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#PdF11: Agents of Change Breakout Sessions Announced

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, May 16 2011

The view from NYU's Kimmel Center, where #PdF11's breakout sessions will occur, only with more leaves on the trees. Photo by Micah L. Sifry

We're pleased to announce the details of this year's breakout sessions at Personal Democracy Forum (you can still register for the June 6-7 conference at NYU, here). They're organized around five primary tracks: Global Digital Activism, Online Politics and Organizing, Media Revolutions, Evolving We-Government, and Deep Dive conversations.

In the Global Digital Activism track, we're going to have a mix of traditional panels and something new, sessions with some of our expert keynote speakers who will be expanding on themes they are covering in their shorter plenary talks. And in keeping with our expanded focus on the role of "agents of change" in the Middle East and North Africa, these sessions will allow conference participants to really dig in on the developments and activism in key places there.

  • The Revolution in Tunisia, with Houeida Anouar and Riadh Guerfali (aka "Astrubal") (the former an open government/open data activist; the latter one of the three co-founders of the group blog and the person behind its many innovative tech mashups);
  • The Revolution in Egypt, with Alaa abd el Fattah (longtime blogger and political activist), Rasha Abdulla (internet activism expert), Mona Eltahawy (journalist and commentator) with Nancy Scola (moderator);
  • Technology Development for Human Rights Work, with Brett Solomon (founder of Access Now), Nathan Frietas (of the Guardian Project), Jillian York (of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Susannah Vila (of;
  • Getting Beyond Anecdata: The Global Digital Activism Data Project, with Mary Joyce, the project's founder, and Zeynep Tufekci.

With the Media Revolutions track, we'll be exploring a variety of ways that media--which means the means that we use to connect to each other--are changing, and changing us. These sessions will be:

  • Newsing the Live Web, a look at how journalists are adapting to the real-time stream of information, with Andy Carvin (social media guru for NPR), Peter McEvoy (of ABC Australia's QandA live news show), Brian Stelter (of the New York Times), Dan Sinker (of @mayoremanuel fame) and Jennifer 8 Lee (consultant to the Knight Foundation, and moderator);
  • The Politics of Mobile, At Home and Abroad, with Josh Levy (of Free Press, who will cover the ins-and-outs of mobile platforms), Katherine Maher (of the National Democratic Institute, who will cover how mobile is being used in politics abroad), and Katie Harbath (until recently with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who will cover new developments in using mobile in political campaigns);
  • Civility and Social Media: An Oxymoron?, a sponsored session organized by Harvard's Institute of Politics (speakers to be announced);
  • The Aftermath(s) of WikiLeaks with Gabriella Coleman (NYU professor and expert on Anonymous), Heather Brooke (UK freedom of information activist and author of a forthcoming book covering WikiLeaks), Jeff Jarvis (blogger, CUNY Journalism professor and author of the forthcoming book, Public Parts), and Micah Sifry (of PdF and author of WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency).

Our Online Politics and Organizing track should be of especial interest to everyone who wants to know how to take advantage of the latest tools and practices in online political engagement, and who is interested in exploring how the landscape is being changes, particularly as we head into the 2012 election cycle. The sessions will include:

  • The Online Politics of 2012 with Ilyse Hogue (formerly of, now with Media Matters), Stephanie Taylor (of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee), Jenny Beth Martin (of the Tea Party Patriots), Teri Christoph (of Smart Girl Politics), Kristin Luidhart (of the Prosper Group), and Saul Anuzis (of the RNC, moderator);
  • Moving Beyond Clicktivism: From Online Enthusiasm to Off-line Action, with Ori Brafman (co-author of The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations), Marianne Manilov (co-founder of the Engage Network), Jenny Beth Martin (of the Tea Party Patriots) and Michael Silberman (of EchoDitto, moderator);
  • Using Open Collaboration Platforms, with Jim Gilliam (the maker of the NationBuilder platform) and Martin Avila (the maker of the Freedom Connects platform);
  • Personalization and Campaigns: How Far to Take It? with Cheryl Contee (of Fission Strategy), Eli Pariser (author of The Filter Bubble), and Eric Frenchman (online advertising director for McCain '08, invited);

Our fourth major breakout track will focus on Evolving We-Government, an in-depth look at how open data, transparency and participation are starting to change everything from the federal government in Washington and Congress to how people get information about elections and get involved in reporting facts on the ground. The sessions will include:

  • Changing the Government From the Inside with Richard Boly (director of eDiplomacy for the State Department), Tracy Russo (director of new media for the Justice Department), Sheila Campbell (acting director of the Center for Excellence in Digital Government for the US General Services Administration), Rachel Sterne (chief digital officer for New York City) and Deanna Zandt (author of Share This!, and moderator);
  • Changing Congress from Within, with Matt Lira (new media director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor), Dan Beckmann (former Obama '08 and principal at IB5k), Marci Harris (co-founder of PopVox) and Andrew Foxwell (of iConstituent);
  • Participatory Science, with Jeff Warren and Liz Barry (of the Public Laboratory);
  • The Power of Open Voting Data, with Mindy Finn and Anthea Watson of the Voting Information Project.

Finally, for our fifth track, we're trying something new, a series of Deep Dive one-on-one conversations with several of our major keynoters. Our idea here is to give conference participants a chance to really dig in with some of the leading thinkers on how technology is changing politics, government and society. These will include:

  • Michael Wesch and danah boyd in conversation, covering such topics as how networking is changing youth culture, digital literacy and education, and whether interactive social media is fostering a more participatory politics;
  • Doc Searls and Dan Gillmor in conversation, covering longstanding themes that they have both worked on, like the rise of more authentic media and the prospects for user-centric democracy;
  • Cory Doctorow, longstanding free culture activist and co-founder of the blog;
  • Mitchel Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation, on how Mozilla is working to foster a more vital online civic infrastructure.

We'll be updating this post with a few more details as they fall into place, so bookmark this link and come back. Or just keep an eye on the #pdf11 hashtag, where we'll be keeping you updated.