MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

Watching Big Brother (now in beta)

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Yet another example of how social media is fostering improved dialogue, greater openness and transparency, and enhanced accessibility to the political process.

I had previously highlighted the British government’s online petition site, now I’ve been pointed to Open Congress – a site that brings together official government information with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind what’s happening in Congress.

Among the features* we’ll soon be able to see on the site are:

-User  Logins: the ability for users to register a username and password with OpenCongress and create user profiles, making it possible for site visitors to contribute their time, writing, and social wisdom to OpenCongress in the ways outlined below.

– Bill Summary: spaces to summarize arcane legislation into plain language, demystifying the process so that everyone can understand how bills work and their implications.

– Collaborative Analysis: spaces and message boards to contribute collective analysis of important legislation. Together we can do more to identify conflicts of interest, wasteful spending, and potential corruption. Also, we can identify instances of praiseworthy legislation and acknowledge when a politician keeps a pledge.

– Bill Tagging: a good way to make the Congressional process more intelligible is to allow people to "tag" bills on OpenCongress, creating folksonomies and providing an easy-to-understand summary of a bill as it’s commonly described in the national press. For example, if you’re looking for a bill about the internet issue of "net neutrality," OpenCongress will make it possible to find bills that have been tagged by users as such, so that you don’t need to know a specific bill name to find the information you’re looking for. We’ll work to make this tagging work with bookmarking services, such as del.icio.us, so that tagging bills becomes an easy and popular practice for web users.

– Action Calendars: tools to keep track of when important legislation is scheduled for a vote, and to identify the most productive windows of time to contact Congresspeople with your feedback. For example, OpenCongress will make available feeds for iCalendar and other popular calendar applications so that you can be conveniently reminded to contact Congress about issues and bills you care about.

*from OpenCongress.org

Of course, the site comes complete with (or will soon have) a full complement of 2.0 applications: RSS feeds, blogs, tagging and bookmarking tools, and coverage of each representative and their voting patterns, contributions and presence in the news and blogosphere (think of this like their facebook page ;-).

I’m particularly intrigued by the Collaborative Analysis mechanism. There has been a sharp decline, in my view, in the skills of activism and dissent. Too much reactionary noise and not enough communal and thoughtful engagement. This has the potential to be a model for reviving healthy and productive dissent (rather than the disengagement that seems pervasive nowadays – I, of course, make a sweeping generalization here. I realize there are many people who are involved in the political/policy discourse who work very hard to make a difference).

Kudos to the folks behind this site for pulling together a wonderful resource for those interested in learning more about what their elected representatives are doing and for helping to cut through hot air.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

February 27, 2007 at 9:59 am

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