Democracy Forum - and grew the magazine and the conferences. Two schools of thought:
  1. Technology can be used to maintain top-down control - direct-mail for the 21st Century. Example: - small group of people who determine the agenda and hope others follow.
  2. Technology creates an opportunity for a more robust and participatory Democracy - believe that top-down will be disintermediated. Belief that citizens will connect politics to their lives and reconnect, whereas television has disconnected. Example: Sunlight Foundation - exposing government data to citizenry
Took 15 years before television truly impacted politics - we are in the very early stages of how Internet will impact.

Julius: be descriptive on one element going on now - Julius has been in the private sector - believe that Internet will change politics. Same belief that Internet would have a lag time. We saw the beginnings of it in Dean, thinking that it would be historically significant. Friend of his decided to run for President (Obama) and interesting to see how the campaign is wrestling with the technology and its impact.

What's going on at - tools are familiar from a commercial perspective
  1. Over 600K have signed up for fo a website that has been up since Feb 10th - 4 1/2 months
  2. Series of social networking features on the site
  3. 70K people have created a profile without any advertising at all
  4. Set up groups and meetings - traditional organizing tools - 5000 groups have been set up on, 10K meetings have been organized where over 50K people have participated
  5. Basic blogging function - 13K people been blogging on the community site
  6. Early stages on using technology on the policy side: simplified wiki solution for healthcare
100K contributors, 50K were online - of the 50K, 50% were $25 or less, 90% were $100 or less
Mobile - "go" to OBAMA on the networks - just launched

All of this stuff is in beta - all of this is being experimented with - early strong indication for this to participate.

JD Lasica: The Remix Politics Channel - - give people resource materials/tools/original footage of past Presidential Campaigns and can remix and mashup and create a commentary thoroughout the election.

Question: Andrew Stern on Bill Moyers - how the Internet is changing politics - is in a position to influence politics? Is this a good thing for the Republic? Is this making compromise more difficult? Disrupting politics as usual? Is it impacting public policy in a good way or a bad way?
Victor: Andrew and I are in violent agreement - old political intermediaries versus the new, emerging intermediaries. By and large that this is the same game - there is a layer of intermediaries. Hope the SunlightFoundation becomes the newest NYTimes. I do not think a TownHall/groundsweel of public discourse. We will still have intermediaries. There will be an evolution (think of Ariana Huffington, Daily Kos).
Andrew: Sunlight is acting as a public data source - no judgments applied. Makes it free to the public to make sense of the data. Filters will not act exactly as the same way. Changes the game. e.g. Netroots elevation of Ned Lamont - from obscurity to national prominence.

Question: is the fact that the Internet is opening up the dialog (e.g. Huffington Post)
Julius: this technology is not changing anything? Not sure if I agree. I think that there is a separate question - which are good and which are bad? Similar to how TV changed politics. Mobile/Internet will not change politics dramatically? What is our evaluation of it in our various roles? What role do we want to play?

Question: in MSM, the political center is falling away - since on the web, the extremems are making people go to the edges. Is this impacting public policy?
Andrew: technology in relation to elections and technology in relation to governance. There is a movement to - - a public wiki for policy ideas. Caused significant changes to two policy issues. But the question is how and to what benefit? How is the technology is deployed and used? Back when, the printing press was supposed to be banned because it would provide both good solutions and bad solutions.

Question from the audience: who decides what are the 12 most important issues on the site at Sunlight Foundation?
Andrew: mission and goals of the foundation is what it is. The organization does everything it can to fight the opaqueness of the governance. The work is to make sure that all the information is available.
Julius: it is important to note that the technology is inexpensive and powerful enough to make these things happen for the discourse to occur.
Victor: MSM tries to separate editorial from reporting.

Question/Commentary from Shel:
Heard representatives to have a gatekeeper to disintermediate. Every single one lead with Nicole Smith. The Internet is about conversations - the politicians and government does not listen to us. Obama is not really doing baby-steps - they are using it to fundraise as well.
Julius: Sympathize with an overwhelmed staff.
Andrew: every campaign is engaging in the traditional top-down process. Obama and Edwards are trying to use a new set of tools to engage more people. There are other kinds of tools - back to the civic side of this. There is no reason why city counsel meetings being blogged - which would allow for far more voices. This would last longer - but there is no one doing this today.
These are all baby, baby steps. We need to remind politicians that they need to listen.

JD: The campaigns are looking to advance the candidates over the political cause - very little in engaging the public around the political causes. Is Obama doing this?
Julius: the campaign is collecting information/thoughts/ideas - they are reviewing it - it is all very hard. How do you organize it to make it effective? How do you allow people to be heard that want to be heard? Groups are more effective than singletons - the tools allow for people to connect with each other. On the site or off the site.

Victor: aren't we missing the conversation? Demographics of bloggers: those that engage in the conversation outside of the major political sites; dominated by educated white males. Very damning, very frustrating - would like to have this groundswell that is other than educated, white males.

JD: is it fair of me to make an assumption, you do not see the same kind of social media activity on her site - foreshadow her style of management.
Andrew: the Clintons are masters of top-down politics. The 1984 video got 400K views before
The reason that video was the online slam that matched the
Hillary Clinton announcing on the Internet - was b***sh*t. If you create good content - the community shared it and then gave people a chance to comment. Hillary reacted
Hillary is going to have a very hard time going top-down - and the Repubs are about top-down.

Question/Commentary from Brad Thompson: wants to argue against the "shortage of political information" - I believe that it is a signal-to-noise problem. it was more about signal-to-noise compared to getting the truth to come out.

Second: revolution has been the reduce the cost of media and fundraising - it will have an effect - but will it be able to change American politics. Maybe it will change to allow for politics to be cheaper.

Question: can't the campaigns use technology to manage efforts of information flow
Victor: there is a difference between discourse and information flow
Andrew: take a look at to see how the Conservative Party is allowing greater access.

Greg speaks: Sen. Bill Nelson is using mymaps on his website
Andrew: music industry is still not up to speed on music downloads

Question: what are the metrics of good outcomes?
Andrew: education is the pillar of our democracy. Increased education is important.
Greg: no metrics to measure civic engagement - only on whether or not you come out on one day and what you do that day. Most people turn to - did the candidate win, how much money did he raise, and what was the turnout?
Victor: we do measure civic engagement - Bowling Alone - how people truly engage.

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