How Technology is Changing Politics

When I told a friend I was going to the Personal Democracy Forum she said, “Whoa.”

How Technology is Changing Politics
Photo: Ezalis, Creative Commons, Flickr

Rachel Feierman from Artist as Citizen
Bobby Fishkin from Reframe It
Rachel Feierman from Artist as Citizen.

“What?” I said.

“Personal. Democracy. Forum. Those are all loaded words.”

And she’s right. What does “personal democracy” even mean? It’s not exactly a household phrase.

The tagline of the conference was “Technology is changing politics,” and it was only when Esther Dyson of Edventure Holdings asked her panel why technology is changing politics (she asked at least three times because the panelists kept getting off track) that we started to understand what personal democracy is all about.

Bhaskar Roy, Panelist and Co-Founder and VP of Product Marketing for Qik, who was holding a camera the entire time so as to create a live video stream of the conference, explained that news today is more accessible, immediate and live (you don’t say).

Robert Scoble, one of the top five twitterers in the world with 27,000 people following him, and the number one user on FriendFeed (also holding his camera), said that on some sites, news has to be “fast and salacious” just to get published.

Are speed and quality sacrificed in the instantaneous media world?

Keith McSpurren of Cover It Live says no. He admitted that there are negative aspects of the information surplus but that the constant live-feeding eventually “does evolve to a depth of conversation.” He described it as putting tools in people’s hands. If the content is good, viewers will respond to it, and if it’s bad, they won’t. He also mentioned that the person with the camera becomes accountable for his/her information and advises against prohibiting distribution.

“So how does technology change politics?” You can almost hear Dyson say again.

“The government is our employees,” said Scoble. The more they hear what we want them to do the likelier they are to do it.

Disclosure: Scoble mentioned that one of the ways he keeps track of his thousands of friends on friendfeed is by sorting them (for example, by how many comments each update gets or how many “likes” they receive). This strikes me a little like a personality popularity contest. Makes me think that maybe I should enter . .