Before the Greek Gods ascended to Mount Olympus, the Titans ruled the heavens. Among them was Prometheus, who gave humanity the power of fire. And with fire, humans became masters of their own destiny... to some degree. When it comes to the world of digital democracy, where the "gods" include Facebook, Twitter, Capwiz, Salsa, Care2 and Change.org, the Titans that preceded them included Daniel Bennett (@CitizenContact) and Steve Clift (@Democracy). These "Titans of Digital Democracy" were responsible for creating the foundations that citizens and government use to engage with each other online. And with these foundations, we have become the masters of our own political destiny... to some degree.
The video below is an interview I recorded this past weekend using Periscope, Twitter's new live streaming video app. The two Titans I interview, Daniel Bennett and Steven Clift really are the pioneers upon which much of the digital and social democracy we take for granted today was built.
In 1993, Daniel Bennett was a Congressional staffer in the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA18). As the Representative of much of Silicon Valley, Eshoo was the perfect Member of Congress to push the institution into the digital age. Daniel Bennett recognized this context clearly and decided to work with Constituent Management System vendors to develop the capacity to integrate email into the office's communications system. Once it was up and running, the new system was made available to all Members of Congress. As a result digital communication between citizens and their elected federal lawmakers became a reality.
Today, Congress receives hundreds of millions of emails and has the technical infrastructure to process them. In addition to improving political efficacy and empowering the advocacy community to more effectively influence the legislative process, Daniel's breakthrough formed the basis of the modern social relationship between the people and their Members of Congress. Today, Daniel continues to work with the U.S. government to enhance its use of digital technology.
Steven Clift, based in Minneapolis, launched the world's first election portal website in 1994. From this initial effort to provide citizens with easy access to election news, e-democracy.org launched an election forum, where citizens could talk with each other about politics. Over the years, these forums evolved into local issue forums on three continents, where cities/towns and neighborhoods gather online to discuss key issues facing their communities. These social networks have become places where elected officials often interact with their constituents and where citizens work out issues facing their communities among themselves. Recently, Steven launched 1 Radio News, a highly-rated global radio news app for Android and is joining UK-based Knowledge Hub to boost their global expansion efforts.
I took the opportunity to talk with Daniel and Steven about their past work and get their thoughts on how social media is changing the way citizens and government interact. The full conversation is presented here (in the raw):