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#PdF11: Agents of Change Plenary Agenda is Up!

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, May 4 2011

We are pleased to announce the preliminary schedule for all the plenary sessions for this year's Personal Democracy Forum. You can see the schedule at a glance here (Day One June 6, Day Two June 7); here's a more detailed overview of what we'll be focusing on:

The theme of this year's event is "Agents of Change." We're aiming to move the focus away from technology itself to what people do with these new tools; how key actors like organizers, political leaders, volunteers, and followers interact; and how these players are learning from and adapting to the new environment they are themselves helping create and shape.

On Monday June 6, we'll start by hearing from three leading voices who are changing the way we think about the intertwined issues of user rights and platform responsibilities:

  • Susan Morgan, the director of the Global Network Initiative, will lead off with a talk about why it's vital that more tech companies and policy makers step up and commit to protect freedom of expression and privacy in interactive communications;
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan, the author of the new book The Googlization of Everything, will talk about the challenges this presents for movements of dissent;
  • danah boyd of Microsoft Research, who will explore how Facebook is changing our culture, particularly around issues of privacy and individual autonomy.

After a coffee break, we'll hear from three leading political figures who are all changing the way politics works from the inside: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), MEP Marietje Schaake from the Netherlands, and Rohan Silva, Senior Policy Adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron (tentative).

Then we'll dive deep into the hottest topic of the past year: how people using new connection technologies are changing the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. We'll have a fast-paced set of short talks from Dr. Rasha Abdulla of Cairo University, noted commentator Mona Eltahawy, startup founder Habib Haddad, former Berkman researcher and new director of international freedom of expression for the Electronic Frontier FoundationJillian York, Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters (tentative) and NPR social media guru and Twitter crowd-sorcerer Andy Carvin. They'll look at how people in the Arab world have built an alternative, less-controlled and more democratic culture online, and how being hyperconnected has changed the course of history.

Following their talks, we'll hear in-depth from two key participants in the movement-building that ultimately toppled dictators in Tunisia and Egypt: Sami Ben Gharbia and Alaa abd el Fattah. Both of these men have years of experience in nurturing the networks of bloggers, human rights activists and opposition organizers that are now at the center of events in the region. (See the Nawaat group blog and Global Voices Advocacy for more information on Sami's work; read this post by Alaa--or follow him on Twitter at @alaa for a taste of his informed insight.) Topping the morning off will be Zeynep Tufekci of the University of Maryland, whose blog Technosociology has emerged as a fresh new voice in understanding how networking is enabling activists to change politics.

Monday afternoon, following lunch and two rounds of breakout sessions, we'll have six great keynotes from a wonderful mix of speakers:

  • Dan Sinker, journalism professor, will explain how he took his expertise in entrepreneurial journalism and the mobile web to a whole new level with his invention of the fake Rahm Emanuel Twitter profile @mayoremanuel;
  • Eben Moglen, founder of the new Freedom Box Foundation, will share his vision of how mesh networking can enable a real people-centered internet;
  • Michael Wesch, one of the world's experts on the anthropology of the internet, will pick up where he left off with his highly popular 2009 appearance at PdF and talk about whether the culture of online sharing is changing the conventions of politics;
  • Lisa Gansky, author of the paradigm-shifting book Mesh: The Future of Business is Sharing, will talk about what companies like Zipcar can teach government;
  • Lawrence Lessig, longtime internet freedom advocate, will give his latest talk on what it will take to create a vibrant democracy;
  • and our own Andrew Rasiej will sum up the day with a call to arms on what we need to do to save a public internet.

And then we'll all hit the town for a rousing cocktail party and a chance to relax with new and old friends.

On Tuesday, the second day of the conference, the focus will shift to a look at all the ways that open practices are disrupting and transforming government, politics, and civil society. As with Monday, we'll start off with three keynote talks:

After a coffee break, we'll hear from a sweeping range of speakers, each doing a short talk focused on a different aspect of openness. They will include:

Following lunch and more breakout sessions, we'll close out with five more great keynotes from a wonderful mix of speakers, who will then join together for a final roundtable conversation with the audience. These will be:

  • Steven Johnson, author of numerous books including Emergence and Where Good Ideas Come From, on the possibility of a new we-government paradigm;
  • Mitchell Baker, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, on how we should think about building the infrastructure of civil society online
  • Anne Marie Slaughter, former policy planning director for the State Department, on the new role of the state in the age of networks;
  • Mark Pesce, digital futurist, on how both open and closed systems are changing each other;
  • Cory Doctorow, author and blogger for BoingBoing, on just how disruptive is the internet, really?

If it isn't clear from this list, it should be: PdF 2011 is shaping up to be our best gathering ever. The tribes are gathering; don't miss it.

*Note, exact schedule is subject to change.

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