Thomas Freidman, in an 3 August column that I somehow missed (vacation), sharpens his ax for a while on the lamentable state of US cell service, and then plugs a forward-minded politico, Andrew Rasiej who "is running in New York City's Democratic primary for public advocate on a platform calling for wireless (Wi-Fi) and cellphone Internet access from every home, business and school in the city."
I'm down with that, and I hope that we can keep the telcom lobbyists from making it s federal crime to create no-cost wi-fi on a metropolitan or regional basis. Presuming that the electorate will embrace something that is both good for you and free, I am certain that Friedman is right, and a new generation of politicians will ride the wireless connectivity mandate to their respective city halls, state houses, and perhaps (gasp) the White House. This could really be a realignment of politics, leaving behind the current fissure between right and left, and replacing it with a dichotomy between progressives and luddites, as Friedman alluded to in the title of his column: Calling All Luddites.
Accelerating the democratization of Internet access through free municipal wifi is a radical act: it destabilizes the power now handed out to telephone and cable companies by the previous generation of politicians.
Friedman doesn't give it his full attention, but looming like the tip of an enormous, rolling iceberg is his nearly offhand characterization of Politics 2.0:
The technological model coming next - which Howard Dean accidentally uncovered but never fully developed - will revolve around the power of networks and blogging. The public official or candidate will no longer just be the one who talks to the many or tries to listen to the many. Rather, he or she will be a hub of connectivity for the many to work with the many - creating networks of public advocates to identify and solve problems and get behind politicians who get it.
"One elected official by himself can't solve the problems of eight million people," Mr. Rasiej argued, "but eight million people networked together can solve one city's problems. They can spot and offer solutions better and faster than any bureaucrat. ... The party that stakes out this new frontier will be the majority party in the 21st century. And the Democrats better understand something - their base right now is the most disconnected from the network."
The bottom-up, emergent model of social connectedness that we are making, here in the small, in the blogosphere, is like the genie getting out of the bottle. And once everyone is connected, then the blogosphere includes everyone; and then online social networks and realworld networks will increasingly be one and the same.
In the same way that pushing for free municipal wifi is an end run around entrenched interests -- the telcom and cable giants that want to charge us $60 per month for ever for so-so access to the Internet -- politicians like Rasiej see that creating a fully connected polity is an end run around the 20th Century political apparatus that now governs us. Rather than struggling to reform and revise the gridlocked system that we have -- lobbyists, political chicanery, ossified politicos, and a system more reminiscent of WWI trench warfare than a government responsive to the needs of the people -- let's hope that a batch of idealists seize the Internet as a way to leapfrog us into a new, and more connected form of political involvement.
It's not just a better form of communication -- fireside chats writ large -- but rather a step into emergent democracy, Politics 2.0, where the governance of our cities, states, and the country, will finally be directly in our hands, and not ceded to a caste of self-interested professionals to manage on our supposed behalf.
[pointers from Jeff Jarvis, Doc Searls, Dominic Basulto, and Glenn Reynolds]
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