• What if goverment wasn’t dumb about the internet?

    by  • February 21, 2012 • Everything Else • 4 Comments

    The new-new thing at EdgeRyders is that map. We’re building a map of what’s going on, where the sites and stories are which show the new peeking through the cracks in the old, where the action is.

    You can sign up to edit the map. That’s actually pretty bold – we’re crowdsourcing a map of the New Europe and, indeed, the New World, and it’s a government-funded project.

    Remarkable, isn’t it?

    I’ve been rattling on a lot about EdgeRyders, trying to get people to participate, for a while. It’s hard to actually convey why it’s important, why it’s got to work, but I think I’ve figured out how to make the case in a new way.

    EdgeRyders is an example of Government acting the way we’d like them to act. It should be encouraged.

    The team are… well, I’m one of them. Alberto’s in the Italian Chumbawamba. Nadia brings an arc welding rig to lunch. Hubsters, anarchists, Candian-French, East European, of the system, in the system, anti-system all working side-by-side because…

    And this is the part I haven’t been able to articulate until now…

    Because the government of Europe is doing some of the things we always wanted government to do.

    Imagine if the UK government had an official project to showcase and highlight the best and most interesting “new mainstream” (as Dougald Hine would call it.) Compare EdgeRyders to the NESTA list of Britain’s New Radicals, a hackneyed collection of genuinely interesting people chosen in the most boring possible way: “selected by a panel of expert judges”. The NESTA 50 is the self-replicating nature of the British establishment made manifest, old-establishment figures picking new-establishment figures, passing the torch of blessed authority and screening out anything that was too radical, didn’t look good, or would have made it too hard to get the blessing of their political leadership. Here’s the EdgeRyders coverage of Romanian anti-ACTA protests – on a Council of Europe funded web site, by god. Radicals?

    This EdgeRyders thing is genuinely good work done by a government body. This is what I mean about “government acting the way we want it to act.”

    But it’s a small project, it’s a tentative first step, but it’s important. A clear win will result in more of this kind of genuinely communicative, collaborative engagement. A middling result may result in same-old-same-old for the next five years, until another breakthrough occurs.

    So I’m asking for a bit of civic engagement here. We’re all so used to crap government efforts online, with vague, half-hearted attempts to connect and understand what’s happening in the real world, with projects run by people who don’t give a damn.

    This EdgeRyders business is different. It’s sort of like an Official Superstruct, an in-house Urgent Evoke – it’s a State-level actor waking up and saying “Internet? That’s where the cool people are?”

    To make the point that we’re here and we’re willing to play, to make it clearly and unambiguously, to show support for the concept of open government collaboration at the European level, we need about ten times the amount of engagement we have now by the end of the project. If we had about 10,000 users, about the same size as Superstruct or Urgent Evoke, there would be another, and another, and another, and we might have found a way of getting our collective voice into play at the Council of Europe and beyond, in a fully internet-native way.

    Ask not what the Internet can do for Europe, but what Europe can do for the Internet

    To get there, what we need is democratic engagement outside of the voting booth – this is a chance to engage with government on our own ground, to tell our stories, to make examples known, to highlight resources – to shape the discourse, to make our voices heard.

    It needs us to show up.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    4 Responses to What if goverment wasn’t dumb about the internet?

    1. February 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Is Chumbawamba the Italian word for “Parliament”?

    2. February 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      There are certainly some similarities. They get knocked down, but they get up again, for example.

    3. February 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      There’s one overarching error I keep seeing in your discussion of EdgeRyders – you keep referring to the Council of Europe (CoE) as “the government of Europe”. The CoE has absolutely no relation to the European Union*. The EU is the European government. The EU has 500 million citizens. The CoE has 800 million citizens. The CoE is an international formal collaboration with no legislative power and no executive power, just managerial/curational role plus their magic weapon, the European Court of Human Rights, which has judicial authority over all countries that are party to the European Human Rights Convention, which is a requirement for membership, if I recall correctly.

      Making this distinction is incredibly important, because once you realize that the CoE only has an advisory role, and that it’s pretty much just a more successful and more toothed version of the UN except suffering for myopia versus anything outside of Eurasia, then the question of “Why is CoE doing radical stuff” suddenly becomes more reasonable: They don’t have any real power (beyond ECHR) and they are trying really hard not to get swallowed by the EU w├╝rstmaskine.

      (* The EU and the CoE share the same flag and have some buildings in common, most notably the Palais de l’Europe in Strassbourg, which used to host both the European Parliament and the CoE Parliament, although that is no longer the case.)

    4. Gaia
      February 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Smari: Edgeriders is funded by the EU AND the CoE.

      [from the website:]

      …of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, led by the Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division at the Council of Europe.

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