The Internet has transformed the way citizens interact with their government. The basic ability to access a piece of legislation online revolutionized government transparency and populous participation. Today, the websites and interactive tools allow citizen to ask questions of their elected officials, weigh in on new regulations, and track government spending.
The Personal Democracy Forum Conference is the world's largest gathering of those the cutting edge of transforming politics through the internet. This year's lineup includes keynotes by powerhouses like New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org. The conference takes place Monday, June 29 through Tuesday, June 30 in the Jazz at Lincoln Center space in New York. We'll be live tweeting as many events as we can, including talks hosted by Huffington Post vets Amanda Michel and Rachel Sklar.
1:36PM ET: Jeff Jarvis, author of the popular blog Buzz Machine and "What Would Google Do?", asked attendees what a "Google-ized government" would look like. He was careful not to provide his own answer, but suggested that in order to provide fertile soil for a more transparent and participatory democracy, we need to learn how to allow government to fail. Behind Jarvis, viewable on a large projection of tweets that used the "#pdf09" tag, @zbrisson pointed out that Jarvis was echoing an increasingly popular sentiment that had recently been touted by David Weinburg, a Harvard Law Professor and popular technology commentator.
Besides allowing mistakes in government that give way to innovation, what else needs to occur to produce a Google-ized government? Some suggestions from the audience: Instead of developing Government 2.0, we need to become Citizens 2.0; The Twitter form of Government - making politicians describe policy in 140 characters or less; allow citizens to choose what their tax dollars go toward through micro-voting.
3:45PM ET:Amanda Michel of Huffington Post's OffTheBus fame and current reporter for ProPublica, spoke in a panel about community journalism this afternoon alongside NPR's Andy Carvin, TwitterVision's Dave Troy, geoCommons' Andrew Turner, and moderated by Ari Melber from The Nation. The talk focused not only around community journalism projects that have succeeded and come up short but also around the types of tools emerging that could make or break the practice. A good example comes from the election in Iran where Twitter became a prominent tool for Iranians on the inside communicating with the rest of the world using Twitter updates from laptops and cell phones. Many news organizations found themselves spending as much time vetting bogus updates as they did breaking news.
So the question of whether or not to trust citizen journalism becomes a question of motivation and moderation. While different models like GroundReport and NowPublic.com solicit huge amount of content from around the world, and Ground Report even pays citizen journalists for published work. For major news stories, like the election, when many interested and invested contributors tackle a topic, it can quickly become overwhelming for editors if systems of sifting through the stories is not developed beforehand. (NPR received over 40,000 accounts of the inauguration this year, way too much for one editor to handle.)
New topics in citizen journalism are evolving past finding content from readers and citizens around the country. The topic of open source journalism, a collaborative process, whereby citizens work with each other and with professionals to create projects with a wholly original scale and approach. This pro-am strategy might improve coverage for national outlets and even save some local news organizations. If nothing else, this interactive style can certainly create new definitions of accountability in the media.
5:23 PM ET:The first afternoon at the PdF Conference took on a different tone with the panel on participatory health care. Described by the Personal Democracy Forum as a "different kind of health care reform" the panelists--Rep. Jerry Nadler (R-NY), Susannah Fox, James Heywood, and Ester Dyson as moderator--brainstormed over the role that web interactions have on the health care process. According to a recent report by Susannah Fox for the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Americans are still getting health care information, but social networks and the internet are not far behind.
Internet searches like Google are actually the third most popular way to get health care information. So what's to come of collaborative health care education and disease treatment? If dependable information can be found through a simple search, will the need for expensive consultations with doctors begin to become obsolete any time in the near future? As new tools surface around the web, the answer may be yes.
The first step for many Americans will be recovering electronic medical records to know what doctors have said about them. An organization called HealthDataRights.org is offering tools to take advantage of this opportunity, but it could be as simple as calling your doctor.
Those are just a few ideas. Share yours below or tweet them to #pdflive.