Interview with Micah Sifry + Special Net2 Discount to Personal Democracy Forum

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"If you are a political hack who is dealing with life in a networked age, or a hacker who is into politics and wants to drive change forward, this is the place to be."--Micah Sifry

This year's 5th Annual Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) has been expanded to two days, June 23-24, and will be held in New York City at Rose Hall, the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Keynoters include: Elizabeth Edwards, Michael Arrington, Vint Cerf, and Craig Newmark. Presenters Include: Arianna Huffington, Lawrence Lessig, Mayhill Fowler, Ana Marie Cox, Robert Scoble, Josh Marshall, Douglas Rushkoff, Joe Trippi, Gilberto Gil and many more...

Sounds awesome, doesn't it? Well, guess what? PdF is offering a special discount to the NetSquared Community. When you register, use the promotion code: n2y3. It's good for a $100 discount off the PdF 2008 registration fee.

If you'd like to learn more about Personal Democracy Forum, check out our e-interview with PdF Co-Founder, Micah Sifry!

1. For folks who aren't familiar with PdF, what is Personal Democracy Forum?

Four years ago, my partner Andrew Rasiej and I wrote these words:

Democracy in America is changing. A new force, rooted in new tools and practices built on and around the Internet, is rising alongside the old system of capital-intensive broadcast politics. Today, for almost no money, anyone can be a reporter, a community organizer, an ad-maker, a publisher, a money-raiser, or a leader. If what they have to say is compelling, it will spread.

The cost of finding like-minded souls, banding together, and speaking to the powerful has dropped to almost zero. Networked voices are reviving the civic conversation. More people, everyday, are discovering this new power. After years of being treated like passive subjects of marketing and manipulation, they want to be heard. Members expect a say in the decision-making process of the organizations they join. Readers want to talk back to the news-makers. Citizens are insisting on more openness and transparency from government.

All the old institutions and players--big money, top-down parties, big-foot journalism, cloistered organizations--must adapt or face losing status and power. Personal Democracy, where everyone is a full participant, is coming.

Back in 2004, these were seen as fringe ideas. Candidates for office and, just as importantly, the consultants who advised them, didn't think the Internet mattered in politics. "Didn't Howard Dean lose?" they would sneer. If you mentioned the word "blog" around Capitol Hill, people looked at you funny.

We decided to ignore the conventional wisdom, and in the spring of 2004 started an annual conference and daily blog called Personal Democracy Forum, to gather the people and players who did see how the Internet was changing politics, and wanted to be a part of that change.

Over the last five years, Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) has become the seminal gathering place for the growing community of people who understand the effects underway, and want to make sure they stay on top of what's coming next.

2. The 2008 Personal Democracy Forum Conference is coming up June 23-24 in NYC. Give me your sales pitch, why should folks go?

While we are all networked virtually thru the Internet, we still need to come together to connect face-to-face. If you are a political hack who is dealing with life in a networked age, or a hacker who is into politics and wants to drive change forward, this is the place to be.

3. Day one of the PdF Conference is focused on how technology is changing campaigns, elections and the media system. What do you think is the most significant way technology has changed, and will continue to change the 2008 US election?

The big change this year isn't really technological; it's that the technology of participation has become so ubiquitous and simple to use that masses of people are joining in. The technologies of participation are no longer just for the early adopters. And thus the social effects are where the interesting changes are. This is the first election where millions of people are participating not just as consumers of political messages, but as co-creators of the campaigns. Voter-generated content is the wild card of 2008.

4. Day two of the PdF Conference is focused on how technology is changing governance and civic engagement. Our most recent Net2ThinkTank question was, "Is online activism good for social change?" What do you think?

We at PdF have always been interested in progressive uses of technology, while we recognize that these tools are themselves neutral. Some people will use technology to try to reinforce their established positions. What we're interested in are the ways it is being used to open up the process to more voices, and make politics more transparent and accountable.

5. What is your greatest hope for technology's role in politics, and what is your greatest fear?

As I said above, my greatest hope is that it is opening up politics to mass participation, and making the system more transparent and accountable. My greatest fear is that we'll blow ourselves up, first.

6. Is there anything else you'd like the NetSquared Community to know about PdF or the PdF Conference?

New York City is beautiful this time of year, and we're at a fantastic new venue across from Central Park. So, it won't be all work and no play. Come to PdF and you'll have a great time.