Community Audio: Micah Sifry, Open Source Politics

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A discussion about Open Source Politics with Micah Sifry, who was the eCampaign director of the Andrew Rasiej Campaign for Public Advocate and is the executive editor of PersonalDemocracy.org.

Sifry wrote up a lengthy post-mortem on their attempts at conducting a network-centric political campaign, and I responded to it here. I had pitched their campaign with an idea to remix one of my video blog posts about balancing top-down control with bottom-up participation, but they didn't have the time to carry it through.

But I wanted to follow up with Sifry to find out how open source, collaborative media could interact with open source politics. This was one of the important insights from our conversation:

I think campaigns may be the last place where the innovations are going to start. Because the pressure of doing a campaign is so intense and there really are so many conventional ingredients that people feel that they have to do. And the innovations are going to come -- in the political arena -- they're going to come from the edges, and they're also going to come from, I believe, from ongoing issues. Organizations that work on issues or new organizations that are being create to work on issues because they have a longer life span. And they can be incubators for new ways for doing things that in some cases campaigns, you just don't have the time -- or at best, you have time to try one or two new things and then keep going.

So in a traditional politial campaign, by the time you've gathered together the professional instincts from the fundraising team, scheduler, field team, communications team, web team, campaign manager and pollsters, then there really isn't a lot of room left for thinking outside of the box.

Most of the radical innovations for network centric advocacy will probably come from long-term, issue-based campaigns and from organizations who are able to bring together existing networks to collectively scratch the same itch at the same time.

I hope that The Echo Chamber Project can provide some new ways for collaborating and communicating with rich media.

Sifry is also interested in having someone explain why Drupal is such an interesting platform, and to explain the practical needs of the developer community to the larger audience of the political technology community at Personal Democracy.

(70:55 / 22.6 MB / Subscribe to Community & Technology Audio)

Click here to listen to the MP3

(Photo Credit: Culture Kitchen)