Saturday Session Descriptions

What is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public?

Jay Rosen, NYU

The Internet changes the flow in journalism by giving users way more of it.  The Net stimulates writerly invention, which wasn't a strong point of the traditional press.  It creates new competitors, bloggers among them.  It allows for more re-writing and checking of the news-- more intense criticism.  And the Net is luring more and more respectable Journalists to the Net.  But so what?  Does any of that change politics? Does it re-distribute power? Does it make the American people a more informed public? And why does political reporting need to be "interactive," anyhow?  We'll discuss what's different about the Political press when it is open to more people.  This happened in 2004 because of the Internet.  Yet the Net is only part of the story.  Market forces, political pressures, generational flight, loss of legitimacy, loss of access, confusion in the ranks about where to go from here (and don't forget inertia)-- they happened too. 

No speakers, no panel, no experts, no guru, but I have a method or two, and I've done this before. If you show up don't be surprised if I ask you tell me a story.

Screen work:  Inventions we need

Prof. Susan Crawford and Prof. David Johnson.

Profs. Susan Crawford and David Johnson, in conversation with attendees about law and organizations on the screen.  We'll talk about graphical and not-so-graphical efforts to help groups see themselves and work together, and dream up some new inventions.

Blogging and local politics.

Dave Winer in conversation with Mary Hodder and Nicco Mele

Tip O'Neill said all politics is local -- it seems Tom Daschle would agree. Blogs are about decentralization (right?) but in the election of 2004 the focus was blogs at the center, in the Presidential primaries and then the  national campaign.

This session starts with the assumption that blogs in US politics will grow from the local level, up through the state legislatures, to the House and Senate, and then the Presidency. Maybe in 2024 we'll elect a blogger as President, but surely in 2006 we'll elect at least one blogger to the House.
This session will be a brainstorm, idea sharing, not whether blogging and politics make sense at the local level, but how to achieve an upgrade to the democratic process using the new tools at the local level.

Updating the Rules for Radicals

Brian Reich, Mindshare interactive in conversation with James Crabtree

Saul Alinsky developed strategies and tactics to convert the enormous emotional energy of grassroots groups into effective activism.  In Rules for Radicals he stressed that an organizer shouldn't get locked into any one tactic and should utilize new and creative tactics to be most effective in promoting a particular cause. The result was a method and style of pursuing social change that has remained a permanent part of the American political landscape for generations.

The Internet and technology have revolutionized politics and community engagement.  Today, it serves as the breeding ground for countless new and creative tactics for promoting a cause.   But the Rules for Radicals that Saul Alinsky championed do not translate directly to online community building and engagement activities. 

This session and an accompanying online discussion (link to be provided) will launch a hearty discussion of the old rules and lay the groundwork for writing new ones.   We will discuss new ideas for how our society can, and should, function in a democracy.  And we will examine the principles of how information and communication technology come together to help organize action.  It is an open discussion, everyone is invited and encouraged to participate. 

After-School Education

John Palfrey and James Moore

This lunchtime working session will offer a chance to apply the strategy and tactics that we've been talking about during this conference using a real-world example.  There's a movement in Massachusetts to emphasize after-school education, which has strong adherents, a natural organizing base, and some terrific leaders.  But they have yet to adopt a strategy that makes use of the internet.  Joe Ganley, Director of Strategy for Mass2020, will present the contours of the after-school cause and what the goals of their campaign are.  Can we at this conference help them to craft an internet strategy in real-time?  Or do we really have much that's tangible to offer?  Bring in your box lunch and join us in putting internet and politics to a real test.

Now What?

David Weinberger

An open discussion of what politically-aware geeks and online denizens  can do to encourage the spread of democratic institutions, both here and abroad.  How can we connect the unconnected and connect with the connected? Do blogs have a special role? How can and should Net life tie into real-world action? What politcal values does Net connectivity carry with it, and are they an advantage, obstacle or both? Most important: What the hell do we do now?

Mistakes Techno Utopians Make: Fantasy Politics and the Disappearing Social

William Davies and Ted Byfield in conversation with
Andrew Orlowski

2004 proved to be a hubristic year for net politics. Beginning with claims []
that the Dean phenomenon could create a lasting successor to the two party system, the year ended with an emphatic confirmation [ ] of the power of mass media and traditional social institutions.
Could the Internet be, as Thomas Pynchon has suggested, the best tool that institutions of power, and those who run them, could ever wish for? With activists dispersed, isolated and hermetically sealed from the public discourse, and seemingly content with a simulacrum of political engagement, 2004 could be described as the year that Fantasy Politics came to the Net.

This panel takes a fresh and skeptical look at the epistemological and economic foundations of today's technological determinism - shedding light on both the Californian ideology of technologically-based liberation and
the dystopias of European net theory. Are net politics advocates guilty of promoting technological causes over the interests of their constituencies? Is the rush to find mechanistic explanations of social phenomena empowering or hindering activists? And outside the online echo chamber, is anyone even listening?

Higher Education:  Inside and Outside the Academy

Tracy Mitrano

College and university IT policies negotiate legal compliance and policy expectations around the freedoms and obligations of the Internet and IT resources.  This session will discuss how law and policy shape campus codes of IT conduct, and, how in turn, IT policies can help educate campus communities about the politics of digital copyright, government surveillance, privacy and security -- as well as "citizenship" -- in the electronic realm.

Internet Enabled Change in Worklife Development

Antonio Oftelie & Jerry Mechling

This session will take a participant driven look at the factors of worklife development and how the Internet accelerates the synthesis of these factors. Special consideration will be given to how the Internet and the adoption of emerging technologies will impact worklife development and the social and political changes that will stem from this change.

The Cairns Project


Prof. Tom Igoe, NYU, Dr. Alan Kantrow, Monitor, and Prof. Beth Noveck, New York Law School


All the basic activities of public life are group activities.  We act in a group because together we can accomplish what we cannot do alone.  Yet our thinking about technology and democracy has focused on a liberal vision centered on the relationship of the individual to the state.  Traditional political theory largely ignores the group for fear of the mob.  The aim of this conversation is to re-center the debate about electronic democracy, not around making voting faster, but around how we collectively use the new tools to organize, create, protest, deliberate, dissent and wield power in the world together.  This discussion of electronic democracy and the Cairns project is set against the backdrop of the argument that we can defer political and legal decisionmaking with the decentralized work of self-governing groups.


Funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Council of Europe and America Speaks, the Cairns project is open-source software for groups. 


Cairns is web-based collaboration-management software to enable participants to configure a group to achieve a goal together.  By guiding members of the group through a series of questions about the goals, organizational structure, tools, methods and output, Cairns enables a group to map its assets, identify best practices and key practitioners and understand what contributed to the groupís success. Cairns offers the first project management software to connect the community of practice working in collaborative and democratic ways.


Groups can use Cairnsí unique visual interface to:


  • Make a decision or solve a problem collectively
  • Find people and projects in related endeavors
  • Share best practices for collective action
  • Discover ways to use new tools and technologies to do group work
  • Learn about methods for engaging in collective action
  • Communicate with people with common problems
  • Navigate and blog with the community of practice
  • Translate the experience of groups across borders, languages, cultures and industry domains


We are in the middle of developing the Cairns software and we need your help!  Come and participate in this conversation about the future of Cairns.


Is P2P Political?


Nick Reville, and Meg Smith, Berkman Center for Internet & Society


This session will use Downhill Battle ( as a case study to consider the political possibilities and limits of P2P. Downhill Battle -- originally organized in 2003 "to create a public voice that could counter the distortions of the RIAA" and to use P2P to create change in the media landscape -- has recently launched a political organization, the "Participatory Politics Foundation," to address more explicitly the connections between technology, media, and political power.  The 2004 elections saw similar initiatives linking P2P and politics, like  Does P2P offer new political possibilities, or are these claims just ways to justify music piracy?
In this session, Downhill Battle co-founder Nicholas Reville will talk with Meg Smith, Director of the Berkman Center's Digital Media Project, to examine the relationship between P2P, the law, and politics.  The panel will also consider a follow-up question: Is P2P partisan?  Does the debate on P2P cleave along traditional political lines?