Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Revolution ?

In 1960, Television arrived in the US as the medium of record for politics with the Nixon - Kennedy debate.  This was the era of television controlled by only 3 networks, the era of the "fairness doctrine".  

That doctrine had its roots in the 1930s, when the US government sought to check the political power of the corporations who held absolute power over the TV airwaves. By the 1980s, Cable News had arrived, and the era of deregulation was well under way.  Ronald Regan vetoed an attempt to put that doctrine into law, and we arrived in the current era.

A spectrum of cable news channels convey news as entertainment, which is necessary to grab the attention of ever-shrinking television audiences.  But something has been lost. Another aspect of the fairness doctrine - the idea that media serves the public interest - is all but forgotten today.

Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" described the news media of 1985 as Huxley's "Brave New World" - dazzling its citizens as democracy fell apart.  

News as entertainment has pervaded our culture to the point where we have a generation that doesn't know anything different.  Government policy is not as gripping as campaigns, personalities and gaffes are. But as government continues to grow, we are not served by the information sources we have today. 

Electric media (television and radio) and government (based on print) have never had an easy relationship.  They have been drifting apart each other for 50 years now. There is, however, a natural fit between the print-based western political tradition, and the internet. And politics on the web is still a printed-word based medium. 

I continue to look for ways in which new media (such as the Sunlight Foundation) can shine a light on how we govern ourselves. McLuhan explained how new media can rip through old institutions quickly, and upend them. Certainly we have seen that at plan in the Arab Spring revolutions this year. 

When will our revolution arrive, and what will be the nature of it ? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is facebook a medium or is it content ?

I'm rereading Understanding Media again. I last read it (for the 2nd or 3rd time) when the web was new. Something hit me in the first chapter that didn't mean as much to me last time: the content for any medium is other media.

The example McLuhan gives is that the content of the printed word is the written word, the content of the written word is speech, and the content of speech is thought.

So... what is facebook ? Medium or content ?

I came up with this so far: the content of the web is the internet, and the content of the internet is the written word and perhaps electronic communication along the lines of the telegraph.

So is facebook 'content' on the web, or is a new medium itself that contains the web ?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Government Complexity

An idea from today:

"Maybe we need a new level of public stakeholder to deal with these problems. Civic volunteers who vote consistently, who are charged with informing themselves in detail about the activities of government - and by extension of business. "

They couldn't have anticipated how economies are managed today when they designed our system of democracy. Maybe we need something new ?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is Open Gov Dying ?

Distressing news about Open Gov stalling in the UK and US.

"The United States initiative,, set off with similar goals to those outlined by George Osborne today, but has now hit a few roadbumps.

Last month, its funding was slashed as part of the budget settlement between the White House and the House of Representatives, and its very survival appears to be under threat.

Even worse, the traffic figures appear to show that the US government's data transparency sites have failed to attract much interest from citizens - although the data community loves them."

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Complain with Kay

Hello blog readers,

Today I have an audio blog from my dear friend K's "Complaining with K". I make general points around the need for open data around healthcare, but particularly telling is the trick (sorry K) I play on K where I ask her what she likes about Canadian Healthcare. Typically, she compares us to the US system inside of 25 seconds.

My point is this - we need to be able to discuss our system independently of theirs. Our system is different, and if we don't criticize what's wrong with our system, then it will deteriorate until only their system will be known as an alternative. So we're dooming ourselves to using the system that we always complain about, paradoxically. This is, to my mind, about how we discuss our problems.

Podcast: (I sucker punch K at around 3:43 or so... ;) )

Monday, January 31, 2011

Open GOV in Canada, thanks to Canadian Civil Servants themselves ?

Canadians continue to allow their institutions to operate above public scrutiny, even in this age of open data. Despite this new ray of hope, it seems to be commonly admitted now that Canadians are lagging behind.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

OTTAWA - Civil servants are forging ahead with an open-data strategy for the federal government while politicians drag their heels on a formal policy.

A parliamentary committee has been studying the issue since last April and resumes debate this week, but documents obtained under Access to Information show that bureaucrats started drafting a plan in July.

Unlike the United States and Britain, Canada has no formal federal policy of making raw, taxpayer-funded data freely available to the public.

Civil servants have realized that needs to change.

At the July meeting to kick off the strategy, they drafted a five-point plan.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Interactive Media Elitism

The mass media elite is slowly collapsing, as the individual cells (that is, us) that prop it up grow to broadcast our own points-of-view on the web, eroding their mass-media model.

Douglas Rushkoff says:

Projects like Wikipedia do not overthrow any elite at all, but merely replace one elite — in this case an academic one — with another: the interactive media elite...
Because our media IS interactive, our individual points-of-view can be collected and directed back at the mass media organs too - to meet them head-on and evoke a response.

I suggest that we start to do this first with our institutions: draw ourselves towards our government services first, to tie them closer to our community as we move forwards in this era of chaotic change.