View Thread > Internet & Society > Internet & Society Conference > The Internet at Puberty - Politics at Senescence
This December, the Berkman Center and some friends are hosting the next in our series of Internet & Society conferences. A placeholder site is here:
This year, we're taking a skeptical look at whether the Internet is transforming politics. We're interested in global themes, in campaigns of all sorts and all levels, and not just the US presidential election.
We'd love your help in pulling together the panels and discussions. What would be most helpful at this stage is to come up with the hardest, most interesting questions that might serve as the organizing principle for a specific panel or discussion session on the primary day of the conference, December 10, 2004. An example might be: 'Are campaigns more effective at engaging young people in campaigns by using Internet technologies?' Give us a better one.
Borrowing from the theme of a fairly ancient Office of Naval Research Study on computers, called "Computers at Puberty" I would argue, as that report did for computers, that we tend to see the current generation of the Internet as the pinnacle of it's development, with maybe a few new bells and whistles to come but pretty much what we've got now is what we can expect for the future.
There is one other point regarding the introduction of new technologies which needs to be considered. Remember the buggywhip holders on the first cars, or using steam engines to pump water over the mill's water wheel, or painstakingly driling and nailing structural steel into exact replicas of older wooden structures...
The point I am making here is that yes the internet certainly is having some effects on the waging of political campaigns, but to date, I would argue, the effects are more of the buggywhip variety, bolting on interesting new possibilities to the existing arcane processes of politicking. A mere shadow of the potential soaring changes possible when we stop trying to fit the internet into existing practices and start leveraging and applying the new transformational metaphors of organization and governance suggested by internet characteristics such as self organizing mesh nets, active packets, and emergent behaviors.
I seriously doubt the ability of the current two party system to transform itself in this way, at most it would probably just cynically bolt on a few internet buggywhips such as some meet-ups here and a couple fundraising websites there, and otherwise carry on with business as usual. Instead I suggest it will probably take the emergence of a third, internet based, party to bring these potentials to fruition.