Today and tomorrow, Sam and I will be participating in the Internet & Politics 2008 conference at Harvard which is focused on examining how digital technologies reshape the practice of campaigning and the movement of political information. It's a rather exceptional group of participants (both on the dais and off), including campaign strategists from the Obama and McCain campaigns, political activists and organizers, political analysts, members of the media, and academics.
The conference, which is sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society (which hosts the CMLP) and the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, is structured around a "working hypothesis" that attendees will be asked to debate. Here is a snippet of some of the questions:
Have digital information and communications tools enhanced “classical” elements of political strategy, such as leadership formation, community-building, and coordinated action? Similarly, how are digital technologies influencing offline actions, for example, the ways campaigns contact and interact with potential constituents? Some observers argue that technologies have enabled the transformation of relationships and created different forms of political participation. Others maintain that social networks, user-generated content, and voter databases are merely the newest ways of achieving old goals. Is technology a tool to facilitate the deployment of longstanding campaign strategies—or is it fundamentally changing the nature of civic engagement?
Heady stuff. Needless to say, I'll be mostly listening and taking notes.
Because the conference is structured to encourage candid dialogue, only a few of the events will be webcast or otherwise available for public viewing. If you are interested, you can find more information on the conference website or on the Publius Project, where op-ed style pieces will go up during and after the conference.