Ethan Zuckerman in Slate: “As the historian and technology scholar Langdon Winner suggests, “The arrival of any new technology that has significant power and practical potential always brings with it a wave of visionary enthusiasm that anticipates the rise of a utopian social order.” Technologies that connect individuals to one another—like the airplane, the telegraph, and the radio—appear particularly powerful at helping us imagine a smaller, more connected world. Seen through this lens, the Internet’s underlying architecture—it is no more and no less than a network that connects networks—and the sheer amount written about it in the past decade guaranteed that the network would be placed at the center of visions for a world made better through connection. These visions are so abundant that they’ve even spawned a neologism: “cyberutopianism.”
The term “cyberutopian” tends to be used only in the context of critique. Calling someone a cyberutopian implies that he or she has an unrealistic and naïvely overinflated sense of what technology makes possible and an insufficient understanding of the forces that govern societies. Curiously, the commonly used term for an opposite stance, a belief that Internet technologies are weakening society, coarsening discourse, and hastening conflict is described with a less weighted term: “cyberskepticism.” Whether or not either of these terms adequately serves us in this debate, we should consider cyberutopianism’s appeal, and its merits….
If we reject the notion that technology makes certain changes inevitable, but accept that the aspirations of the “cyberutopians” are worthy ones, we are left with a challenge: How do we rewire the tools we’ve built to maximize our impact on an interconnected world? Accepting the shortcomings of the systems we’ve built as inevitable and unchangeable is lazy. As Benjamin Disraeli observed in Vivian Grey
, “Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.” And, as Rheingold suggests, believing that people can use technology to build a world that’s more just, fair, and inclusive isn’t merely defensible. It’s practically a moral imperative.
Excerpted from Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman.”
Philip Howard in The Atlantic: “Everyone in Turkey can tell a story about how they turned on the TV hoping for news about current events, but found game shows, beauty pageants, and nature documentaries. Even Erdogan’s devotees know that the state-run news programs are grindingly uncritical. The pall of media control even has an impact on foreign broadcasters like CNN, which aired a penguin documentary within Turkey while its international broadcasters covered the clashes. Even when the country’s newspapers and broadcasters began reporting on the crisis, they spun the story as being violent and local to Istanbul. Another friend, who attended the protests on Saturday, said “you see misinformation on Twitter. But social media has played a corrective role to faults in the other available media.” On the days he joined in, he was part of peaceful demonstrations, and he found the Twitter streams telling stories about how the protests were country-wide and mostly nonviolent.
These days, Turks find themselves caught in the crossfire between highly politicized media organizations, so it is not surprising that when people want news they trust their own networks. The country has a dedicated community of startups designing apps, building games and generating content for the country’s rapidly growing population of internet and mobile phone users. Half of the country’s 75 million people are under 30. Half of Turkish citizens are online, and they are Facebook’s seventh largest national audience. Government ministers and strategists do have Twitter accounts, but they still tend to treat social media as a broadcast tool, a way of pushing their perspectives out to followers. Erdogan has a twitter account with more than 2.5 million followers, but recently opined that “This thing called social media is a curse on societies”….
This isn’t just happening in Turkey: In moments of political and military crisis, people want to control their media and connect with family and friends. And ruling elites respond by investing in broadcast media and censoring and surveilling digital networks. So the battles between political elites who use broadcast media and the activists who use digital media are raging in other parts of the world, as well.”
Steve Ressler in GovTech: “Although government 2.0 has been around since Bill Eggers’ 2005 book Government 2.0, the term truly took over in 2008. After President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, his first memorandum in office was the Open Government Directive with its three pillars of creating a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government. This framework quickly spread from federal government down to state and local government and across the nation.
So fast-forward five years and let’s ask what have we learned.
1. It’s about mission problems…
2. It’s about sustainability…
3. It’s about human capital…
4. It’s not static…
5. It’s more than open data…
Overall, a lot of progress has been made in five years. Besides the items above, it’s a cultural and mindset shift that we are seeing grow throughout government each year. Individuals and agencies are focusing on how to make important systemic change with new technology and approaches to improve government”
Open Data Institute: “The Information Economy Strategy sets out a range of key actions, including:
- Digitally transforming 25 of the top 50 UK public services over the next 300 days, including plans to give businesses a single, online view of their tax records
- Launching a new programme to help 1.6 million SMEs scale up their business online over the next five years.
- Publishing a data capability strategy in October 2013, developed in partnership with government, industry and academia. The strategy will build on the recommendations in Stephan Shakespeare’s review of Public Sector Information and the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology’s report on algorithms, and will be published alongside the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.
- Establishing the world’s first facility for testing state of the art 5G mobile technology, working with industry and the University of Surrey.”
Kevin Merritt, the founder and CEO of Socrata, in Next Gov: ….a new movement, spurred by digital and social activism, is taking root to renovate and redefine the public sector.
This movement is based on democratizing the vast treasure trove of data that governments have accumulated over the years, transparently releasing it so citizens and companies can drive meaningful change and solve problems that government, on its own, cannot solve…. This emerging digital collaboration between the public sector and scores of entrepreneurs across the nation has the potential to profoundly transform the role of government….
As a software entrepreneur, I see open data as the transformation of governments from monolithic service providers to open innovation platforms, fueled by data. This shift may hold the answers to some age-old problems in government, like chronic inefficiency and a citizen experience that’s out of step with the modern consumer era.
“This is the right way to frame the question of Government 2.0,” explains O’Reilly, a leading open data advocate. “How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate? How do you design a system in which all of the outcomes aren’t specified beforehand, but, instead, evolve through interactions between government and its citizens, as a service provider enabling its user community?”
The answers to these questions are still taking shape; but one thing we do know is that the strategic use of data is clearly re-defining government’s role in the 21st century.
Modern Healthcare: “The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is trying to live up to the first two words in its name. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has been tapped by PCORI to scale up their prototype of a Web-based crowd-sourcing platform called WellSpringboard, which is designed to enable patients to propose ideas and pledge funds for clinical research.
Washington-based PCORI, an independent not-for-profit group established by the healthcare reform law, recently awarded the Michigan researchers $40,000, the top prize from its PCORI Challenge, a competition seeking novel approaches to connecting researchers with interested patients….
The platform works like this: A person has an idea for a research project and records a video explaining what that idea is. WellSpringboard posts the video on its site, sets a goal for funding and then spreads the word about the project using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Once the funding target is reached, the project is opened up to researchers, who post their profiles to the site and whose applications are reviewed by a board of scientists and members of the public.”
Larry Lessig in The Daily Beast: “Almost 15 years ago, as I was just finishing a book about the relationship between the Net (we called it “cyberspace” then) and civil liberties, a few ideas seemed so obvious as to be banal: First, life would move to the Net. Second, the Net would change as it did so. Gone would be simple privacy, the relatively anonymous default infrastructure for unmonitored communication; in its place would be a perpetually monitored, perfectly traceable system supporting both commerce and the government. That, at least, was the future that then seemed most likely, as business raced to make commerce possible and government scrambled to protect us (or our kids) from pornographers, and then pirates, and now terrorists.
But another future was also possible, and this was my third, and only important point: Recognizing these obvious trends, we just might get smart about how code (my shorthand for the technology of the Internet) regulates us, and just possibly might begin thinking smartly about how we could embed in that code the protections that the Constitution guarantees us. Because—and here was the punchline, the single slogan that all 724 people who read that book remember—code is law. And if code is law, then we need to be as smart about how code regulates us as we are about how the law does so….
But what astonishes me is that today, more than a decade into the 21st century, the world has remained mostly oblivious to these obvious points about the relationship between law and code….
the fact is that there is technology that could be deployed that would give many the confidence that none of us now have. “Trust us” does not compute. But trust and verify, with high-quality encryption, could. And there are companies, such as Palantir, developing technologies that could give us, and more importantly, reviewing courts, a very high level of confidence that data collected or surveilled was not collected or used in an improper way. Think of it as a massive audit log, recording how and who used what data for what purpose. We could code the Net in a string of obvious ways to give us even better privacy, while also enabling better security.
Jason Hibbets in Open Source.com: “How can you apply the concepts of open source to a living, breathing city? An open source city is a blend of open culture, open government policies, and economic development. I derived these characteristics based on my experiences and while writing my book, The foundation for an open source city. Characteristics such as collaboration, participation, transparency, rapid prototyping, and many others can be applied to any city that wants to create an open source culture. Let’s take a look at these characteristics in more detail.
Five characteristics of an open source city
- Fostering a culture of citizen participation
- Having an effective open government policy
- Having an effective open data initiative
- Promoting open source user groups and conferences
- Being a hub for innovation and open source businesses
In my book, I take a look at how these five principles are being actively applied in Raleigh, North Carolina. I also incorporate other experiences from my open government adventures such as CityCamps and my first Code for America Summit. Although Raleigh is the case study, the book is a guide for how cities across the country, and world, can implement the open source city brand.”
Council on Foreign Relations Blog: “The open, global Internet, which has created untold wealth and empowered billions of individuals, is in jeopardy. Around the world, “nations are reasserting sovereignty and territorializing cyberspace” to better control the political, economic, social activities of their citizens, and the content they can access. These top-down efforts undermine the Internet’s existing decentralized, multi-stakeholder system of governance and threaten its fragmentation into multiple national intranets. To preserve an open system that reflects its interests and values while remaining both secure and resilient, the United States must unite a coalition of like-minded states committed to free expression and free markets and prepared to embrace new strategies to combat cyber crime and rules to govern cyber warfare.
These are the core messages of the just-released CFR report, Defending an Open, Global, Resilient, and Secure Internet. The product of a high-level task force, chaired by former Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and former IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano, the report opens by describing the epochal transformation the Internet has wrought on societies and economies worldwide—particularly in the developing world.
Facilitating this unprecedented connectivity has been a framework based not on governmental (or intergovernmental) fiat but on “self-regulation, private sector leadership, and a bottom-up policy process.” By leaving regulation in the hands of technical experts, private sector actors, civil society groups, and end-users, the pioneers of the early Internet ensured that it would “reflect a broad range of perspectives and keep pace with rapidly changing technology.” They also ensured that rights of free expression and privacy would emerge as dominant norms….
Given current trends, can the United States possibly preserve the open global internet? Yes, but the first step is getting its own house in order. Distressingly, the U.S. government lacks a coherent strategic vision, an adequate policy coordination framework, and the requisite legislative authorities to develop and implement a national cyberspace policy, undercutting its global leadership.
Beyond this general guidance, the CFR task force offers some ninety (!) recommendations for U.S. policymakers.”