This week at the Personal Democracy Forum, a tool we created called Twitterslurp was used to track the Twitter conversation taking place around the conference. In an effort to empower other organizations and conferences to use the tool, we are releasing the code behind the tool to the open source community.
If you use it, please drop a link to your implementation in the comments. We’d love to take a look.
Guest post by David Cohn
Michael Wesch gave an amazing talk at PDF that I dare not try to summarize.
I will point to an anecdote that Wesch used to give insight into how our cultural conversation is changing all the time.
The word "whatever" has morphed over the years.
Pre 1960s: Whatever meant: Whatever, that's what I said.
In the 1960's: Whatever was a call of rejection: "Whatever man."
In the early 1990's: Whatever was a term of indifference. "Meh, whatever." Also captured in Nirvana's "Whatever, nevermind."
In the late 1990 to now: Whatever has become a term of self indulgence "Whatever" from Clueless.
The question is if the internet can create a sense of "whatever" that implies: By any means necessary or anything is possible.
How does the cultural conversation that takes place change as a result of our ever changing mediums of communication?
Guest post by Alan Haburchak
The morning of day two here at the Personal Democracy Forum conference was all about online communities, what they mean, how they can be used and what they say about culture and global culture and society today. Randi Zuckerberg (the other Zuckerberg), Facebook's head of marketing was up first and talked a little bit about how communities have arisen on on Facebook that have lead to real-life movements like the anti-farc protests that occurred in Colombia last year. But other than pointing that that that group had used social media to organize, she didn't have much more to say.
Next up was Alec Ross, who serves as Senior Advisor for Innovation in the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ross explained how Sec. Clinton is re-imagining the idea of diplomacy to not just be able "white guys in white shirts with red ties" talking to each other, but rather a citizen-to-citizen approach. As an example he touted the State Department's SMS-based Pakistani-relief initiative that they pioneered earlier this year.
The really amazing highlight of the morning however was Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist exploring the impact of new media on society and culture. Wesch gave a shortened version of a presentation about YouTube as a cultural phenomenon, which he and 200 students at Kansas State University created. There is video of Wesch's talk at PDF09, though the quality is not ideal. The amazing thing was the collective joy in the room as everyone felt the hope that Wesch expressed for what online communities like YouTube might be able to create in the face of the pessemistic attitude that according to Wesch, had been cultivated among a lot of young people since the 1990s. Highlights from Wesch's presentation were his clips from the Free Hugs and MadV - The Message memes.
Finally the morning closed with Mark Pesce, know as a digital futurist, who talked about the inherrent potenital danger of what he called "ad-hocracies" on the web. As evidence, he pointed to the fight between Wikipedia and the Church of Scientology. Pesce's talk was intersting, discussing how because of their size, the members of the church were able to break the social contract of Wikipedia, ultimately leading to Wikipedia banning them from editing the site. Speaking after Wesch's emotionally charged YouTube presentation, Pesce's point came across as too academic, although important as internet communities reach critical mass.
Ultimately what I and I think most people will take away from this look at web communities is the sense of hope in was Ross and Wesch had to say. Diplomacy can be as simple and effective as sending $5 to someone in Pakistan who needs it from your cell phone, and while YouTube comments may be the worst thing on the internet, the ability of that community to be incredibly personal AND to inspire positive action en masse is amazing.