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First POST: Addressable Transcendence

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, July 22 2014

Addressable Transcendence

  • In the New Yorker, Nathan Heller has a long and subtle dissection of San Francisco's culture war between tech money and local tenant activists that you will want to sit with and carefully digest. Here's one key graf:

    Des a society that regards efficiency and advancement as its civic goal have any true investment in the mechanisms of representative public life? The West Coast radicalism of the twentieth century arose from the revelation that, in moments of extreme frustration or injustice, power could be claimed and wrongs could be corrected by exiting the system. What started with the dropout hippies and the direct-action campaigns of the sixties reverberates both in the protests of tech’s critics and in the work-arounds, hacks, and philanthropic deliverances of tech itself. The privatized mechanisms of San Francisco politics, with its warring stories of personal good will and subjective transcendence, are the fruits of that heroic nonconformism carried forward. The two groups may not share objectives, yet they’re joined by an escape from public political process that has intensified into local doctrine. The truly radical move in the Bay Area would be a return to the messy business of public debate.

  • Andrew Rice has a long must-read about the state of political marketing tech in the new issue of National Journal, featuring industry trailblazers including Jim Gilliam of NationBuilder, Michael Palmer of i360, the RNC's Chuck DeFeo, Zac Moffatt of Targeted Victory, Civic Analytics' Dan Wagner, DSPolitical's Jim Walsh, Campaign Grid's Rich Masterson, and Andrew Bleeker of Bully Pulpit Interactive. But if you want the one best quote that sums up what Rice founds, here it is: "There is no doubt that technology has brought addressable messaging to new levels of sophistication," says Andrew Essex, vice chairman of Droga5, a digital agency that specializes in brand advertising. "But if you're still serving them something that is the equivalent of a tedious bumper sticker, it is going to be discarded and ignored." 

  • Speaking of voter targeting, Audience Partners, a "nonpartisan" digital firm, has obtained a patent for ad targeting based on voter records and demographic and behavioral data, Kate Kaye reports for Ad Age. A Democratic operative commented to her, ""Why don't we go out and patent phone-banking, door-knocking and direct-mail based on the voter file?"

  • Conservative and libertarian techies gathered by the hundreds in San Francisco this past week to bond, listen to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) give a keynote, and share their frustrations over the right's tech challenges, Seema Mehta reports for the Los Angeles Times.

  • Esquire's Charles Pierce says that Netroots Nation has lost its edge and urgency and that "it seems more like a jobs fair for the professional left than anything else."

  • Apparently some small government conservatives like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are also really taken with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's Citizenville book. It, Gingrich told Huffington Post reporter Jon Ward, “is exceptionally important in terms of rethinking governance, from the citizen back to the bureaucracy rather than the other way.”

  • Newsom, reports Ward, loves hanging out with tech mogul Sean Parker. "“You spend time with Sean, and just sit back, and have a coffee at weird hours, and let him go -- three or four days later, something clicks in, something else clicks in, something else you see that you never saw,” Newsom told Ward. “He’s a truly fascinating guy.”

  • The city of Washington DC rolled out a new online FOIA portal and Mayor Vincent Gray announced a "Transparency, Open Government and Open Data Directive," the high points of which are nicely summarized by veteran open government reporter Alex Howard on his blog. Howard helpfully adds the main text of the directive, since, as he notes, "Unfortunately, and not a little bit ironically, the directive was published online as a scanned-in PDF that is neither searchable nor accessible to the blind, itself embodying the way not to release text online in the 21st century."

  • Responding to Mayor Gray's initiative, longtime open data hacktivist Joshua Tauberer criticizes the directive for adopting "the mistakes made by the White House." Specifically, he says that DC's promise of open government data is "undercut by a new notion of conditional access to government data that is becoming the norm."

  • Corporate campaigns targeting companies for problematic food practices keep winning online, writes Helena Bottemiller Evich for Politico, and one of the leading activists she profiles, Vani Hari, has parlayed her early success on Change.org into building her own petition site, FoodBabe.com.

  • Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media has established a new fund to pay for the legal defense of journalists "and others engaged in contests where freedom of the press is at stake," and its first grant will pay for the legal appeal of David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's partner, in his case against the British Government.

  • Privacy expert Julia Angwin reports for ProPublica on a new kind of online tracking technique that is being used to follow visitors to thousands of websites and is very hard to block.

  • NPR Morning Edition's Aarti Shahani covers the efforts of the Kapor Center for Social Impact to enable more young people of color to become coders.

  • New York City's Comptroller Scott Stringer says that Comcast should "provide a detailed, practical plan to both address the ongoing digital divide in New York City and ensure its long-term commitment to net neutrality" and if it doesn't, New York's Public Service Commission should reject its proposed merger with Time-Warner.