June 9, 2008

In case you missed it: 2008 Democratic Primary in 9 minutes

From the NYtimes Sunday in Review on the “Yes We Can” iCandidate:

For his part, Mr. Obama is quick to take himself out of the narrative, even as he promises to remake Washington. This isn’t simply modesty. It reflects the utopian, community-building vision central to the Internet. Wikipedia’s unpaid collaborators, for example, hope to “distribute a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in their own language,” says the site’s mastermind, Jimmy Wales. So too the thousands of programmers in the open-source world intend not just to develop a free operating system, but vanquish Microsoft.

In this scheme, Mr. Obama’s role, at least in the rhetoric, is less leader than facilitator, a conduit for decentralized collaboration as described by James Surowiecki in his book “The Wisdom of Crowds.” “The ethos of the Net is fundamentally respectful of and invested in the idea of collective wisdom, and in some sense is hostile to the idea that power and authority should belong to a select few,” Mr. Surowiecki wrote.

This is not to say that open projects always produce the best results. Thousands of ordinary people having their say can lead to dubious outcomes. And in politics, particularly at the presidential level, where decisions affect the lives of millions, the risks can be great.

For a candidate, there is always the danger of “making yourself vulnerable” by “giving participants control of chunks of the enterprise,” Mr. Benkler said. Mr. Obama has to walk a careful line. It’s one thing to help popularize a campaign, quite another to shape policy. And Mr. Obama’s team has been as adamant as any about staying on message.

More at NYTimes.com

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