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PdF 2010 LIVE BLOG: The State of Tech-Powered Politics

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FRI, JUNE 4, 4:11 P.M.

Forget the Internet. For the post-email, AIM-oriented, text messaging-driven generation of the American electorate, the future of politics -- how voters interact with politicians, elected officials and their government -- is right in their pockets. Scott Goodstein, the Obama campaign's texting guru, writes in his blog for HuffPost Tech:


Mobile technology, while still in its infancy, has gone from simply distributing horoscopes and ring tones to helping political and social justice movements quickly alert and even engage millions of people faster and in ways never before possible in the matter of a few short years.

Goodstein cites a must-read (and must-share) report by Pew Research, released less than two months ago. The report found that...

...Some 75% of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones, up from 45% in 2004. Those phones have become indispensable tools in teen communication patterns. Fully 72% of all teens2 -- or 88% of teen cell phone users -- are text-messagers. That is a sharp rise from the 51% of teens who were texters in 2006. More than half of teens (54%) are daily texters...

Is there any other device that's with you constantly other than your phone? What does the rise of mobile technology mean for your relationship with politics -- and, just as important, with governance? What kind of mobile apps are being created to make politics more transparent, more accountable?

FRI, JUNE 4, 12:40 P.M.

The evolution of technology, especially in the Web 2.0 and mobile spheres, forces all of us to rethink our views of many issues, topics and institutions.

Including the media. In his talk called "Rethinking the Media," Markos Moulitsas -- the Kos of Daily Kos -- said that the growth of one of most vibrant and engaging political blogs underscores the redefinition of the media here in America. As Daily Kos proves at any given moment, media is "participatory and collaborative," Kos said, "where no one voice dictates the truth."

The Daily Kos is 8 years old. That's 56 in dog years, Kos joked, and 2,000 in Internet years. The community blog cemented its reputation during the early Bush era when it aggressively and strongly opposed and questioned the run-up to the Iraq war, filling in a void in the mainstream media. Little to zero cost of technologies -- grabbing a domain name, setting up a site -- lowered the barrier to entry. Anti-war Americans of all backgrounds (lawyers, housewives, engineers, etc.) connected on the site, setting up their own diaries.

And the fact that what began as a blog created one man has become a big news site with some 200,000 users -- "a small city," as PdF co-founder Micah Sifry calls it -- is all the more impressive given the cost-cutting that's underway in major news organizations. Bloggers who were once shunned by mainstream news sites are now hiring them, the most recent example being Nate Silver, who was an Daily Kos diarist. "I'm a proud papa," Kos said.

Daily Kos has also invested heavily in polling -- "in 2008 and 2009, Daily Kos commissioned more polling than any site," he said -- and is currently beta-testing its new re-design.

On Daily Kos, news is community, which has paved a way for the future of media and the way we rethink it.

FRI, JUNE 4, 10:30 A.M.

Last year, the country's first chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, addressed the crowd at PdF 2009 and announced an ambitious new project: a Web site that tracks more than $70 billion in government information technology spending. USAspending.gov shows all contracts held by major firms in every federal agency.

Earlier this morning, the country's first chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, underscored what he called the "government's deep commitment to openness and transparency." Thankfully for Chopra, no one in the tech-savvy, bipartisan group jeered. In general, his 30-minute talk was greeted warmly int he Twittersphere, not exactly the friendliest place. Especially for a high-ranking federal official.

"Great preso by Aneesh Chopra, CTO of US, at Personal Democracy Forum. Making data available and driving a startup mindset," read one tweet."

Another read: "Aneesh Chopra: very inspiring talk! Finally one conversation on which Libs and Dems can come together!"

In an interview with HuffPost Tech, Chopra told us that, on a scale of 1 to 10 of where the federal government ought to be in updating its technology infrastructure, the Obama administration is at a 3. "I speak with humility, and I'm hopeful for the future," Chopra said.

Chopra continued: "The truth is, we're just getting started with cloud computing, with mobility, with text messaging alerts and pushing data out to the American people."


THURS, JUNE 3, 5:42 P.M.

Yes, the Internet -- the people who use the Internet -- can help fix politics. It is happening in small, sure steps, as Craig Newmark highlighted in his blog. But try as the online masses does to change the system, the dominant worldview, how we talk about politics and how politics is covered, remains unchanged.

As Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake argues:


Not to be overly melodramatic, but at the moment, it's becoming more and more apparent that corporate America and political elites of both parties are locked in an embrace that threatens to scuttle the world economy, the environment and our system of representative democracy.

And we don't even have a language to talk about it. We measure every political debate along a right-left axis, with rhetoric left over from the culture wars of the 90s. But in doing so, we're firing past the true villains -- the Masters of the Universe who skillfully manipulate tribal prejudices to insure that it is their interests, and not those of the public, that are the ones always being served.


THURS, JUNE 3, 3:32 P.M.

If the 2006 mid-terms, the 2008 presidential election and nearing 2010 midterms have anything in common, it's the anti-incumbent, change-oriented mood of the electorate, Mindy Finn, a veteran GOP online strategist, told us. The running theme of the past election cycles, Finn pointed out, is the rise of the frustrated, tech-powered electorate -- the anti-Iraq war activists on the left and the anti-government Tea Partiers on the right.

The anger is bi-partisan.

"When will the institutions -- the Congress, the mainstream media -- get that?" Finn asked us.

THURS, JUNE 3, 2:38 P.M.

During and after PdF 2010, HuffPost Tech will post exclusive blogs from online political thinkers as they struggle and explore the theme of this year's confab: Can the Internet fix politics?

Andrew Keen, the self-described "Anti Christ of Silicon Valley" and author of the controversial book "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture," takes an interesting and controversial view. In authoritarian regimes such as Iran and China, the social Web is a democratizing, liberating force, Keen concedes. But here in America, he writes:


...the unmediated Internet, with its tendency toward mob rule, is undermining the legitimacy of representative democracy and replacing it with the dangerous pipedream of a pure democracy. It's the Anti Federalists 2.0. And in today's vertiginous economic and cultural environment, I'm afraid, these new Anti-Feds might win.

Do you agree?


THURS, JUNE 3, 12:05 P.M.

Anais Nin must have seen this coming eons ago, before the rise of Google, Facebook and Twitter: "We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are."

Eli Pariser, the former MoveOn executive director, stepped onto the auditorium here at CUNY Graduate Center and addressed that very issue, touching on the how personalization filters what we read and whom we connect with online. People are getting more information from personalized sources -- say, Facebook. But Facebook, among others, operates a filter bubble that connects us with, as Pariser called it, "stuff we live." Therefore, the more efficient these personalization filters are, the less likely we are to be exposed to new ideas. Or people we don't agree with.

So what do we do about this?

Part of the responsibility, Pariser argued, lies on companies like Facebook and Google. They need to be transparent about the data they collect and what they know about us. As Pariser addressed the crowd, Noah Kunin and Jake Brewer of the Sunlight Foundation tweeted: "I'd love buttons on Google and FB that let me scale personalization."

And we the online masses -- each one of us -- play a role, Pariser added. "As more and more of our society runs on code, we need to get rid of the idea that codes don't care about anything. Codes are written by people," he said. "And we need to start thinking creatively about how to bring heterogeneity in our filtered lives."

Addendum: I profiled Pariser for the Washington Post weeks before the 2008 election.

THURS, JUNE 3, 9:40 A.M.

A titan meets an emerging titan: A man who changed history by leaking the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, on stage here in midtown Manhattan at CUNY's Graduate Center, chats with Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, via Skype, of course. The topic? Whistleblowing 2.0.

In early May, Wikileaks released a classified video showing an American Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad. Inevitably, the video spread like wildfire online, prompting all sorts of questions such as: What if Ellsberg had Twitter, YouTube and Google in 1971? How would the U.S. military analyst released the papers?

"I would have gotten a scanner and put them on the Internet," Ellsberg told Noam Cohen of the New York Times.

Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation tweeted at the start of the video chat: "Call this the courageous panel at #pdf10. Assange and Ellsberg"

Indeed.

THURS, JUNE 3, 9:40 A.M.

Follow live tweets in our Twitter page, with speakers, attendees and bloggers. And live video. Check out the PdF 2010 Live Twitter Page.

THURS, JUNE 3, 8 A.M.:

Can the Internet fix politics?

That's the overarching theme of this year's Personal Democracy Forum, aka PdF, the two-day confab that's become the largest and most important gathering of tech political thinkers. Forget CPAC. Never mind the DLC. PdF serves as the quintessential hub of examining where politics is headed in our tech-centric, increasingly mobile, socially connected 21st century. As we've consistently argued here at HuffPost Tech, technology in general and the Internet in particular -- the here-comes-everybody Web, as Clay Shirky, a PdF regular, calls it -- is irrevocably changing our relationship with politics, and therefore how we see ourselves.

Attendees at this year's event include political operatives from both sides of the aisle; high-ranking government bureaucrats like Aneesh Chopra, the country's first chief technology officer; and tech political luminaries such as Craig Newmark, the Craig of Craigslist, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Ellen Miller, head of the non-profit and non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, which calls for government accountability and transparency through technology.

In an exclusive blog for HuffPost Tech, PdF co-founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry write: "While we all agree the Internet is changing politics, can it fix politics too? Can it make politics more open, participatory, responsive and accountable?"

Newmark, ever the optimist, thinks it can. As he noted in his blog this morning, online folks are doing just that, or at least trying to. But the problem is, as Newmark sees it,"extreme voices drown out moderate voices" online. Which brings us to this point: The question of "Can the Internet fix politics?" leads us to ask, even more consequently, "Can people who use the Internet fix politics?"

This is PdF's seventh year, which means that in the still evolving history of Web 2.0, PdF is a grown-up. Let's look back, yet again, to the decade's top moments in tech and politics here in the U.S.


 
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The Obama Administration
 
The most interesting tech start-up of 2009? The federal government, declared Web entrepreneur Anil Dash. With WhiteHouse.gov, Recovery.gov and Data.gov, among others, Silicon Valley has come to Washington, D.C.
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