The other day Taylor emailed me this article on how the internet, and the communities it enables, may reshape politics in America.
What really struck me however was the subtle but important differences in language between the incoming Obama administration and the outgoing Bush administration. The quotes below say it all: On one side you have advisers talking about the internet as a tool to enable transparency and engagement. The subtext, citizens become an extension of government – helping improve program delivery. On the other side you have someone talking about the internet as a broadcast tool, a way to “get the message out.” Here, citizens are separate from government and merely passive recipients of “a message” or data the white house wants it to see.
Craig Newmark, founder of online classifieds site craigslist.com, served as a technology adviser to Obama and is an advocate for a more open and responsive government.
“In New York and San Francisco there are so-called ‘311’ programs,” he said. “The idea is that it’s customer service for local government and if you need a pothole fixed you contact 311.
“Well let’s start expanding 311 systems to all of government,” he said.
“There’s also the whole transparency thing,” Newmark added. “The Internet is all about transparency. The first phase is the election campaign then, afterwards, getting some real grass-roots democracy in there.”
David Almacy, who served as Internet and e-communications director for President George W. Bush, said the Internet is “a very powerful tool in communicating the president’s agenda.”
“The Internet is basically a 24-hour seven-day-a-week spokesperson,”
Almacy said. “While we’re sleeping at night it’s still available for those who are searching on energy legislation or the war on terror or the war in Iraq.”