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October 11, 2012

[dpla] DPLA opening session

Today is the first day of the third national plenary of the Digital Public Library of America. We’re in the Chicago Public Library where Brian Bannon has welcomed us. Brian is Chicago’s new Library Commissioner, and I am a huge fan.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

John Palfrey, the chair of the DPLA, tells us that what makes him happiest about the DPLA meeting is the wide range of people who continue to work on the project. He tells us that this is the first time the DPLA has live-streamed the workstream day; tomorrow is the big public confab. (Hashtag: #dplamidwest.) JP tells us that the DPLA is working across workstreams; the meetings today are not focused on workstreams but topics.

One session will be on content. JP reminds us that Emily Gore is working fulltime on acquiring content. That session is going to talk about strategic planning, and about the digital hubs pilot project that is under development. (The hubs project apparently will give access to the Hathi Trust and Internet Archive, which means there will be books in the DPLA!) JP tells us that there are two federal funders and one not-yet-announced private funder.

The second simultaneous group is the technical workstream. Martin Kalfaltovic, SJ Klein and Jeffrey Licht.

The third is on the future of the DPLA with JP and Maureen Sullivan.

JP announces that the the DPLA non-profit org is on the way. He also congratulates PAul Courant of the Hathi Trust for the judicial decision yesterday. JP asks how we can keep the DPLA’s inclusiveness and openness even as it moves to a more formal structure.

“This is the last of the entire days to roll up your sleeves and figure out what the ‘it’ is before we launch the ‘it’ in April 2013,” JP says.

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October 8, 2012

[2b2k] Skepticism about stories

The phrase “story-telling” raises my skeptical scalp wisps. I am a sucker for stories, whether of the Moth/ This American Life sort, or the literary art of, say, a Philip Roth or my sister-in-law, Meredith Sue Willis. But “story-telling” also sometimes refers to a belief that even I consider naive about the power of stories to overcome differences, or to the commercial use of stories to manipulate us.

So, I went to the new “Future of Story Telling” conference with my skeptical hazmat suit on. But, it turned out to be an outstanding event. At the very least it helped me understand my skepticism better.

The event, put on by Charlie Melcher, attracted a great set of about 300 folks, including artists, lots of marketers and advertisers, software designers, scientists, and performers. And it used an interesting format that worked out well: Before the event, the conference made a 5-10 minute video for each of the presenters. (Mine is here.) Attendees were asked to choose three one-hour sessions based on those videos. The sessions began with a viewing of the vids, and then a 10-15 minute informal talk by the speaker. The rest was open discussion. Each speaker held her or his session three times.

I tuned mine after each go-through, of course. By the second time, I was setting up the discussion as follows:

Bill Casebeer was at the conference talking about research that shows that the brain releases empathy-producing chemicals when we hear a story that follows the classic arc. This reaction is universal, and when I had a chance to talk with Bill the night before (he’s a brilliant, enjoyable, and — most of all — patient person) I learned that chimpanzee brains also seem to work this way. So, I began my session by pointing to those findings.

But, there are plenty of natural brain reactions that we work against. For example, if the impulse for revenge were a natural impulse, we would try to thwart it in the name of civilization. Likewise if rape were a natural impulse. (This is the old sociobiology debate from the ‘Seventies.) So, I told my session I wanted to raise two questions, not as a devil’s advocate but because I’m genuinely uncertain. First, should we be resisting our brain’s impulse to see and react to story arcs on the grounds that the story arc often is a simplification to the point of falsification? Second, whether or not we reject the arc, does the Internet offer possibilities for telling radically more complex (and therefore more truthful) stories?

Then, I talked briefly about networked knowledge, because that’s what the organizers wanted me to talk about. Also, it’s a topic I like. So, I looked at Reddit (yes, again) as a place at which we see knowledge exhibited in its complexity, including the inevitable disagreements. My overall point was that our new medium is enabling knowledge to become more appropriately complex. If the Net is doing this to knowledge, perhaps it can and even should do this to story telling.

The groups at all three sessions focused on the question of whether story arcs falsify. I gave them the example of how your life is lived versus how it is retold in a biography. The bio finds an arc. But your life — or at least mine — is far more random and chaotic than that. One group usefully applied this to the concept of a “career,” a term that now we pretty much have to put in quotes. We don’t have careers so much as a series of hops, skips, and jumps. (“Career” has always carried class-implications, as did this discussion.) In fact, since (I’d hypothesized) everything is being reinterpreted as a network of the Internet sort, our path through jobs and among friends is itself beginning to look like a network. Small jobs loosely joined?

Some replied that even if your life does not consist of an heroic arc, every step of the way is a little arc. I’d agree that our experience is to a large degree characterized by intentionality (or, as Heidegger would say, by the fact that we care about what happens). But my understanding of the story arc is that it needs the intervention of an obstacle, but most of our plans go forward without a hitch, if only because we learn to be pretty good plan-makers. Further, I think the arc needs to contain a sense that it has more to say than what it literally says. “I went to a store for apples, but they were out, so I went to a different store” is not yet a story. It has to reveal something about the world or about myself: “I went to the store for apples, and the clerk was incredibly rude. Why can’t people be nice to each other? So, then…” Most of what we do has an intention, but not every intentional act is a story. That’s why I don’t see our lives as composed of little stories. And even if they were, putting those little stories together wouldn’t necessarily make the Big Stories we tell about ourselves true.

Some said that stories are not a matter of truth but of emotion. A woman from Odyssey Networks, a group that promotes interfaith understanding, told a story about hardened criminals tenderly caring for other prisoners. Quite moving. And I wouldn’t diminish the importance of stories for connecting us as creatures that feel, care, suffer, and rejoice. But I did want to raise the ethics of using a form of communication that appeals directly to our lizard brains. (Well, I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong portion of the brain. Lizards probably tell really cold-hearted stories.) I didn’t do a very effective job of raising this issue, but we could balance the prisoners’ story with a million propagandistic anecdotes from politicians (“I was in Phoenix when I met Josie Jones, a workin’ mom strugglin’ to make ends meet…”) and marketers. Maybe we should be really careful about using stories, since they can make us vulnerable to some very flawed thinking. And to be technical, I do worry also that the common ground that story-tellers find often may not be all that common after all. I have little confidence that we experience The Iliad the way the Greeks did.

It turned out that none of the three groups much wanted to talk much about the second question: the possibility of using the Net to tell more complex stories. That’s my fault. I couldn’t make the idea concrete enough because I don’t have a concrete-enough idea. In two of the sessions I did raise the possibility that some online multiplayer games are one place we might begin to look. I think there’s some value in that idea, for stories there are collaborative and emergent. But they also lack the coherence that a narrator brings to a story, and coherence may well be a requirement for a story. There are worthy experiments in having large groups collaborate on a single narrative, but that doesn’t scale stories so that they more accurately represent the chaotic and complex nature of life.

It may well be that stories need to be relatively simple and arced in the middle simply to be stories. And I would hate to lose the stories that come from artists, for great stories — or perhaps I should say truthful stories — transcend the simplicity the form imposes. But I continue to worry that story-telling outside of the aesthetic realm is a simplification that all too often falsifies. So, I wouldn’t want to give up stories. But I would be happier if we approached the form itself with a fundamental wariness.


October 1, 2012

[sogeti] Andrew Keen on Vertigo and Big Data

Andrew Keen is speaking. (I liveblogged him this spring when he talked at a Sogeti conference.) His talk’s title: “How today’s online social revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us.” [Note: Posted without rereading because I’m about to talk. I may go back and do some cleanup.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Andrew opens with an anecdote. He grew up as a Jew in Britain. His siblings were split between becoming lawyers or doctors. But his mother asked him if he’d like to be the anti-Christ. So, now he’s grown up to become the anti-Christ of Silicon Valley.

“I’m not usually into intimacy,” but look at each other. How much do we know about each other? Not much. One of the great joys is getting to know one another. By 2017 there will 15x more data flowing over the network. Billions of intelligent devices. “The world we are going into is one in which 2o-25 years…you strangers will show up in a big city in London and you’ll know everything about each other.” You’ll know one another’s histories, interests…

“My argument is that we’re all stuck in Digital Vertigo. We’re all participants in a digital noir.” He shows a clip from Vertigo. “In the future these kinds of scenes won’t be possible. There won’t be private detectives…So this movie about the unfolding of understanding between strangers won’t happen.” What happens to policing. “Will we be guilty if we don’t carry our devices.” [SPOILERS] The blonde in this movie doesn’t exist. She’s a brunette shopgirl from Kansas. “The movie is about a deception…A classic Hitchcock narrative of falling in love with something that doesn’t exist. A good Catholic narrative…It’s a warning about falling in love with something that is too good to be true.” That’s what we’re doing with social media nd big data. We’re told big data brings us together. They tell us the Net gives us the opportunity for human beings to come together, to realize themselves as social beings. Big data allows us to become human.

This is about more than the Net. The revolution that Carlotta is talking about is one in which the Net becomes central in the way we live our lives. Fifteen years ago, Doc Searls, David W., and I would be marginal computer nerds, and now our books can be found in any book store. [Doc is in the audience also.]

He shows a clip from The Social Network: “We lived on farms. Now we’re going to live on the Internet.” It’s the platform of 21st century life. This is not a marginal or media issue. It is about the future of society. Many people this network will solve the core problems of life. We now have an ecosystem of apps in the business of eliminating loneliness. E.g., Highlight, “the darling of the recent SxSW show.” They say it’s “a fun way to learn more about people nearby.” Then he shows a clip from The Truman Show. His point: We’re all in our own Truman Shows. The destruction of privacy. No difference between public and private. We’re being authentic. We’re knowingly involving ourselves in this.

A quote: “Vertigo is the ultimate critics’ film because it is a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they but who are busy econstructing themselves and each other to a f=kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soul mate.” Substitute social media for film. We’re losing what it means to be using. We’re destroying the complexity of our inner lives. We’re only able to live externally. [This is what happens when your conceptual two poles are public and private. It changes when we introduce the term “social.”]

Narcissism isn’t new. Digital narcissism has reached a climax. As we’re given personal broadcasting platforms, we’re increasingly deluded into thinking we’re interesting and important. Mostly it reveals our banality, our superficiality. [This is what you get when your conceptual poles are taken from broadcast media.]

It’s not just digital narcissism. “Visibility is a trap,” said Foucault. Hypervisibility is a hypertrap. Our data is central to Facebook and others becoming viable businesses. The issue is the business model. Data is oil, and it’s owned by the rich. Zuckerberg, Reed Hoffman, et al., are data barons. Read Susan Cain’s “Quiet”: introverts drive innovation. E.g., Steve Wozniak. Sharing is not good for innovation. Discourage your employees from talking with one another all the time. It makes them less thoughtful. It creates groupthink. If you want them to think for themselves, “take away their devices and put them in dark rooms.”

It’s also a trap when it comes to govt. Many govts are using the new tech to spy on their citizens. Cf. Bentham’s panopticon, which was corrupted into 1984 and industrial totalitarianism. We need to go back to the Industrial Age and JS Mill — Mill’s On Liberty is the best antidote to Bentham’s utilitarianism. [? I see more continuity than antidote.]

To build a civilized golden age: 1. There is a role for govt. The market needs regulation. 2. “I’m happy with the EU is working on this…and came out against FB facial recognition software. … We have a right to forget.” “It’s the most unhuman of things to remember everything.” “We shouldn’t idolize the never-forgetting nature of Big Data.” “To forget and forgive is the core essence of being human.” 3. We need better business models. We don’t want data to be the new oil. I want businesses that charge. “The free economy has been a catastrophe.”

He shows the end of The Truman Show. [SPOILER] As Truman enters reality, it’s a metaphor for our hope. We can only protect our humanness by retreating into dark, quiet places.

He finishes with a Vermeer that shows us a woman about which we know nothing. In our Age of Facebook, we need to build a world in which the woman in blue can read that letter, not reveal herself, not reveal her mystery…”

Q: You’re surprising optimistic today. In the movie Vertigo, there’s an inevitability. How about the inevitability of this social movement? Are you tilting at windmills.

Idealists tilt at windmills. People are coming to around to understanding that the world we’re collectively creating is not quite right. It’s making people uneasy. More and more books, articles, etc., that FB is deeply exploitative. We’re all like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. The majority of people in the world don’t want to give away their data. As more of the traditional world comes onto the Net, there will be more resistant to collapsing the private and the public. Our current path is not inevitable. Tech is religion. Tech is not autonomous, not a first mover. We created Big Data and need to reestablish our domination over it. I’m cautiously optimistic. But it could go wrong, especially in authoritarian regimes. In Silicon Valley people say privacy is dead, get over it. But privacy is essential. Once we live this public ideal, then who are we.

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[2b2k][sogeti] Big Data conference session

I’m at Sogeti‘s annual executive conference, which brings together about 80 CEOs. I’m here with Doc Searls, Andrew Keen, and others. I’ve spoken at other Sogeti events, and I am impressed with their commitment to providing contrary points of view — including views at odds with their own corporate interests. (My one complaint: They expect all attendees to have an iPad or iPhone so that they can participate in on the realtime survey. Bad symbolism.) (Disclosure: They’re paying me to speak. They are not paying me to say something nice about them.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Menno van Doorn begins by talking about the quantified self movement, claiming that they sometimes refer to themselves as “datasexuals” :) All part of Big Data, he says. To give us an idea of bigness, he relates the Legend of Sessa: “Give me grain, doubling the amount for each square on a chessboard.” Exponential growth meant that by the time you hit the second half of the chessboard, you’re in impossible numbers. Experts say that’s where we were in 2006 when it comes to data. But “there’s no such thing as too much data.” “Big Data is powering the next industrial revolution. Data is the new oil.”

Big Data is about (1) lots of data, (2) at high velocity, (3) using in a variety of ways. (“volume, velocity, variety.”) Michael Chui says that there’s billions in revenues to gain, including from efficiencies. But, Chui says, there are no best practices. The value comes from “human exhaust.” I.e., your digital footprint, what you leave behind in your movement through the Net. Menno thinks of this as “your recorded future.”

Three examples:

1. Menno points to Target, a company that can predict life-changing events among its customers. E.g., based on purchases of 25 products, they can predict which customers are pregnant and roughly when they are due. But, this led to Target sending promotional materials for pregnancy to young girls whose parents learned this way that their daughters were pregnant.

2. In SF, they send out police cars to neighborhoods based on 14-day predictions of where crime will occur, based on data about prior crime patterns.

3. Schufa, a German credit agency, announced they’d use social media to assess your credit worthiness. Immediately a German Minister said, “Schufa cannot become the Big Brother of the beusiness world.”

Two forces are in contention and will determine how much Big Data changes us. Today, the conference will look at the dawn of the age of big data, and then how disruptive it will be for society (the session Keen and I are in). Day 2: Bridging the gap to the new paradigm, Big Data’s fascinating future, and Decision Time: Taming Big Brother.


Carlota Perez, Prof. of Tech and Socio-Economic Development, from Venezuela speaks now.. She is a “neo-Schumpeterian.” She says her role in the conference is “locate the current crisis.” What is the real effect on innovation, and why are we only midways along in feeling the impact?

There have been 5 tech revolutions in the past 240 yeares: 1. 1771 Industrial rev. 1829. Age of steam, coal and railways. 3. 1875 Steel and heavy engineering (the first globalization). 4. Age of he automobile, oril, petrochem and mass production 5. 1971 Age of info tech and telecom. We’re only halfway through that last one. The next revolution queued up: age of biotech, bioelectronics, nanotech, and new materials. [I’m surprised she doesn’t count telegrapgh + radio + telephone, etc., as a comms rev. And I’d separate the Net as its own rev. But that’s me.]

Lifecycle of a tech rev: gestation, induction, deployment, exhaustion. The “big bang” tends to happen when the prior rev is reaching exhaustion. The structure of revs: new cheap inputs, new products, new processes. A new infrastructure arise. And a constellation of new dynamic industries that grow the world economy.

Why call these “revolutions”, she asks? Because they transform the whole economy. They bring new organizational principles and new best practice models. I.e. , a new “techno-economic paradigm.” E.g., we’ve gone from mass production to flexible production. Closed pyramids to open networks. Stable routines to continuous improvement. “Information technology finds change natural.” From human resources to human capital (from raw materials to value). Suppliers and clients to value network partners. Fixed plans to flexible strategies. Three-tier markets (big,medium,small) to hyper-segmented markets. Internationalization to globalization. Information as costly burden to info as asset. Together, these constitute a radical change in managerial common sense.

The diffusion process is broken in two: Bubble, followed by a crash, and then the Golden Age. During the bubble, financial capital forces diffusion. There is income and demand polarization. Then the crash. Then there is an institutional recomposition, leading to a golden age in which everyone benefits. Production capital takes over from financial capital (driven by the govt), and there is better distribution of income and demand.

She looks at the 5 revs, and finds the same historic pattern that she just sketched.

wo major differences between installation and deployment: 1. Bubbles vs. patient (= long-term) capital. 2. Concentrated innovation to modernize industries vs. innovation in all industries that use the new technologies. “Understanding this sequence is essential for strategic thinking.”

The structure of innovation in deployment: pa new coherent fabric of the economy emerges, leading to a golden age. Also, oligopolies emerge which means there’s less unhelpful competition. (?)

Example of prior rev: home electrical applicances: In the installation period, we had a bunch of electric utilities going into homes in the 1910s and 1930s. During the revision, we get a few more. But then in the 1950-70s. we get a surge of new applicances, including tape recorder, microwave, even the electric toothbrush. It’s enabled by universal electricity and driven by suburbinization. It’s the same pattern if you look at textile fibers, from rayon and acetate during instlation, to a huge number during deployment. E.g., structural and packaging plastics: installation brought bakelite, polystyrene and polyethylene, and then a flood of innovation during deployment. “The various systems of the ICT revolution will follow a similar sequence.” [Unless it follows the Tim Wu pattern of consolidation — e.g., everyone being required to use an iPad at a conference] During installation period, ICT was in constant supply push mode. Now must respond to demand pull. “The paradigm and its potential are now understood by all. Demand (in vol and nature) becomes the driving force.

This shifts the role of the CIO. To modernize a mature company, during installation you brought in an expert in modernization, articulating the hw and sw being pushed by the suppliers. During the deployment phase, a modern company that is innovating for strategic expansion, the CIO is an expert in strategy, specifying needs and working with suppliers. “The CIO is no longer staff. S/he must be directly involved in strategy.”

There are 3 main forces for innovation in the next 2-3 decades, as is true for all the revs. 1. Deepening and widening of the ICT tech rev, responding to user needs. 2. The users of ICT across all industries and activities. 3. The gestation of the next rev (probably bioteech, nanotech, and new materials).

Big Data is likely have a big role in each of those directions.

Q: Why are we only 50% of the way through?

A: Because the change after the recession is like opening a dam. Once you get to the point where you can have a comfortable innovation prospective, imagine the market possibilities.

Q: What can go wrong?

A: Governments. Unfettered free markets are indispensable for the installation process. Lightly guided markets are needed in the golden age. Free markets work when you need to force everyone to change. But now no longer: The state has to come in . But govts are drunk with free markets. Now finance is incompetent. “They don’t dare invest in real things.” Ideology is so strong and the understanding of history is so shallow that we’re not doing the right thing.”


Christopher Ahlberg speaks now. He’s the founder of Recorded Future. His topic: “Turning the Web into Predictive Signals.”

We see events like Arab Spring and wonder if we could have predicted them. Three things are going on: 1. Moving from smaller to larger datasets. 2. From structured to unstructured data (from numbers to text). 3. From corporate data to Internet/Web.

There’s a “seismic shift in intelligence” “emporal indexing of the Web enables Web intelligence.” The Web is not organized for finding date; it’s about finding documents.” Can we create structure for the Web we can use for analysis? A lot of work has been done on this. Why is this possible now? Fast math, large, fast storage, web harvesting, and linguistic analysis progress.

His company looks for signals in human language. E.g., temporal signals. That can turn up competitive info. But human language is tough to deal with. But also when something happens — e.g., Haitian earthquake — there are patterns in when people show up: helpers, doctors, military, do-gooder actors, etc. There tends to be a flood of notifications immediately afterwards. The Recorded Data platform does the linguistic analysis.

He gives an example: What’s going to happen to Merck over the next 90 days. Some is predictable: There will be a quarterly financial conference all. A key drug is up for approval. Can we look into the public conversations about these events, and might this guide our stock purchases? And beyond Merck, we could look at everything from cyber attacks to sales opportunities.

Some examples. 1. Monitoring unrest. Last week there were protests against Foxconn in China. Analysis of Chinese media shows that most of those protests were inland, while corporate expansion is coming in coastal areas. Or look at protests against pharmaceuticals for animal testing.

Example 2: Analyzing cyber threats. Hackers often try out an approach on a small scale and then go larger. This can give us warning.

Example 3: Competitive intelligence. When is there a free space — announcement-free — when you can get some attention. Example 4: Lead generation. E.g., look for changes in management. (New marketing person might need a new PR agency.) Exasmple 5: Trading patterns. E.g., if there’s bad news but insiders are buying.

Conclusion: As we move from small to large datasets, structured to unstructured, and from inside to outside the company, we go from surprise to foresight.

Q: What is the question you cannot answer?

A: The situations that have low frequency. It’s important that there be an opportunity for follow-up questions.

Q: What if you don’t know what the right question is?

A: When it’s unknown unknowns, you can’t ask the right question. But the great thing about visualizaton is that it helps people ask questions.

Q: How to distinguish fact from opinion on Twitter, etc.?

A: Or NYT vs. Financial Post. There isn’t a simple answer. We’re working toward being able to judge sources based on known outcomes.

Q: Do your predictions get more accurate the more data you have?

A: Generally yes, but it’s not always that simple.

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July 2, 2009

The government is the new Google

a href=””>Jeff Jarvis led a discussion at PDF among 1,000 people about what government could learn from Google, and, more generally, what a bunch of techies would do to make government better. Jeff’s got this rare cross of skills as a writer, teacher, entertainer and provoker. If you haven’t seen him at work, you should grab the next opportunity. And, yes, Jeff is a friend, so I’m biased. But I’m also right.

So, here’s a way the government is becoming like Google. Remember how a few years ago, Google was grabbing the best and the brightest techies of every stripe? Every time you turned around, someone else you admired had moved there. Now the same thing is happening with the federal government. It’s the glamorous place many of the best and the brightest — including some from Google — want to work. The government is becoming a center of innovation. It may not be as wild as the garages of Silicon Valley and the Charles River, but it’s dreaming big and its heart is pure. These positions are being filled with the diametric opposites of lobbyists. It’s pretty amazing.

Note to self: Re-read The Best and the Brightest to see if there are lessons for the new federal techies.



June 30, 2009

[pdf09] Has the Net helped journalism?

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Frank Rich: Yes. But someone is going to have figure out how to pay for it. I suspect it will be figured out. There are always these fears during dislocations.

Karen Tumulty: It’s a terrifying time for traditional newspapers, but there are models that work. E.g., I watch Marcy Wheeler’s thermometer.

Dan Gillmor: I’ll channel Clay Shirky. The cost of experimentation has gone to just about zero. There are thousands of experiments, including in business models. We need even more.

Scott Simon: We need to be open to social media. Journalists tend to get jaded. People are now their own editors. A tweeter in Iran said “Tell all your friends: You are the media.” I think that’s true, but there’s work to be done to recreate the best values of journalism all over again.

Rich: We’re so obsessed with new media. Let 1,000 tweets bloom in Iran, but we forget that people are still repressed. The happiness with Iranian’s use of social media has led us to distort the coverage.

Simon: With social media you can overhear people talking with one another, in a way that is very hard with traditional reporting.

Gillmor: The issue of verification can be pretty slippery. We’re having to relearn media literacy. We have to be skeptical of everything … including the NY Times. But we also have to learn how to be not equally skeptical of everything. I’m not worried about supply but we have pretty crappy demand…people who grew up as passive consumers. It’ll take work on our parts, as former consumers and now users, to figure out what to trust.

Tumulty: You may wobble on line but ultimately you get to what the truth is because so many people demand it.

Rich: The people in this room are obsessed with this stuff. We want to find out what’s really going on. But a lot of people, especially those who aren’t upper middle class, don’t have the time.

Andrew Rasiej: People weren’t waiting for the journalists to get news about Iran. The NYT is old by the time it’s printed, especially since now we can sometimes go to the source of the news. It’s not a business model.

Gillmor: Yes. We’re not going to have gatekeepers like before. We now tell one another story. But this is so new. We need to get reputation combined with this.

Rich: But there’s only so much we can absorb. We saw home radios consolidate. Some conglomerate will want to have a big brand, and they’ll set the brand. I think there will be a consolidation. There will always be a component that seeks out minority views…

Gillmor: I don’t see that. The only conglomerate that worries me the is duopoly of the cable and phone companies.

Rich: We’re saying the same thing.

Gillmor: That’s a different kind of consolidation that we’ve seen…

Rich: With the same effect, and from the same people.

Tumulty: We should worry about the Google consolidation. SEO distorts the way you frame things

Simon: Journalism has to make the case for why it’s its own ism. There are left and right invesetigative journalism sites. A real news org sometimes upsets its audience.

Rich: How do we get people to eat their spinach? A lot of people want only celebrity news. That’s always been true. Does this new structure make it easier to have the masturbatory news that they want?

Gillmor: For the first time it’s easy to go deep. Even if it’s celebrity culture, the act of going deeper is instructive to some percent of that group. If we can increase the small percentage of people who create news, that’ll make a big difference.

Rich: People who watch ESPN are not going to start following Iran. And the paradox of the last decade: The whole growth of the new media occurred during a time when the Prez sent us to war on a fiction. Even though some of the fiction came from the NYT, the Prez got away with it. Even though people had more news sources, they were susceptible to a propaganda campaign.

AR: But Gonzalez might still be the attorney general…

Rich: Small potatoes compared to swallowing the war propaganda.

Gillmor: Traditional media still have enormous sway, and it was moreso 5 yrs ago. This isn’t an overnight transition. You’re right that that was a catastrophe. The traditional media walked in lockstep with deceptive people in DC. It’s going to take some time. It’s also instructive that the Guardian web site became enormously more popular because English-speakers wanted the other sides.

Simon: One of the hopes for new media is that it’s easier to be interested in both sports and politics and crocheting.

Gillmor: Traditional media were about producing, creating, distributing stuff. That’s not what we do online. We create it. We make it available. People come and get it. That’s really different. Viewers of Fox don’t have a link to what the other side says. Right wing blogs have links to the people they’re criticizing. If we can encourage people to click that link, people can see there are multiple facets…

Tumulty: But the people who land on that blog are not open to persuaded. The Net reinforces people in their beliefs.

Rich: People didn’t want to believe that Sadam didn’t have WMDs. We shouldn’t assume we’re automatically in a Renaissance.

Simon: There’s a still lot to be said for people seeking out variety. I think they’re not going to be satisfied with narrowcasting.

[I stood on line to ask a question and thus missed some live bloggage. There was a long discussion about the value of covering live events, for which there still seems to be demand.]

Q: [me] What’s the future of the idea of coverage? Coverage implies a value-free decision that we know is value-full, and it doesn’t scale well. [I had to say this twice because I didn’t put it well]
Rich: We’ll keep providing it so long as people want it.
Me: I’m suggesting it’s going the way of objectivity: a value no longer valued.
Rich: Papers have never pretended to offer full coverage.

[The session ran over; I had to leave before it ended.] [Tags: ]

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[pdf09] Mark Pesce on global politics in the hyperconnected universe.

Mark Pesce is talking about the new global power. [I didn’t liveblog Michael Wesch’s talk because it was too hard to. It’s was close to his popular YouTube lecture about YouTube. He got and deserved a standing ovation.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

The distribution of power has changed but it comes with a loss of control, which means our culture might start hydroplaning. We need to watch the collisions, but remember that people are going to get hurt. We need a political science for the 21st century.

Last month, Wikipedia banned Scientology from editing WP. The Scientologists compared WP to Nazis. Scientology is highly hierarchical. WP is a social agreement to share what we know for the good of all. What happens when they crash? Scientology uses law suits. How does Scientology deal with a social agreement. If Scientology wanted to declare war, it would attack the social agreement, wearing away at the bonds of trust. ckobama,

Mark points to the phenomenon of “communication overload.” E.g., the NY my.barackobama site was overwhelmed by supporters, so O supporters moved elsewhere, using older media. We haven’t yet seen a hybrid beast that can operate hierarchically but interact with the ad hocracy. Project Houdini (tracking who voted) crashed on Election Day, overwhelmed by info. These both were “friendly fire” incidents. We need to learn how to crush the gulf.

“The next decade will be completely hellish” for parties and campaigners.

Hyperempowered communities face a mismatch with the hierarchical mechanisms of the state, even with the best of intentions. But the catastrophes are the first sign of success. So, the state has to radically reform its means of communication, moving out of hierarchies, becoming more chaotic. But this is asking the leopard to change its spots.

We need to watch hyperintelligences emerge and see how governments react. The rules of the game are changing. “The best first step is observation.” The O administration provides the “perfect lab.” This will give us the first snapshot of a political science for the 21st century. Powerful, hyperconnected communities wil sometims struggle against or work with hierarchical institutions. But in each case the hierarchical will have to adapt itself to a new order.

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[pdf09] Alec Ross: 21st Century Statecraft

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Alec Ross is the Innovation Advisor to Hillary Clinton. He’s bringing Net tools, esp. social media, to the State Dept. He begins by saying that alog of what we’re talking about today is power. E.g., the Roman Catholic Church held power because thye power over the texts. Gutenberg’s press shifted power to nation states. “That has held until now when it’s beginning to fray because of the power of our networks.” [BTW, I missed Randi Zuckerberg’s interview. Sorry.]

Diplomacy has largely been a matter of white guys in white shirts and red ties talking with other white guys in white shirts and red ties, he says. Now we need citizen engagement in foreign policy. Alec segments this into gov’t to people, people to people, and people to gov’t.

Gov’t to people: E.g., Obama’s video on the Iranian new year posted straight to the Net, for Iranians. E.g., Obama’s speech pushed onto mobile phones.

People to gov’t: “We’re now looking at the potential of people to push gov’ts.” Here the US gov ‘t may not be the primary actor. E.g., the Moldova “twitter rev.” E.g., the No Mas Farc movement (a Facebook action) that has no charismatic leader but that mobilized 10M to march. “If Paul Revere were a modern day citizen, he wouldn’t have ridden down Main St. He would have just tweeted. And we wouldn’t have known his name. Everyone in our society has the power to be a new Paul Revere.” How can we engage the American public move our foreign policy forward?

People to people statecraft. “We’re just beginning to experiment with this in the State Dept.” E.g., they were about to write a check for $110M for relief in NW Pakistan. A jr staff person suggested making an SMS shortcode that would send $5 to the UN PakistabnRelif agency. She had the idea on Thurs morning, Thurs afternoon Clinton heard about it [which probably means that Alec told her about it], and a few days later it was announced from the White House.

He says that Hillary Clinton has been pushing on this hard, and recognizes that it’s a messy space in which there’s need for room for failure.

Micah: How does this related to hard power?
AR: Over the past 8 yrs, defense has been far too much the way we engage around he world. We need to reaffirm the centrality of the other two pillars: development and diplomacy.

Q: What is the role of the US gov’t is supporting digital activists around the world?
AR: This admin recognizes there are digital activists. We can’t just thrust them into war zones. Sect’y Clinton is supporting grassroots civil society orgs around the world so that they can integrate digital tools into their work.
RF: Officials around the world are on Facebook, not always because they like openness, but because it lets people become fans.

Q: How do you weed out hate speech?
RF: Our terms of service pretty clearly define what hate speech is — it incites violence — and those groups come down pretty quickly as we hear of them. Controversial groups who are not inciting hate and bviolence are left up.

Q: To the extent that there are flashmobs, are there any that you need to be tapped down?
AR: We aren’t always going to agree with the actions that are taken. Sometimes our enemies are going to do things we don’t like. That’s what happens on a participatory, open network. [Tags: ]

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[pdf09] Sunlight Foundation announcement

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Ellen Miller, founder of The Sunlight Foundation, says that after this morning’s sessions at PDF (Vivek Kundra’s announcement, Beth Noveck) “We feel pretty good.”

Sunlight Labs has a staff of 14 and a community of about a thousand. Clay Johnson talks the problem that the government data isn’t always in computable form. Now there’s, a task queuing service for people who want to help. It’s beginning with three tasks: Earmark reading task, photo uploading task, and find the twitter accounts of your local reps task. E.g., the earmarks are in PDF files which are not easily computer-processible. E.g., “Wal-Mart” may be expressed as “walmart,” Wal Mart,” etc. You get points for doing tasks to level up. Highest level: Transparency Overlord.

TransparencyCorps is open source so you can run your own on your own site. “We ask you not to call it TransparencyCorps because that would be a jerk thing to do.” :)

David Moore with announces a complete redesign. “We’re building a social network of actions around Congress.” “Users tracking this bill are also tracking…”

Q: [tim carr of FreePress] Can orgs like mine plug into these?
A: Yes. At OpenCongress, you can use the social info, and you can get at the data via API.

Q: How about for state govt’s?
Clay: We’re working on it. 18-24 months, maybe.

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[pdf09] Todd Herman – A conservative in Oz

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD You are warned, people.

Todd Herman is a conservative who wants his team to be using the new tools better. Conservatives need to understand the rules of engagement better. The ecosystem favors Obama. How is that working and how can Conservatives work it? “Chairman Steele said ‘Take the lid off.” What would you do if you were me?” E.g., he’s excited by Vivek Kundra’s announcement and wants to bring the data to his site where Republicans can comb it for info. But how open should a political be? How open can it be? “Can a political party really be open?” “Can we be as open as Twitter? I would love it if we could.”

He points to a 1997 Republican site: A virtual town. Very 1997-cool. USAToday rated it as more fun than the Disney site. The Republicans “have been here before. There’s nothing genetically stopping us from using them.” He shouts out to

Q: How do you envision this change in tech with the underlying philosophical approaches changing the Rep party?
A: I love that our elected leaders can have pretty direct communication with the voters. I think it’s changing that way. But we need to change the rules of engagement, e.g., away from gotcha.

Q: [jay rosen] Cognitive dissonance while listening to you: You seem to address us as if you didn’t know that the Bush admin had an opacity agenda. E.g., Ashcroft’s 2001 memo saying err on the side of not honoring FOIA requests. So, I’d think the Reps should be asking why it was in favor of opacity.
A: It’s a long conversation. Todd points to some instances of the Obama admin’s lack of transparency. “I’d gladly buy you dinner to have a long conversation about it…”
Jay: Good enough! Where are we going?

You picked on DemocraticUnderground, but missed FreeRepublic. But you asked us socratically what we would do if we were you. What would you do if you were us and saw the way the REpublicans manipulated voter roles?
A: I don’t accept the premise, but my question goes both way.

[Great to have a conservative speaking. IMO, it’d would have been better if he hadn’t used it as a way to address his political grievances, and instead solely focused on the issues of tech, politics, governance where we genuinely share interests. But, that’s just me.]

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