Seven ways the Internet is changing politics

1. Last week I attended the opening event of Phil Burns’s new company Politic2.0, a platform for communication between politicians and citizens. When I first heard about the event, I was skeptical that it would be anything more than the buzz-word-ification of another niche, but by the end of the event I was really impressed with what had happened.

Utah Congressman Chris Cannon was the guest of honor, and there were about 25 attendees. The website allowed us to post and vote on questions, Digg style, and then the MC addressed the most popular questions to Mr. Cannon. Participation wasn’t limited to people in the room; anybody online could submit questions, vote, and leave comments on the website. Live video was streamed to the website.

It was a Darwinian press conference. The most popular questions were asked; no one person could dominate the conversation with his own agenda. Mr. Cannon said he felt a disconnect because most of our heads were down while we typed and clicked, but because I was able to influence the conversation, I felt very connected. I liked it so much I contacted a couple friends so they could hop on the website during the event.

The process still needs polishing, but Mr. Cannon’s participation was commendable and it was a good first draft for Politic2.0. I hope other politicians will participate.

Pete Ashdown

2. The Politic2.0 platform allowed us to collaborate on our questions, but not on the answers. When Pete Ashdown ran for U.S. Senate last year, he used a wiki to allow citizens to collaborate on policy solutions. I personally edited a page or two and found it refreshing that the ideas were being debated on their own merits and that someone (Pete) cared to listen. It’s humbling and realistic for politicians to realize they don’t have all the answers. Maybe together we do.

3. IT Conversations is my favorite source for podcasts. This week its founder, Doug Kaye, launched PodCorps (via), which aims to “record and publish important spoken-word events anywhere in the world.” PodCorps will call on an army of volunteers to record lectures, political events, and talks in their local communities. These amateur recordings by you and me will be posted online for all to hear. What would otherwise be some inconsequential talk on an obscure topic in a far away place will find far more listeners. Politicians can’t pander to local interests if everyone is “watching.” The transparency will encourage consistency.

4. C-Span, the nonprofit cable network that records Senate and House proceedings (and for most people is the fastest way to fall asleep), keeps ownership of over 85% of its video — video that should be in the public domain. Carl Malamud, the creator of the first Internet radio station, recently wrote a letter to C-Span petitioning that all its video be released into the public domain and explaining how the Internet makes their mission of promoting open government even easier.

5. Phil Windley has blogged repeatedly about the Utah Senate Majority’s website, senatesite.com. At the site Utahns will find a group blog and podcast where local politicians explain and debate policy.

6. Mitt Romney and other presidential candidates are using YouTube to engage with citizens. Mitt Romney on Youtube In a YouTube video, Mitt asked people “What is America’s single greatest challenge?” Seventy-one people responded with short videos of their own.

7. Candidates are using Facebook and MySpace to stay connected with supporters. Because of Facebook, I know Mitt is in Iowa today.

Anything else?

As our world becomes more complex and the job of politician more difficult, it’s increasingly important that we be closely connected with the people that represent us.

2 thoughts on “Seven ways the Internet is changing politics”

  1. Last night I ran into Congressman Cannon and somehow the topic of The Colbert Report came up. He talked about some reasons for not doing the show, but quickly said that Colbert’s drilling questions would be no match for “the blogosphere.” He spoke briefly about the experience with Politic2.0. He seemed supportive of the idea and enjoyed the experience, even though the questioning must have been quite challenging. It’s a great idea so I hope it continues to grow – and to expand beyond an audience of bloggers to include the general public, as they want it to do.

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