Networked_Performance

[iDC] reflections on Personal Democracy Forum 2007

pdf_image.jpg

by Joshua Levy

Although it took place a little over a week ago, my impressions of the 2007 Personal Democracy Forum conference, which I attended on May 18th and helped to organize, are fresh in my mind.

First, a disclaimer: I’m Associate Editor for the PdF website and for a group blog called TechPresident, which both cover the way technology is changing politics. The former is an online companion to the conference and a blog in its own right; the latter is a more-focused group blog covering how the web is being used in the 2008 U.S. president campaign, both by supporters and the candidates themselves. Though it’s an offshoot of the PdF site, it’s become arguably more popular and influential, landing publisher Andrew Rasiej and editor Micah Sifry, and to a much lesser extent me, in the media spotlight.
The conference and the sites are devoted to covering the way that online technology — blogs, video, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, Twitter, mashups of all sorts, and so on — are helping citizens get more involved in the political process and self-organize outside of traditional campaign structures. For example, we’re interested in the how MySpace, despite the problems of proprietary ownership and immaterial labor that Trebor and others of discussed here, also provides a platform for citizens to organize around issues like the genocide in Darfur and to get the word out to potentially hundreds of thousands of supporters, or how politicians are using YouTube to connect to supporters and, ideally, inject a new kind of transparency and authenticity into the electoral process.

I try not to be a utopian but I’m constantly impressed at how much potential there is for activism in today’s mainstream online culture — witness Facebook’s new Platform that let’s developers hook into their API and create apps that could take advantage of the viral nature of Facebook and could get a message out to thousands of friends in a single instant. Consider the fact that 80% of college students use Facebook; make it easy for them to get political or social messages out to their friends and you could seed a thousand campaigns.

This year’s conference was the biggest in numbers since it began in 2004. Almost 700 people showed up to hear Larry Lessig, Yochai Benkler, Tom Friedman, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, danah boyd, and others (those are just a few of the folks from the morning sessions) talk about the influence of technology on politics. The afternoon held more traditional panels, a series of demos, and a roundtable with techies working on current presidential campaigns.

While Lessig, Benkler, boyd, and others wowed the crowd (as Benkler spoke you could almost hear the sound of a hundred people clasping their hands to their heads in overloaded delight), less enthusiasm greeted a conversation between Friedman and Schmidt; they contentedly spoke about how this new Internet thing was really, really great and how it was bringing so much more information to so many more people.

The words “China” or “Tiananmen Square” were conspicuously and disappointingly absent (maybe they were censored by the Google higher-ups).

Then Friedman spoke for an hour, reading from an update to his book The World Is Flat and giving his take on the wonders of the web. It was a conference attended by experienced politicos and technologists from both sides of the aisle, and some attendees were upset that so much time was given over to the CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world that is open about wanting to own all information, everywhere, and a columnist for the New York Times who is notorious for his support for the Iraq war. They wanted participation, provocation, etc — the kind of openness you’d find at a BarCamp — and we gave it to them at an “unconference” the next day, where the attendees were also presenters. Those that came to the unconference were generally happier with the structure, since if they had a session in mind they simply had to propose it and it would happen. You can read everyone’s reactions here.

So what did we actually talk about? Session titles ranged from “Embracing Voter-Generated Content” to “Web 2.0: Cult of the Amateur?” (moderated by me and featuring Andrew Keen, Clay Shirky, Craig Newmark, and Robert Scoble — that was fun) “Political Money Online: Getting It and Spending It More Effectively” and “E-Lessons from Overseas: Europe, Latin America and Australia.”

The discussion on this list tends toward the theoretical, but although we never engaged in, say, a discussion of Habermas and the public sphere, we did look at how notions of distributed creativity or Benkler’s wealth of networks actually affect politics on the ground. Meeting Farouk Olu Aregbe, the man who created the “One Million Strong for Barack” campaign on Facebook, or meeting campaign staffers finding interesting ways to use Twitter, was helped me see how people are using this idea of participatory online culture for political purposes. Although I tend to be uncomfortable supporting mainstream political campaigns and ideas, there is a ton to learn by watching how any groups are using social media and technology. And it’s fun to be around politicos who, at heart, are geeks like me.

Was the conference a success? From my vantage point it’s hard to tell. Although there were complaints about Schmidt and Friedman, they also helped to draw in the sponsorship that helped pay for the conference in the first place, and to get more media attention. It could also be argued that bringing them into the fold spurred a necessary critique of their corporate-utopianism and wide-eyed wonder of the web.

More than anything else, my experience co-organizing the unconference reminded me of how fun and important the BarCamp-style conferences can be. Their very structure is an exercise in applying our love of the wiki to something offline, and it largely works.

I know some of you on this list were at the conference and even spoke there; I hope to see some of you next year too, and to hear your opinions about taking this discussion to what some would consider the belly of the beast.

-Josh Levy
www.personaldemocracy.com
www.techpresident.com
www.levjoy.com

iDC — mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity iDC[at]mailman.thing.net http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc

List Archive:
http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/

iDC Photo Stream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/idcnetwork/


May 29, 12:15
Trackback URL

Leave a comment

Tags


calls + opps performance livestage exhibition installation networked mobile writings participatory locative media augmented/mixed reality event new media video interactive public net art conference virtual intervention distributed second life sound political technology narrative festival tactical lecture art + science conversation social networks social games history surveillance dance music workshop urban mapping collaboration live upgrade! reblog activist wearable immersive public/private data architecture platform body collective aesthetics environment systems city identity film visualization culture telematic wireless web 2.0 site-specific ecology place webcast open source tool software text research intermedia space community audio radio nature hybrid 3-D avatar e-literature audio/visual responsive presence pyschogeography interdisciplinary media object interview physical global/ization ubiquitous theory theater biotechnology relational play code archive bioart generative news DIY robotic light place-specific hacktivism synthetic p2p cinema remix education agency interface language im/material live cinema algorithmic labor copyright simulation mashup animation perception image free/libre software multimedia artificial motion tracking voice convergence streaming reenactment gift economy machinima emergence webcam cyberreality glitch DJ/VJ tv censorship ARG nonlinear tag transdisciplinary touch recycle asynchronous fabbing semantic web hypermedia chance synesthesia biopolitics tangible app social choreography gesture unconference forking 1
1 3-D activist aesthetics agency algorithmic animation app architecture archive ARG art + science artificial asynchronous audio audio/visual augmented/mixed reality avatar bioart biopolitics biotechnology body calls + opps censorship chance cinema city code collaboration collective community conference convergence conversation copyright culture cyberreality dance data distributed DIY DJ/VJ e-literature ecology education emergence environment event exhibition fabbing festival film forking free/libre software games generative gesture gift economy glitch global/ization hacktivism history hybrid hypermedia identity im/material image immersive installation interactive interdisciplinary interface intermedia intervention interview labor language lecture light live live cinema livestage locative media machinima mapping mashup media mobile motion tracking multimedia music narrative nature net art networked new media news nonlinear object open source p2p participatory perception performance physical place place-specific platform play political presence public public/private pyschogeography radio reblog recycle reenactment relational remix research responsive robotic second life semantic web simulation site-specific social social choreography social networks software sound space streaming surveillance synesthesia synthetic systems tactical tag tangible technology telematic text theater theory tool touch transdisciplinary tv ubiquitous unconference upgrade! urban video virtual visualization voice wearable web 2.0 webcam webcast wireless workshop writings

Archives

2019

May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2018

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2017

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2016

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2015

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2014

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2013

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2012

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2011

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2010

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2009

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2008

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2007

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2006

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2005

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul
Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2004

Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul

What is this?

Networked Performance (N_P) is a research blog that focuses on emerging network-enabled practice.
Read more...

RSS feeds

N_P offers several RSS feeds, either for specific tags or for all the posts. Click the top left RSS icon that appears on each page for its respective feed. What is an RSS feed?

Bloggers

F.Y.I.

Feed2Mobile
Networked
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
New American Radio
Turbulence.org
Networked_Music_Review
Upgrade! Boston
Massachusetts Cultural Council
New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency
Thinking Blogger Award

Turbulence Works

These are some of the latest works commissioned by Turbulence.org's net art commission program.
[ openspace ] wilderness [meme.garden] A More Subtle Perplex A Temporary Memorial Project for Jobbers' Canyon Built with ConAgra Products A Travel Guide A.B.S.M.L. Ars Virtua Artist-in-Residence (AVAIR) (2007) Awkward_NYC besides, Bonding Energy Bronx Rhymes Cell Tagging Channel TWo: NY Condition:Used Constellation Over Playas Data Diaries Domain of Mount GreylockVideo Portal Eclipse Empire State Endgame: A Cold War Love Story Flight Lines From the Valley of the Deer FUJI spaces and other places Global Direct Google Variations Gothamberg Grafik Dynamo Grow Old Handheld Histories as Hyper-Monuments html_butoh I am unable to tell you I'm Not Stalking You; I'm Socializing iLib Shakespeare (the perturbed sonnet project) INTERP Invisible Influenced iPak - 10,000 songs, 10,000 images, 10,000 abuses iSkyTV Journal of Journal Performance Studies Killbox L-Carrier Les Belles Infidles look art Lumens My Beating Blog MYPOCKET No Time Machine Nothing Happens: a performance in three acts Nothing You Have Done Deserves Such Praise Oil Standard Panemoticon Peripheral n2: KEYBOARD Playing Duchamp Plazaville Psychographics: Consumer Survey Recollecting Adams School of Perpetual Training Searching for Michelle/SFM Self-Portrait Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China ShiftSpace Commissions Program Social Relay Mail Space Video Spectral Quartet Superfund365, A Site-A-Day text_ocean The Xanadu Hijack This and that thought. Touching Gravity 2/Tilt Tumbarumba Tweet 4 Action Urban Attractors and Private Distractors We Ping Good Things To Life Wikireuse Without A Trace WoodEar Word Market You Don't Know Me
More commissions