Key Note Speeches from Micah Sifry and Michael Turk

Micah Sifry – Personal Democracy Forum

The Revolution will be networked. How open source politics is emerging in America.

Open Source politics – an analogy of open source software and politics. Letting competing actors evaluate the value of your plans.

What we are seeing is a changing of the way in which people are co-creators of the political process. They are making their contributions salient be converging into networks and it is these networks which are the key.

Voter can make and disseminate messages better than political parties and traditional media actors.

How has the game changed?

There are all sorts of examples of movements on social networking sites of campaigning gaining significant numbers of voters. The million strong campaign against Hillary Clinton on Facebook, Barack Obama’s MySpace Page.

The Ron Paul campaign updates the public of donors to the site on real time – -

There is more space online for more content and this is beginning to challenge the sound bite society created by the mainstream media. There is a counter to the sound bite society and this is the sound-blast society, where users are hungry for content – emphasised by the amount of people who are viewing campaign videos on YouTube.

Obama campaign is telling us that the value of the network is more important than a list compiled by a traditional political / power source. Clinton campaign misunderstood the network effect and focused more on compiling traditional lists.

Networks are resilient but they are not nimble – you cannot get networks to get the message of the day.

Campaigns are still not ready to devolve authority, they only want to devolve projects. This force is only going to grow but the question will be what happens to these networks when the campaign finishes? Sifry doesn’t believe that they are going away.

The Side Effect – Michael Turk

“The thought that he’ll be President is a side-effect. This campaign is about allowing people to come together to tell their life stories” – comment on the Howard Dean campaign.

The Bush campaign attempted to get its supporters to tell the story of the campaign, be messengers, to their friends and extended networks. This is because the Republican supporters are dispersed over a very large space. They wanted to remove the role of the campaign away from the traditional field organiser – the tools enabling people to vote or become supporters were released in order for people to do something with the latent energy that was being fostered. There was a concern that these tools would be abused by certain groups of people but most of the usage of tools has been constructive and the nefarious use of the net for campaigns has been limited to a few bespoke individuals.

Questions: Who owns the data being generated?

Sifry: There will become an issue of who controls the data from these networks. No-one is conscious yet of the loss of privacy that is being experienced during these campaigns.

Turk: campaigns rely on this consumer database – they map profiles of what constitutes a certain speaker. If this data were used correctly for education about the types of voter under consideration then there would be a very large turnout of voters.

Q: Is the war room model of campaigning being reinvented? Or is it dead?

Turk: campaigns realise that it is all about winning, it is not about improving the lives of the electorate. This is the reason why the war-room model is still in place today, because it is effective.

Sifry: Groups such as MoveOn are viable because they are niche organisations and delegate actionable projects that people can do on a local level. Taking advance of a small amount of people doing the heavy lifting in politics. This is an example of a super-activist group although it is not clear whether it is entirely effective.

The Obama campaign realises that the more sharing of information – such as Yes We Can video – is better in generating more support for the project.