Civil Service Live: Howard Rheingold

I’m live-blogging from Howard Rheingold’s session #CSLive09. Getting started in a couple of minutes.

Alex from Central Office for Information introduces Rheingold.

12:49 Rheingold says he’s here to enlist the audience about new ways of getting things done. We’re all taught a story about how we do things together.  Over the last 10 years there is new knowledge emerging in various sectors.

12:50 In spring of 2000 Rheingold was in Tokyo and was surprised to see lots of people looking at their phones all the time.  Now it’s common everywhere, but then it was unusual for Americans.  More recently Rheingold was in Finland and in a place where the name given to the cellphone has a literal translation of ‘little hand’, he was aware that kids were shing screens to one another but not to the older members of family.  When he asked what was goign on he was told “oh kids these days flock together”.

12:54 In the Phillipines the Estrada administration fell after the people power demonstration in the main square when after a flashmob of people all wearing black, indicating the death of democracy.

12:55 What Rheingold had observed was that text messaging had lowered the threshold of political engagement.  These smart mobs are able to do things together that they have not previously been able to do before.  The outcome of those engagements could be positive or negative, but the opportunities to harness these technologies are real.

12:59 Increasingly there have been instances across Asia and Europe, where text messages have been used to organise collective action and leaders have been acknowledging the value of these participants and ignoring mainstream media.

13:01 Rheingold notes that kids in California didn’t join MySpace for collective action – they did so to socialise and to share music.  But when the time came to act against education policies, it was logical to use MySpace.  Same thing happened in Chile with the use of PhotoLog to protest against government policies.

13:03 One of Rheingold’s own students created a site which mashed up two other platforms, inviting students to upload short videos about the Obama campaign and the opportunities arising from an Obama leadership.

13:04 Until this moment, politicians worldwide knew when the camera was on and when to appear ‘presentable’.  Now you cannot.

[JJ's note: like here, liveblogging]

13:05 Unfiltered content through twitter may be frightening – let the reader beware: not all the content on twitter is true/accurate.  But the community itself is delivering more and more filters to ensure the accuracy of information being reported.

13:09 The more Rheingold learned about these changes in communiction, the more he realised this is a natural evolution in human communication.

[JJ's note: If so, it would appear to be pointless for the civil service to resist immediate and responsive reporting from the citizenry]

13:12 Rheingold notes that the emergence of record-keeping and written language was a huge change in communication.  The production of the printing press massively increased the distribution of ideas and learning, and literacy went from being a skill of an elite to a significant proportion of the population in a very short period of time. People could build knowledge collectively.

13:17 We haven’t finished finding new ways of disseminating information. We are now finding that major (traditionally proprietary) technology firms are generating income in consultancy services based around open source code.  Major drugs firms have posed problems online in sites like innocentre to generate answers to complex problems by inviting feedback from those with the skills.

13:21 We have to think about what is going to happen in the future when people have the power to crowdsource policies and investigate appropriate process and practice in the public service. UK is ahead in providing access but need to design better services to assist public service job with the help of fellow citizens

[JJ's note: this is likely to encourage both cohesion and engagement/participation in communities to.]

13:25 Regardless of your objectives and activities, understanding the opportunities of collective action can multiply your effectiveness.

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