digital democracy teach-in 'report'
chung at scripps.edu
Tue Feb 17 17:17:19 CST 2004
hello Perl mongers
i was at the digital democracy teach-in last week (and was
promptly sick for a week afterwards which explains my lack
of comments or review of what i saw there).
my thanks to Bob and everyone who got me the ticket to get
in at the oreilly conference.
here is my not-so-brief review of what i thought of the
teach-in. this i'm sure is of no interest to the perl
programmer in you, but if politics mildly interests you,
feel free to read on.
of the all-day sessions there, i only sat through 3 of them.
this was partly because my interests in the event was less
political and more from the 'geek' angle, and i was somewhat
disappointed to see that even the ones that i attended were
somewhat too political in a very overtly biased way for my
i skipped the entire Joe Trippi session since i'd heard that
his cut of the role as Dean digital campaign manager was
like $7 million (out of the $41 mil).
this session had 2 speakers in one:
Jonah Seiger from
institute for politics, democracy and the internet
Scott Heiferman CEO of meetup.com
Seiger's entire presentation can be downloaded from:
and was fairly insightful, i thought.
he defined what Online Political Citizens (OPC) were and
told us that something like 7% of the US population can
be considered an OPC by their profile. he enumerated
what their profile looks like (highly educated, white,
male, etc.) and went onto describe what he called an
'influential' person (1 / 10 in general public), where
a very large percentage of the OPC's were, in fact, also
influentials (not surprisingly).
the talk by the meetup.com person was largely a slideshow
of various people and animals meeting up thru meetup.com
and some hopeful statements of how the internet perhaps
can actually help reverse the effects of breakdown of
various communities in this country in recent years.
he spoke of the need and the inevitability of people to
get together with others of similar interests or backgrounds.
3) Effective Political Blogging with
and a one more person whose name wasn't identified in the
this was the worst session i thought because the lady named
Halley had nothing to contribute except her anti-Cheney
remarks and didn't really belong there. i thought they
might be dealing with the geek side of blogging, and political
bloggin in particular, but this was not the case; even the
one question asked by an audience member along those lines
was pretty much dismissed with a, 'no, there's nothing
special about political blogging as far as bloggin goes'
reply. Mitch Ratcliffe, i thought had the most objective and
detached perspective among them (quoting the likes of Alexis
de Tocqville in the 19th century) on the role of blogs and
new media thru internet in general (he's been with a company
which had to shell out alot of money just to buy a seat
on the AirForce-1 during the previous administration; and
he told an interesting anecdote which told of the difficult
situation for journalist types where unless there is some
'selling out' to the presidential administration in power
to get access in the first place, there is no access, period
-- though he didn't mention it, i thought the situation
with CNN looking the other way or even endorsing the
Hussein administration atrocities in order to have a Baghdad
bureau presence was an example that came to my mind).
question and answers from this session were quite eye-
opening for me; more on this in the next session comment.
4) The Grassroots Challenges the Jouralist Priesthood with
Dan Gillmor, Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen (one other)
this was a pretty informative session which was mostly
wide-open panel discussions and numerous questions from the
audience (most of whom seemed to have something to sell
basically, there was nothing 'geek' about this entire
teach-in. it was mostly political. from the Q & A from
all the sessions, here are some summary points that i can
A. many of the people there had carried sincerely high hopes
with the Dean campaign and were visibly agitated and
disappointed at the recent demise/collapse of what they
thought might bring real revolution in american politics.
still there was still much excitement and residual hopes
that the messenger's shortcomings this time around is
not as important as the message itself (the message in
this instance being that the voice of 'the people' will
be heard and must be reckoned with).
B. in light of the failure (a rather dismal one actually) and
the discrepancy between the online efforts to raise money,
awareness and the actual conversion of the likely
joe-average (not an OPC) voter to go out and vote in a
way reflective of the seeming online 'revolution', many
questions were directed to try and figure out how to
actually bridge this gap.
(as a side-note this aspect reminded me of the scientific
elite in this country who are baffled at what they view as
the continued mindless acceptance by the general public of
the basic biblically based, creationist worldviews even after
many years of active efforts from the evolutionary framework
at all levels of public education.)
there were quite a few people who got up and asked questions
and also made comments about how he/she and their organizations
are in fact, energized by the recent events, doing this or
that to try and bring about the nitty gritty changes that need
to happen in order to see harnessing of this 'digital' medium
to desired ends. however there was no consensus of any kind
on where to go from here; mostly vague outlines of where
they'd like to see continued changes happening.
partly, this was due to realization that while the internet
has given everyone an equivalent of a 5 MWatt radio transmitter
which can bypass any normal peer-review or filtration process,
to be able to transmit or publish content of enough interest
and persuasive power necessary for political changes one
still requires somewhat insider or professional status to
penetrate the spheres of these people of influence in the
first place. i felt that i perceived a frustration on the
part of some of these 'revolutionary'-minded people when this
point was driven home by some of the speakers.
'education' was brought up by at least a couple of people in
the audience and agreed by the panel discussion members as
the most powerful and still the most important way to effect
real changes for whatever vision we all have for this country.
C. there was also ambivalence on the part of the speakers and
the audience whether to treat the political process as a
horse race (as the current 2-party presidential race is
being portrayed by the media) or whether the internet has
opened up new rules and obligations to make it less of a
horse race and more as the tool for genuine and objective
education of the masses in the sense of, oh, say a Jeffersonian
vision, perhaps. i sensed that like everything else in life,
people are already accepting the pragmatic realities of one
without totally giving up the hopes and ideals of the other.
then i realized i'd been there over 4 hours already, and horton
plaza is free parking for upto 3 hrs with a validation from a
store, so i decided i'd heard enough and paid my $6 parking fee
and went home.
thanks again for the free ticket; i'd like to go to more of
these types of things whenever possible. nice change of pace.
the scripps research institute
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