Jon Lebkowsky and Zack Rosen and CivicSpace Labs

Political Networks
24 minutes, 11.1mb, recorded 2006-05-08
Jon Lebkowsky, Zack Rosen

Traditional political campaigns can be seen as "Broadcast Politics" - run as a top-down hierarchy with tight control and simple sound-bite sized messages. But is this the only model that could work? In the 2004 U.S. presidential race Howard Dean became perhaps the first candidate to leverage the networking power of the internet in a national campaign. Zack Rosen worked on providing the platform for this campaign and now discusses the motivation behind it and how it is evolving into a tool available for all campaigns.

Jon Lebkowsky outlines the advantages and disadvantages of such a grassroots approach to campaigning. What changes can we expect when the power is pushed to the edges of the network? What are the goals and where do they come from? Who decides when they are met? How should we deal with disruptive elements? Not everyone can accept the idea of 'mob' rule when it comes to running a campaign, but if such an approach leads to more voters making decisions because they understand the issues - rather than agree with the sound-bites - then he believes it is an approach worth exploring.

Jon Lebkowsky is a leading authority on computer-mediated communications, virtual communities, community technology, and online social networks. He has worked as a project manager, systems analyst, technology director, and online community developer. His current consulting practice focuses on nonprofit and commercial web strategy and effective use of online social technologies. He is also a strong proponent of universal broadband access to computer networks.

Jon was cofounder and CEO of one of the first virtual corporations, FringeWare, Inc. He is currently President of EFF-Austin, Vice President of Austin Wireless, and a member of the SalsaNet Board of Directors. He was a cofounder of the Austin Wireless City Project and the national Social Software Alliance. He is an advisor for the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference, and he serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Texas Science, Technology, and Society Program. He is part of a regional team working on the Central Texas Digital Convergence Initiative. He is Vice-President of the Board of Directors for Austin Wireless and a member of the Board for San Antonio-based SalsaNet.

A longtime proponent of online tools for civic engagement, he co-edited Extreme Democracy, a book on technology, democracy, and advocacy.

Zack Rosen began the "DeanSpace" project in 2003 during his summer break from the University of Illinois. He then took a job at the Dean campaign head-quarters to work as a web-developer and technical volunteer coordinator. He was responsible for servicing the web-technology needs of the state campaign offices, constituency groups, and grassroots web developers. He is now the Co-Founder and Executive Director of CivicSpace.


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