Post 6: Transversality

by rianadas

Week 8 explores changes governments are facings with regards to ‘New Media’ along with cultural and social change. Politics is definitely not an area of interest for me but it was interesting to see how even Media can apply to it. In my opinion, since the government is elected by the people and is for the people, information about what money is spent on and where our money flows to should be highly transparent. Also, since a surprisingly large number of people do not have sufficient knowledge of laws and governmental practices or initiatives, media is a central and effective way that can be utilised to facilitate the distribution of this key information.

This can be seen gradually in our society today, even if it is only a start. For example, having train and bus-times available to us in real-time on Smartphone applications, such as ‘TripView’, giving us the ability to see if they are running on time and being able to plan accordingly.

In the video ‘The Open Data Film’, Aine McGuire from ScraperWiki expresses that by opening up political data to the masses we are transforming the relationship between citizens and government. She states ‘if everyone knows what’s going on then it will be much more easy for both parties to participate more fairly in society’, evidently alluding to the negative association most people have with their government and the ‘victimised’ feeling that arises every time a political change means a dire difference for them. This project by the Open Data Foundation is actually very interesting and provides valuable insight into why exactly we should have this accessible source of information. Chris Taggart from OpenlyLocal further elucidates that since this information essentially represents us, ourselves it would be undermining democracy for us not to have access to it. Rufus Pullock posits three reasons in favour of this movement, stating that

  1. It would allow individuals, businesses and companies to take this information and make useful applications and services using it,
  2. It’s about democracy and transparency and maximising accountability and
  3. It is close to no cost for governments to create and share this information so, why not?

Politicians have already made use of Web 2.0 in their political propaganda but as Phil Ting puts it, will really be effective when they start using this technology to improve governance and the quality of our lives. He proposes ways that we could be more involved in government by communicating ways that the Reset San Francisco campaign is utilising. He encourages users to participate in ‘Youtube Testimony’ so voices of the people are heard. Furthermore he proposes, “Creating a 311 system that lets San Franciscans call, tweet or email problems or complaints is a powerful innovation. But the true breakthrough will be when we hold our government accountable to this data – and make it a day-to-day part of management”.

Styles (2009) brings forth the idea of a ‘browsable’ visualisation that allows the many sections of government to be viewed visually as if a pictorial directory – an interesting idea.

However, in his article, Lessig (2009) asserts that “the problem is that not all data satisfies the simple requirement that they be information that consumers can use, presented in a way they can use it. More information does not always produce markets that are more efficient.” Instead, “responses to information are inseparable from their interests, desires, resources, cognitive capacities, and social contexts. Owing to these and other factors, people may ignore information, or misunderstand it, or misuse it. To prevent this from happening, a further discernment of what information is applicable where needs to be elucidated.

I believe it would be really effective if the government set-up platforms on social media stages, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, to not convince people to vote for them, but to put rich, interesting and informative information about our government out there and provide us with a way we can get our opinions out there and truly participate in our Government and truly make it Government 2.0.

References:

Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’, < http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0 >

Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, < http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/ >

Open Knowledge Foundation (2013) Open Government Data http://opengovernmentdata.org/

Ting, Phil (2011) User Generated Government http://sf.govfresh.com/user-generated-government/

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