Friday, January 23, 2009

The New Input Output : Civic Wrangling

Take a look at the photo below, and think about any and every .gov, placing /developers at the end of the URL.

Beyond "developers", imagine /wiki, /blog, or Youtube channels ( which allow comments and video response, which makes it as much an input as an output).

Over at Macon Philips, Director of New Media, writes : "One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it."

Listen up: Government for the people, by the people has lept from a well wishing aspiration to something we can truly wrangle with. By wrangle I mean Bruce Sterling's vision:

"Wranglers are the class of people willing to hassle with Spimes. And it is a hassle. An enormous hassle. But its a fruitful hassle. It is the work of progress. Handled correctly, it can undo the harm of the past and enhance what is to come."

--When Blobjects Rule the Earth/SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles, August 2004

I know a kind of people that dislike "fruitful hassle" -they are the people who shy away from learning something new, understanding the complex, working, and delayed gratification. But these kinds of people are rare. More prevalent is the little bits of this in everyone, or simply life circumstances that make civic wrangling difficult. Time to grow up. All good things, all real things, have a learning curve and require a commitment of time.

I would like to note the passing of a certain social thesis to the dustbin of history. In Better Together -Restoring American Community one chapter focused on Craigslist and asked if online community enhanced/enabled social capital. The authors disqualified online civic activity as a positive.

Bye Bye "Better Together", and every academic or NGO activist invested in opposing online civic activism. Bye, wave bye now, c-ya, bye, bye bye.

While mentioning those being left as the train of progress, power and glory leaves the station, I must mention the significant number of anti-computer/anti-internet students I attended college with at Evergreen State College. I especially remember one guy at my last house party in Olympia. He was extremely proud he did not know a single thing about using a computer. A girl in the room was charged with pride of association while say "yeah, he doesn't know how to type in one, what to do at all with one". These kids were usually from higher end middle-class families, raised on the values of 60's counterculture, and were taking the values to a Luddite extreme. I was one of the hot-dog computer science students on campus, often considered uncool or undermining the political revolution by my use of technology.

My government just abandoned those kids. My government just adopted the way I communicate. The Luddite end of the Left lost, and I won. We won.

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