The Sunlight-Berkman Conference on Political Information was a success


Yesterday the Sunlight Foundation and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society hosted the Sunlight-Berkman Conference on Political Information. Our new intern Andrew MacRae attended the Conference in Boston and wrote up this review of the day:

On January 15th, 2007, the Sunlight Foundation in cooperation with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society held an all day workgroup entitled “Local Political Information in an Internet Era”. The session brought together bloggers and organizations, in an attempt to share data, goals and thoughts. For addition coverage see what other participants had to say, Ethan Zuckerman, Jake Shapiro, John Palfrey, Dan Gillmor, David Weinberger and more.

If you measure success in terms of question answered or problems solved, this weekend’s conference held at the Berkman center was nothing short of astounding. The impact of bloggers and citizen journalists has not only increased in the last election cycle but with all of the new tools and data sets that are increasingly available it is impossible to imagine their influence waning any time soon. While there will always be room for improvement, the progress in making public information/data transparent has been enormous in such a short period of time. Web 2.0 empowered citizens are increasingly able to stand up and answer the question, “Who are my elected officials?”, “How are they getting elected?” and “How are they governing?”

Another measure of success is in terms of new questions generated. As we went around the room at the end of the day, it was obvious that many questions involving the sharing of data within this community are being answered. Equally difficult however, are the questions: “How do we continue to fund these endeavors?” “How do we bring this information to a more demographically and ideologically diverse audience?” and “How do we provoke these citizens to not only inquire about it, but also to act upon in?

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood.” The Sunlight-Berkman conference entitled, “Local Political Information in an Internet Era", couldn’t have been on a more appropriate day.

A special thanks to the Berkman Institute for all of their collaborative efforts in making this conference a success.