tv The Communicators CSPAN February 28, 2011 8:00am-8:30am EST
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channel 132 or go online at c-span.org. it's also available as an iphone app, and you can download the program every evening as a c-span podcast. >> ahead on c-span2, leaders in the -- >> host: annual state of the net conference sponsored by the congressional internet caucus. we'll be talking with several of the participants in this conference, and we begin with clay shirky, author, professor and thinker about technology and its uses. he's written four books on the internet and technology including his latest "cognitive surplus, creativity and generosity in a connected age." mr. shirky, is the internet browser an antiquated technology? >> guest: you know, it's antiquated in the sense that it is nearing 20 years old now, and when life cycles change that quickly, change as quickly as they do now, anything that's 20 years old is somewhat
antiquated. but it it has also consistently proven its worth. in fact, it's starting to disappear not because it's going away, but because it's soaking into everything else. this a way, the browser is becoming the background of whole operating systems. google has gone chrome, all of which, essentially, bring all of these interactions into the browser. as we know from youtube, it's for listening to music and so forth, so the browser is stopping -- in fact, my kids just the other day, i asked my 9-year-old if he had the browser window open, and he said, what's the browser? because to him it's what you use the computer for, it is the absolute edges of the screen. and so i think the browser's becoming infrastructure rather than an application that people think about. >> host: well, with the new apps that are out there, is the browser going away? >> guest: well, the browser -- again, the browser's going away in the sense that it's being
more highly tied to the operating system and less intrusive into the user experience. one of the things that's happening is the idea of the app store which is really just a one-click install of software, has actually escaped the iphone and ipad, and now people are bringing it back to the personal computer. mcintosh -- apple most famously, obviously, on the mac, but there are a number of people in the windows world working on making software easier to install. the browser demonstrated how easy it was to use software when you didn't have to install lots of things. and now the rest of the software ecosystem is coming to exhibit the same characteristics as the browser demonstrated. so the browser stops being the center of our experience, but i think it remains part of the infrastructure that we're all going to be using, you know, for the future. >> host: what's been the effect, clay shirky, of wireless
mobility on how we use technology? >> guest: wireless mobility's quite interesting because wireless has exactly the same descriptive error in it as the idea of calling cards, horseless carriages, right? it is not, in fact, the lack of wires that's the most important thing any more than it was the lack of horses that made cars special. what makes wireless special is that we stopped having to think about access and think about space at the same time. it used to be if i wanted to use the internet, i had to go to a special room, sit in a special chair, sit in front of a special machine, and what having an android or smartphone does is it says you don't need to think about where you are to think about what you want to do. and one of the things that erases is this old notion of online versus off line, that online was a place where we went
when we were escaping the real world. somebody asked me the other day how many hours a day do you spend online? that's not a question i'd been asked for a long time and i sort of struggled for an answer before i realized that question doesn't make sense anymore because we don't really have the experience of going online when we pull out a phone to look up something on a map or get somebody's number off on online directory, we're certainly using the internet just as surely if we were using it at home, but the fact that it's on the phone and we can dip in and out lightly all the time means that wireless has really made the experience of using the network much more embedded in our daily practice. it's much less an alternative to real life now and much more an august men tax of. >> host: what about when it comes to regulatory policy, the use of androids and smartphones, etc. >> guest: well, so the huge question, i think, for regulation, and it's interesting, i think just today
a presidential directive came out around e-regulation. the bug in regulation versus, you know, democratic theory is it's always been very difficult to get people to participate in regulatory activities even when it's regulations that would effect the average citizen. and there's a potential to take the democratic ideal of regulation which is regulation should be shaped by the people who have a stake in their outcome and to link it up with this ability for wireless devices to make our experience at the network be a kind of lightweight, potentially all-the-time experience. so one of the things i think that's an interesting question for e-regulation is, will people's ability to be contacted and to participate wherever they are because of these devices, will it increase the ability to get people's opinions taken in when regulatory questions are
raised? and so that's a huge question, and it's not just a theoretical question, it's a design question. can we design interfaces for the mobile phone that will actually say send me an alert when there are regulations that are relevant to me and let me comment or let me read them in these environments. regulations have been, you know, heavily paper-bound processes, you know, obviously, for most of the existence of the government, and being able to compress that information and hand it to someone who cares and to take feedback back isn't just a question of saying, okay, now we've opened up the process. it really becomes a whole new design effort around what are the characteristics of a connected citizen, what are the characteristics of an involved citizen, particularly one who's using mobile, and how can we reach that person where they are? >> host: in a recent article in foreign affairs, you wrote about the political power of social media. >> guest: yeah. >> host: one of the things you noted is that billions around the globe are now connected --
>> guest: right. >> host: -- somehow via social media. what effect does that have on u.s. foreign policy or on democratic movements? political movements? >> guest: well, the effect on political movements, in fact, the foreign affairs article is, it's partly just a description of what's happening in the social media landscape, and it's partly, and it's partly a, it's partly an attempt to argue to the people thinking about these effects that we've often overestimated the effect of access to information and underestimated the effect of access to each other as a function of digital networks. so one of the things i say in the paper is access to information is less important than access to conversation. the big, the big effect of these tools, you can see this playing out in tunisia right now, the big effect of these tools is not to give people information they didn't already have, it's to help people who are, who want to engage with the government in
some way when in constructive or many the case of tunisia in insurgent ways, it helps them to communicate with one another and to coordinate their activities. so the effect on democracy is going to be a strengthening of the public sphere, and in places that rely on a strong public sphere, the world's democracies, this will, i think, be a net positive. for autocratic governments it's a much more two-edged sword because a strong public sphere often makes it easier, it improves the economy, it improves civic life. on the other hand, it tends to threaten the autocratic rulers. so the great, i think, open question and it's a debate among, you know, many people look at these issues is in autocracies are the net, are the positive effects of strengthening the public sphere going to outweigh the potential of the autocrats to use, to use the internet to control their own citizens or not? is this a net gain for -- is this a net gain for democracy or
autocracy? i'm on the net gain for democracy side because i think that tools that strengthen the public sphere tend to strengthen democracy over the long haul. but it's not because it drives rapid insurgency or gives people access to information. it's because it strengthens the ability of citizens to know their own minds as a group and to take action together. on the other hand, you know, the autocratic states of the world want to prevent that from happening, and they're willing to invest considerable money and effort in be keeping it from happening, right? as much as those looking on the events in tunisia are hoping they now get a democratic government, that the reward for this insurgency will be self-governance of the tunisian people, the world's autocratic leaders are studying those events as hard trying to figure out how to keep anything like that from ever happening. >> host: so should the state department have a policy on promoting social media -- >> guest: well, god. i mean, you know, we did have a policy for the last year.
secretary clinton about this time last year made a speech unveiling internet freedom as a, as a formal policy within the state department, something we want today promote and something we would be willing to -- [inaudible] with other countries of the world for curtailing. however, that has turned out to be tremendously problematic in the light of wikileaks because suddenly the exposure of internal state department complications -- conversations, again to the tunisian example, it became obvious to everyone that the united states knew that the benally regime was completely corrupt, but also that they were pro-western, so they were tolllated -- tolerated. and that, actually, enormously complicates the secretary's job because whatever detente the united states now i sets up with the new government of tunisia, it's going to be with this full description of our previous
tolerance to tunisian misbehavior in hand. so it's not clear to me that the u.s. should do anything specific to promote social media as a foreign policy objective. in part because of these complexities and in part because the world's autocratic governments are now increasingly worried about social media. in fact, u.s. proo motion of social media in some quarters makes it easier for the autocratic governments to crack down on it. so evgeni war saw has said it may well be the best policy of the state department is not to say anything in public about internet freedom but to simply work to see, the u.s. government does all the work to see that people are able to use the internet to communicate as they will without making it a formal policy guideline. >> host: as we're taping this interview, clay shirky, hu gin tiew, president of china,
happens to be in washington. >> guest: yes. >> host: should the facebooks and the googles and the binges of the world be held accountable for policies that they as corporations, private corporations develop in china? >> guest: that is a really complicated question, and i think, ultimately, i have to take the democratic punt which is that is a question for congress. that is a question that is so large and touches so many things that i think there is no, there is no legitimate regulatory answer to that question. i think that only the most legitimized body -- which is to say the representatives we all send to congress -- can actually hash out the questions of do we want americans to be able to compete on a level playing field which means going into autocratic countries and abiding by their rules, do we want to adopt the west fail yang mode of saying, you know, every company has to abide by local rules because that's what we expect here? do we want to say that we, the
u.s. as one of the world's anchor democracies, regards democracy promotion as a set of regulations we would be willing to put on, put on our own firms? there is, also, the way in which u.s. zs may -- citizens may well have a stake in this. people were enormously upset when it turned out nokia equipment was being used in iran to uncover dissidents during the so-called green wave, and they were enormously upset with yahoo! helping to, helping the chinese government find dissidents that they were certaining for. -- searching for. so i don't think there is an easy policy answer, in fact, i don't think there's a policy answer at all, but i do think it's an important question, and i hope that congress offers some clarity because in a way the worst thing that could happen is everybody muddles along thinking they know what the rules are without some kind of clarity, some kind of clarity being
produced legislatively. >> host: looking six months, five years, ten years, etc., down the road, what are you most excited about when it comes to technology? >> guest: you know, the thing i'm most excited about five years from now is the same thing i'm always excited about, i'm excited to know what happens to society when it gets boring. these tools don't get socially interesting until they become technologically boring, right? it's not the moment when a shiny new tool shows up in the hands of a 15-year-old that it changes the world. it's when, it's when your mom takes it for granted that she can make a video and upload it to youtube, right? it's when a group that wants to form doesn't even think about using the internet as a tool for finding members -- finding members, raising money, publishing materials. because that's the moment of real social change. so i think a lot of the stuff that we've now already farc -- factored in like this business about wireless mobility still has yet to show up in american
society as, as, you know, in its full social ramification. and those changes when they happen, they're always slower, they're always subtler because they sort of bubble up, but at the end of the day it's really the social changes catalyzed by the technology that turn out to be the really big deal. >> host: if you could redesign the fcc -- [laughter] where would you start? >> guest: i would start with spectrum policy. spectrum policy, which seems to be about spectrum, about how we manage spectrum -- i'm sorry. >> host: you can just keep talking. >> guest: all right. spectrum policy is actually about the state of radio engineering circa the early 1930s. and the way we managed spectrum was to say one and only one antenna can broadcast on any given spectrum in any given locale because we have no way to know how to manage interference. there's one little slice of spectrum where that didn't
matter which was 2400 gigahertz because it is the radio -- it is the frequency which water vibrates, the microwave frequency. they said, oh, fine, garage door openers, microwave ovens, do what you want there. and this one little section is where wi-fi showed up which is, plainly, the most incredible change in networking technology in the last ten years, and if i could redesign the fcc, i would make it clear that when the engineering changes, the regulatory apparatus changes as well because we could get so much incredibly much more value out of the spectrum the fcc manages on our behalf if we approached it with 21st century engineering. >> host: how did an art major from yale get interested in these topics? >> guest: well, you know, by accident. i think like a lot of people who got interested in the internet in the early '90s. i was actually doing some research in a library for a theater company i was running.
and my mother who's a reference librarian said, oh, we've been learning about this thing in library school, you should know about it, it's called the internet. i said, okay, mom, i'll check it out. and so i was given by my mother this idea that the internet was a giant library. so i thought of it as a source of information. and when i got there and i saw the social aspect of it, it was the most interesting thing i'd ever seen. and so there was this kind of giant left turn, and i was extremely fortunate in two ways. one, i was using a service that was populated by cranky but brilliant you nix system administrators who were waiting to take time out to teach an untutored new by by me, this is how this thing works. and, two, i was at a time when there weren't a lot of poem who had -- people who had formal degrees in any of this, so i was accepted as one of the tribe who was trying to understand the technology. and between those two benefits,
excellent teachers and a forgiving culture, i just sort of over five years hammered out a new life for myself. >> host: what is cognitive surplus? >> guest: it's two things. it's the combined free time and talents of the world's population, well over a trillion hours a year, and it's a medium that allows us to pool that, to pool that time and surplus, that time and attention into large collaborative projects. wikipedia's the greatest example. wikipedia is built out of cognitive surplus, the ability of literally millions of people worldwide to contribute time. a lot of people contributed a little bit of time, a few people contributed a hot of time, and this -- a lot of time, and the result of that participation has been this, you know, it's the most-used reference work in the world. ten years ago -- ten years old this saturday. and in those ten years well over 100 million hours of human
thought have been voluntarily contributed to create this new resource. so the idea of cognitive surplus, the heart of the book is not only has this happened in these examples we can point to, but this is a social resource we can design around in general. >> host: what concerns you the most looking six months, five years, ten years down the road at technology? >> >> guest: you know, what concerns me the most is what's always concerned me the most which is that the -- all of the good aspects of the internet are built on top of not just wires and antennas and computers. they're built on standards and regulatory agreements and behavior. they're built on the ability of individuals and companies and goths to say -- governments to say i would rather abide by these rules than opt out because this network is good. and if there is a concerted push, again, by the world's autocratic leaders or by telecom companies who would rather have
commercial capture of some basic layer of the networking stack, all of that could be significantly damaged. and so i think, you know, constant vigilance, as always, is the thing that keeps, that keeps free systems free. essentially, the vigilance we need now is to keep the internet from either fracturing or being dismantled by the forces who would rather a network that's this open not exist because it interferes either with their business goals or their commercial goals. >> host: clay shirky, what do you teach at new york university? >> guest: i teach theory and practice of social media. i've been for the last ten years in the interactive telecommunications program, and be i have just taken a joint appointment with the journalism department because one of the places where the effects of digital media are most enormous visible right now is in journalism, and i want to be part of figuring out how in the
middle of these enormous changes in both practice and business model we continue to get the amount and quality of journalism that a functioning democracy needs. >> host: what are -- what choices have you made in technology? what do you use? >> guest: oh, i use an android phone, i've got the, just got the 11-inch macbook air. i've got a lennox desktop, and i'm playing with the ipad although now that i've got the phone, the ipad doesn't fill in enough of a gap. i like it, but i'm not transformed by it in part because so much of what i do with these devices is to write, not just to read. and the little laptop is better for writing than the little ipad. >> host: author, professor and technology thinker clay shirky has been our get on "the communicators." shirky.com is his web site. >> guest: great. thank you so much. >> ahead on c-span2, leaders in
the independent movement discuss their influence in the american political system. in about an hour, live coverage of a hearing on the commission of wartime contract anything iraq and afghanistan as members hear from representatives of the military and federal agencies on how u.s. tax dollars are being spent toward reconstruction efforts. and later at 2 eastern, the senate reconvenes with a reading of george washington's farewell address in observance of his birthday followed by a period of general speeches. at 3:30, members consider a bill that would change the nation's patent system followed later by votes on judicial nominations. p. >> two house committees are holding a joint hearing today on the future of presidential libraries. witnesses include the archivists of the u.s., presidential historians and the directers of the ronald reagan and john f. kennedy libraries. members will review the future of financial support. the hearing gets under way at
10:30 eastern this morning on our companion network, c-span3. as the nation's governors meet here in washington, use the c-span video library to learn more about the state's chief executives. watch their speeches and appearances, see inaugurals of new governors and hear state of the state addresses all free online. search, watch, clip and share anytime. [applause] >> up next, a discussion on the state of the ip dependent movement -- independent movement. state activists and national leaders -- [inaudible] american political landscape. this conference was sponsored by the committee for a unified independent party. it's a little over an hour. >> another dispatch from the movement. from the great state of colorado, former la plata county commissioner joe well riddle and the former speaker pro tem of the colorado house of representatives, kathleen curry.
♪ >> i'm so excited to be here today. my name is joelle riddle, and i'm from southwest colorado. i was the democratic party chair in my county, and in 2006 i ran and beat a republican incumbent for the county commission seat. i was also named the rising star of the democratic party for the state of colorado. [applause] [laughter] i took office with enthusiasm, optimism and the desire to work hard for the 50,000 people of my county, but that bliss didn't last long. soon i was told i wasn't acting like a good democrat. i put a republican candidate's sign in my yard which was a definite no-no. [laughter] when i had the audacity to
challenge the county budget, meetings came to a screeching halt. my decisions were just too independent, so at that point i decided it was time to actually become an independent. [applause] after numerous warnings that doing so would be the end of my political career, i did it anyway. on august 21st of 2009, i remember the day and time exactly, i walked out of my office and down the hall carrying my new voter registration to the county clerk. but it turns out i couldn't run for re-election as an independent because you have to wait 18 months to run for office if you leave a political party. i took this inequity to the federal court and was joined in the lawsuit by state representative kathleen curry. [applause]
but, very sadly, we lost. it was crushing news. we were both incumbents who wanted to continue to represent the people. we just wanted to be independents. almost instantly, though, i knew that instead of running for office a way to make a bigger difference was to build the independent movement. so i formed independent voters for colorado, and one of our first goals is to bring a top-tier open initiative primary to our state. [applause] and once again i can tell you with great enthusiasm and optimism that this is one of the most important things we can do to improve the lives of the people in colorado. i'm so anxious to take what i am learning here at this conference
back with me and put it to use, so thank you so much for your inspiration and for being here supporting. [applause] >> well, my name is kathleen curry, and i'm a former state representative from rural western colorado. i served in our legislature for three terms, from 2005 to 2010, and be i ended up being second in command, speaker pro tem. i also chaired the agricultural committee. i've been a lifelong democrat, hadn't really questioned it. but i became unable to stomach the direction that the party was going. the democratic leadership thought that it was okay to tell representatives like me how to vote. i did not run for office to have the party tell me how to vote. my loyalty is to the people in my district and my state.
the speaker accused me of being off message, and in colorado we say off the reservation as well. [laughter] so in 2009 i decided to leave the party and become an independent, and, frankly, joelle was my inspiration. [applause] okay, so after we lost the lawsuit last summer i i ended up running as a write-in candidate for my house seat, and in colorado we have term limits, so i could only serve for one more term, and i was bound and determined to do that. i lost my election by less than 300 votes out of 30,000 ballots that were cast. as a write-in. [applause] and in that process had to sue the state for, it ended up being the third time, again, to get my
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