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How The Internet Could Change Government

Question: Would President Obama change the way government functions?

Jay Rosen: I think this is one of the major unknowns about Obama. He, in some ways, has to succeed within a very traditional broadcast style of politics and governance, but there’s also the outlines of a new system, and I think the new part is coming from a fact that’s actually even bigger than Obama and our preoccupations in electoral politics. And that’s the [following cause] for people with the same interest to share information and collaborate and find each other in the first place. That is what’s changed in the world. The [following cause] for like minded people to locate each other, share information, do something with it, and then tell the rest of the world. And whether your campaign recognizes it or not, that is out there and it’s happening. And so, there’s no doubt that an American government realizing this shift could operate in a different way than our government does now, and there are people who want to make that transition happen, what to see the age. Not an internet fundraising and organizing a campaign over the web, but something much more profound which would be government of the people by the people and for the people in which the people actually have the same information available to them that the government has. And that kind of openness, that kind of transparency is certainly going to change government eventually but we really don’t know if the election of Obama would bring it on. We really don’t know at all if he would govern any differently than Bill Clinton or for that matter George Bush. It’s there as a kind of an undertone and as potential but the rest remains to be seen. And we have this problem about talking about change when it comes to technology and these big shifts is we ask, you know, whether it’s going to be one or the other. We ask if it’s, you know, the internet is taking over or really not much of a factor at all. So we have to have some more complex images here, you know, sort of like, they’re still running the old stadium but they’re building a new one right, you know, right around it. You know, we function in both worlds at the same time. The old broadcasting system is still there for much of the country and much of the campaign is being run through it, and then underneath and around it, there’s this new distributed system of sort of many to many politics and media and the two interact with each other. So I think we’re going to continue to see that.

Recorded on: 08/19/2008

Jay Rosen talks about the potential for online collaboration to alter governmental administration.

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