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FCW Insider: Is Obama ready for an e-democracy crush?

The Kojo Nnamdi show, which airs on WAMU, one of Washington, D.C.'s public radio stations, dedicated an hour yesterday talking about "The Obama Era and the Digital White House." You can listen to the show here.

The guests were Lee Rainie, founding director, Pew Internet and American Life Project, Darrell West, vice president and director, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution, and Andrew Rasiej, founder, Personal Democracy Forum; Co-Founder, techPresident.com.

Early on, they discussed the role of social networking in the Obama administration. Potentially, Web 2.0 tools could protect Obama from the "bubble effect," they said. By keeping a direct line to public opinion -- through discussion forums, blog comments, etc. -- the new president could keep a good feel for the issues that most concern them, rather than relying on the media, opinion polls and other filters.

The transition team already has been testing the waters with Change.gov and the concept appears promising. The team has already received thousands of comments on various topics. But here is one thing to consider: What happens if the administration begins to receive tens of thousands? Or hundreds of thousands? Is it possible to have a meaningful exchange on that scale, or does it all become white noise?

The Web site uses a user-driven rating system to push the best comments to the top of the page. But it is not clear how well that will work as the volume grows larger and larger.

Given the success at Change.gov so far, I suspect this question will arise very soon after Obama takes office.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the latest addition to Change.gov: The Citizen's Briefing Book. Here is how the Web site describes it:

"Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in."

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Jan 14, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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