Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Idealism and the Internet?

Over the years as the internet has been rapidly developed by many eager individuals, it has become clear that, despite extensive commercialization, there is a persistent streak of idealism about one-to-one and one-to-many communications that runs through many online activities and much of the internet development. I use idealism in its positive sense but with reservations. I don't think this idealism is misplaced so much as it might sometimes be overheated. The ability of anyone with internet access to send out messages to be received by anybody else with internet access without being vetted by a corporate or government authority is a very powerful tool that I would argue is almost the definition of the internet (although I admit many people would like to change that).

Of course, this powerful tool isn't always used towards idealistic ends, and in fact can even be abused. However, it can be used towards idealistic ends, and that's what I'm posting about here. I'm not endorsing the following websites. I'm just pointing them out for you to consider.

First up is the site 10 Questions which I found out about via this post from Susan Crawford. The site's goal is to have the public vote on ten user submitted questions and to attempt to get the U.S. presidential candidates to answer those questions. I don't know how successful this will be, but I like the idea of using the internet to "directly" ask questions of the candidates (although the fact that the questions have to be delivered in videos is an unnecessary and unhelpful restriction). How many of us have sat through televised presidential "debates" waiting for the press to ask a question you'd like to ask or waiting for the press to call bullshit on a candidate's non-answer? Yeah, that's what I thought. I've been sitting on this link for a while, so it might be too late to participate in the question phase (sorry).

This next site is called Congresspedia. It's attempting to be a Wikipedia for the U.S. Congress. Unlike the Wikipedia, you have to be a registered user to edit the Congresspedia. I assume this is to attempt to reduce on vandalism and other undesirable activities. It's hard to know how well Congresspedia will work out since the U.S. Congress has to be one of the most hairy and deliberately obfuscated legislatures in the world, but I applaud any attempt to make the inner workings of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government more accessible.

Last but not least, many people use the internet to bypass traditional corporate and government media to try and communicate directly with an audience. A site was recently announced call The Hub claiming to be the "YouTube for human rights". It's supposed to be a site where people can post videos documenting human rights abuses and other human rights related issues. It's a potentially grim topic but an important one, and a good use of the internet. I don't link directly to the site because I want you to read the announcement which uncharacteristically endorses skepticism when considering any content on the site. That's good advice when considering any source.

So, how about you guys? Do you know of any sites or online resources attempting to achieve idealistic goals?

P.S. I was just thinking that 10 Questions could be extended to be something that goes on yearly or quarterly and could be applied to the legislative branches as well as the executive branch. We can bypass all those media people who claim to know what's on our minds or ask inane poll questions to attempt to discern what's on our minds. Instead, we can just tell them what's on our minds. He he he... No. Wait. We should be nice. ;)

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