PdF goes to Europe…and I go to PdF !

Yes, everybody knows that already.
Personal Democracy Forum (pdf), the biggest event on politics and the internet which assembles leading political and technologies actors every year, after creating ripples in the USA, finally comes to Europe and Barcelona on 20 & 21 November.

And, naturally, I am really excited that as a “Google Fellow”, I have been given a unique opportunity to attend this great event as part of a 20-strong team from all over Europe which I really look forward to meet.

Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej are the two people leading pdf and TechPresident, the “sister” great blog resource on how political candidates are using the web, covering everything from campaign websites, online advertising, social media etc, up to how the campaign tools can be used in governance.

  • Andrew Rasiej has advised many American politicians like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Dick Gephardt.  What is probably less known about Andrew in our part of the world, is that he is also a social entrepreneur by kick-starting various other projects. One example is MOUSE (Making Opportunities for and Education) which aims to improve technological access at schools in the NYC area. He also writes for Politico and appears in major media outlets while he has served as Chairman of the Howard Dean Technology Advisory Council in 2004. Andrew is also a senior technology advisor for the Sunlight Foundation, no introductions needed. During last year’s “World eDemocracy Forum” in Paris  he was nominated as Person of the Year, and I had the pleasure of watching and listening live to a very warm and inspiring person (who I didn’t have a chance to talk to then).
  • Micah Sifry has been a senior analyst with Public Campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on campaign finance reform. He has been an editor and writer with The Nation magazine and an author or co-author of various books like “Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America”, co-editor of  “Rebooting America” (available online for free download at rebooting.personaldemocracy.com). He is also an adjunct professor at the Political Science Department of the CUNY/the Graduate Center.

It will be really interesting to witness the clash of the US with the European mentality towards the internet as a political campaigning tool and an e-democracy vehicle. The Obama saga overshadowed significant conversations and efforts that were under way in our old Europe and up until this great web-machine proved its worth in battle, a lot of people in Europe were quick to dismiss the effort as a victory for online marketing and nothing else. Others were quick to point a finger at the difference between online political marketing and e-democracy paradigms.

But after Obama became President, an even more interesting story started to unfold, with all the efforts and attention falling onto the issues of transparency and open government data. Probably, the moral of the story once again is that we have to stop thinking in silos. Yes, the Obama campaign was the greatest internet led marketing campaign to date. But it did open the gates “for more”, and once people are allowed in, it is difficult to regress to old methods and paradigms.

On the other hand, old Europe has still some cards up its sleeve. And my personal opinion is that it must resume its thinking around the issues of true e-democracy (a paradoxical term really) and e-participation which are not only different from online marketing but can also infuse another and more substantial meaning into e-government itself.

Now, if and how different we Europeans are from our American colleagues remains to be seen…at the pdf conference.

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