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PDF 2012 Theme: The Internet's New Political Power

BY Chris Wong | Tuesday, April 17 2012

For years now, it's been clear that the explosion of interactive and participatory networking enabled by the Internet and related technologies is enabling a powerful expansion of grassroots civic engagement. Recent events suggest, however, that perhaps a new power is emerging centered on the Internet itself. Already this year we've witnessed one of the most massively disruptive protests in history take place not just on the Internet but, in some sense, by the Internet. In the aftermath of that protest, the Internet has continued to exhibit significant influence over the political realm, and it's difficult to ignore the myriad ways these online demonstrations, and the consequences that flow from them, have spilled over into the physical world.

One critical point in this conversation is that the Internet itself is nonpartisan, and we're beginning to see all sides of the aisle reach out to the Internet constituency with an increasing sense of urgency. We're no longer talking about whether the Internet will change politics. Rather, the ubiquity of tools, tactics, and strategies that are aimed at harnessing political power on the Web seem to acknowledge that the Internet has something more to offer.

To be sure, we're still weaving the story about the public Internet; issues like universal access to affordable high-speed connectivity, freedom of speech, censorship, privacy and control remain highly unsettled.

But there's a new story materializing, and it's not just about the public Internet anymore. It's about what happens when enough people come to see the open and free Internet as part of their identity, and they act with it to defend it. It's about the Internet public — and what happens when that public starts getting political. Thus, we're pleased to announce that the theme for Personal Democracy Forum 2012 will be "The Internet's New Political Power."

We're, of course, still hard at work lining up speakers and fleshing out compelling panels and sub-themes, but it's not too late to let us know if you have an idea for a topic or speaker that you'd like us to consider. If you have a proposal, please email it to me at chris@personaldemocracy.com.

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