John Palfrey on Politics and the Future of Democracy

Overall session notes from John himself are available in the wiki. This session has been designed to be more interactive, so note taking will be less important to me than participating. I recommend following the wiki entry above. I will just jot bullet points from the primary arguments.

Photo Credits: wseltzer

Argument 1: The Internet allows more free speech from more people than ever before, but states are finding ways to filter and limit that speech.

  • Global Voices Online … a response from the question, how do you pay attention to the stuff that is going on around the world? We’ve gotten to a place where news has gone from a supply problem to a demand problem. There are people all over the world looking at how can we take advantage of the thousands of people producing news. The problem is how to create a moment around this news that people will pay attention to it.
  • As you see people use these tools (blogs) you see counties (and Unviersities) pushing back and trying to shut them down. Once the powers that be discover the potency of the tools they work to censor or pull the plug all together.
  • People pay attention when mainstream media tells us to … how do we (citizen journalists) work to get people to pay attention.
  • The Farsi blogoshpere is the fourth largest in the world (Iranian speaking) … a critical question is, are Iranian bloggers telling more powerful stories through the blogosphere?
  • OpenNet Initiative: An online resources that shows where Internet speech is being filtered and blocked.
  • Amazing struggle for these countries to block content and an intense struggle for citizens in these countries to get their voice out.

  • Censorship cannot simply be studied by looking at what content is being linked to/retrieved, it is also about restricting access to technology in general, it is also an issue of poverty, gender controlled environments, and the like.
  • “It is not a matter of freedom of speech, it is a matter of freedom after speech.”
  • We have to fix the people … the technology is not the issue with censorship, it is the people.

Argument 2: There is greater autonomy of the individual because of the Internet.

  • The underpinnings of the use of social software are inherent in developed countries. The rise of the use of the technology to participate in the conversation is predated by a basic belief in a participatory culture.
  • Video of a student leader criticizing the Cuban governement — this video was taken from a closed circuit channel that someone hijacked … one thing that is evident is that the next time this happens there will be many more people in Cuba who will know how to get this message out more effectively. The student speaking out, ended up being passed around via a Flash drive (not the web) and the student was arrested. Note him in this video shaking where he lies about his arrest.

Argument 3: The Internet enables new types of groups to form around interests and causes. The formation of online groups will alter the form and function of existing organizations and institutions with unknown impacts on democracy and governance.

  • The Internet and social tools helps fringe candidates succeed in new ways. Ron Paul’s campaign is a prime example.

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