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Notes From The Personal Democracy Forum: Talks About Social Media, Transparency and Government

pdf.jpgToday and tomorrow, FishbowlNY will be reporting from the Personal Democracy Forum, a conference that focuses on the intersection of politics and technology.

This morning, after a keynote from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (in which he revealed that his home phone number was listed in the phone book for many years until a reporter discovered it and published it) we sat through presentations by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, Ning.com founder Gina Bianchini, Harvard researchers Danah Boyd and David Weinberger and media critic Jeff Jarvis.

(Photo: Jeff Jarvis presents at the Personal Democracy Forum on Monday morning)


Each short presentation was about a different topic, but they fell into two groups. Bianchini and Boyd dicussed social media, while Jarvis and Weinberger talked about transparency in one way or another.

After Bianchini talked about her company, Ning, and its benefits for grassroots organizing, nonprofit organizations and “every day people,” Boyd came on to discuss her research with teenagers about why they choose Facebook.com over MySpace.com. Boyd talked about a difficult topic — whether social media Web sites promote class and race distinctions that mimic real world social divisions. Making the move from MySpace to Facebook is the “modern incarnation of white flight,” she said. “MySpace has become the ghetto of the digital landscape.”

Boyd was a tough act to follow, but Jarvis pulled it off, ending his discussion about how to make the government more like Google by running around the audience asking for feedback.

Lastly, Weinberger talked about transparency of facts in light of a number of new Web sites, like data.gov, that will provide endless amounts of facts previously hidden from view. “We want unsure knowledge and facts as much as we want the sure ones,” he said in reference to people relying on Twitter for news from Iran. “Transparency is the new objectivity.”

There will be more from PDF this afternoon and tomorrow, so keep checking back on FBNY or follow us on Twitter @FishbowlNY.

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