Dispatches from Personal Democracy Forum

Personal Democracy Forum 2K10 has been a great couple days with a lot of very cool people.  I just want to take a quick moment to highlight one of the big themes that I've seen coming out of session after session, and talk after talk.

The leading question of the conference, as I mentioned, is "Can the Internet Fix Politics?" And whether directly or indirectly, many of the speakers I've heard in the past couple days have refuted the principle of the question.  It's not about the internet, or cell phones, or technology at all-- it's about people. The potential of the technology lies in its ability to connect real people to one another, build communities, and use leverage their network to achieve their goals.

The best talk on this subject was from Scott Heiferman of Meetup. His killer line was "Use the internet to get off the internet."  Definitely recommend watching his video when it's posted at personaldemocracy.com.

There has also been a good deal of really interesting discussion on the trouble media is having in the new networked world, and the trouble we're having navigating the glut of information. Eli Pariser of MoveOn (who gave perhaps the best talk of the conference-- another one to watch once it's available), offered a mindblowing statistic: more information was created in 2009 than in all of human history up through 2008.

As I've written in the past, the next killer app will be the one that helps us navigate the endless flood of information and find what matters. In his talk, Pariser highlighted the efforts of Google and Facebook to solve this problem, focusing on the ways they narrow their content to give you what you want-- but not necessarily what we need.  In his words, these companes "do a good job of serving us as customers, but not as citizens," and he voiced concern that we're moving toward a network in which we're each surfing "an internet of one."  Solutions?  Not so much.  But lots of meaty stuff to think about.