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[b@10] John Palfrey: Poilitics and the Future of Democracy

John begins by pointing to Publius, a set of essays and discussions about the Net’s many “constitutional moments.” But his overall topic is, as Yochai Benkler frames it, whether the networked sphere expands democracy. E.g., photos and videos of the monks’ protest in Burma were spread through the Internet. [Live blogging. Sloppy. Incomplete. Inaccurate. Wildly incomplete. ]

Argument 1: “The Internet allows more speech from more people than ever before.” JP hands it to Ethan Zuckerman to talk about Global Voices. There are probably more than 100M outside of the US creating content on line, says ethanz. Global Voices tries to surface those voices. International news has gone from a supply problem to a demand problem. How do you find those voices? How do you understand (= translate, contextualize) them? How is your attention held? Ethan says that although he was initially skeptical of blogging, Salam Pax convinced him. But, it’s not perfect. E.g., governments (and sometimes corporations) try to cut down access to the tools. More worrisome, people don’t pay attention to much outside of what the mainstream media tell them to. “We haven’t found the way to shape the news agenda through social media.”

JP puts up the map of the Farsi blogosphere. In response to question about Cass Sunstein’s hypothesis, John Kelly (who made the map) that even though blogs cluster by political stance, they are still densely interlinked.

Argument : Although the Net lets more people tell the story, “states are finding more and more ways to restrict online speech and to practice surveillance.” JP points to the OpenNet Initiative, which tracks state blockage of speech.

Esther Dyson: To get Internet to help democracy, we need to fix the people. The Net is just a tool. We need profiles of courage. Also, there’s virality of protest.

Audience: We cannot rely on people doing the right thing. Many think that control and censorship are good things.

Audience: It’s not just a digital divide, but a media literacy gap.

Argument 3: “The Internet facilitates the formation of online groups, which in turn has great impact on democracy and governance.” Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation talks about Public Markup, which enables people to comment on bills, etc. JP asks if there are downsides to this increased transparency. E.g., the star wars kids who didn’t want the exposure. Can people be harmed by transparency and the power of collective action without recourse? Ellen replies, “Not yet.”

JP calls on Yochai Benkler. What questions should we be asking in the next ten years? Benkler responds: “I’m sorry, prof., I didn’t do the reading.” His serious reply is that we are moving from imagining and fearing, to actually gathering data and doing detailed analysis.

David Reed: While the Net is great at group-forming, there is an upper limit. Each group demands attention. There’s an attention economy that limits this. In the political space, you can starve out attention. [Tags: ]

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