"a culture of participation": what works on the Net… and now government?

"a culture of participation": what works on the Net… and now government?


Over the weekend, I heard Jay Rosen speak, he's one of the commentators on new media I respect most.

He used the phrase "culture of participation" and this crystallized a lot of my thinking about why Wikipedia and craigslist work. There's the "culture of trust" thing, very important. That trust is generated where the people running stuff continuously engage with the people who use the stuff, where everyone can participate. Not everyone will, but it's the genuine opportunity that matters.

David Weinberger, another commentator I respect highly, once captured this more metaphorically, saying "Google feels like ours (even though it legally belongs to its shareholders)… Weblogs feel like their ours while online columns do not. The Mac feels like it's ours… Craigslist feels like ours…"

Now, combine the "culture of participation" thing with Obama's networked grassroots movement. I think that's the new kind of government we're moving to, complementing representative democracy with active grassroots involvement.

More to come…



Emily Sussman

Great post. As a journalism student at the University of Missouri studying new media models, I'm really interested in the "Goodwill Economy" and the "Culture of Trust" on the web.
Except I don't really feel like Google is "mine." They're too big, too corporate and not transparent enough about what they do (and/or what they're planning to do with everyone's information). How long can they really adhere to that "do no evil" motto before the term becomes too relative to mean anything to us?


I think you may have hit on something. One thing I noticed starting over 10 years ago when I first went online is that it was easier for people to be pleasant and helpful to each other in the faceless, often anonymous way the Internet and maillists allowed. Now it seems the sentiment may have matured. And the result could just be the way the Obama campaign lived online and seems to be remembering what was found there.

Chris Dayton

I had a conversation along similar lines this weekend when a friend was searching for the actual text of the new bailout package. Not really available. We started riffing on a fantasy of wiki-legislation process, where the current proposed legislation was publicly viewable and comments could be added by any citizen . . . real time outrage . . . might get things out in the light . . . Spread the pork around in a little more transparent way. You would probably want some good Captcha on it though.

Jeffrey Levy

Let's hope so, Craig, let's hope so.
The way the White house runs its site will set the tone for the rest of gov't at all levels.
One major challenge will be staff support within agencies. It takes people to read and consider comments, and being able to comment but then discovering they're being ignored will make things worse, not better.

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