Geek Corps for Congress

This morning Jerimiah Owyang tallied social networking stats for the candidates showing a huge advantage to Obama. Now Gene Koo writes that Congress, not Obama, needs a Geek Corps.

What a wonderful idea. I’d love to help “rework the interface between legislators and their constituencies: to rebuild trust and honest, genuine relationships between lawmakers and We the People.”

Certainly, social media could play a role in this. For it to do so meaningfully, lessons beyond those learned in the Obama campaign are needed. The campaign succeeded more in using social media to help spread messages than it did in giving voices to the people.

What’s needed to change congress has more to do with changing the listening habits of legislators.

Where Lessig hopes to first reduce the volume of voices belonging to monied interests, that still leaves empowering voices and increasing the volume for those with the best ideas and the interests of the people at heart. How to do that without simply creating a useless cacophony, and how to get legislators into the habit of doing the work of seeking out meaningful input remain as issues.

Some have contended that social media doesn’t scale for business because it is so personal. I suppose the theory must be that it’s too expensive to hire enough folks to engage in all those conversations.  Of course it doesn’t scale like that.  Instead the idea should be to transform an organization so that every member participates in conversations as part of their work.

If each legislator and their staffs are truly engaged in conversation with their constituents and those conversations are public and leveraged through technology so that they are shared, that’s an awful lot of conversations going on and being aggregated into deliberation on the floor. That sounds like scale for democracy.

2 thoughts on “Geek Corps for Congress

  1. Thanks for these thoughts, Dale. I think the really tricky part of this, or of corporate use of social networking, is that campaigns have their own internal calendars and endings which give them a certain impetus and direction. The challenge for social networks built around other things is to create the feeling of drama and belonging. I think it will take more than just having conversations: it also requires purposeful, focused conversations built — maybe artificially — around mini-campaigns (specific legislative issues, or product launches, or whatever).

  2. Thanks for these thoughts, Dale. I think the really tricky part of this, or of corporate use of social networking, is that campaigns have their own internal calendars and endings which give them a certain impetus and direction. The challenge for social networks built around other things is to create the feeling of drama and belonging. I think it will take more than just having conversations: it also requires purposeful, focused conversations built — maybe artificially — around mini-campaigns (specific legislative issues, or product launches, or whatever).

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