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The Live Web and Washington

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 12 2009

I've been multitasking this morning, catching up on email and glancing at Twitter, and three times I've noticed the power of the live, interactive web as a new factor in my life.

First, I noticed that a conference at Columbia University that I'm planning to attend tomorrow, on "The Future of Watchdog Journalism," was streaming its session live onto the web via BlogTalkRadio. I had thought I was going to attend this morning too but woke up still fighting a cold that I've had since the weekend. Discovering that I could listen in live, or play back a session that I missed, made it possible for me to stay home and get other things done while catching James Risen, for example, talk about how national security journalism is in real peril. Very useful.

Second, Nancy noticed that incoming US CIO Vivek Kundra was speaking live at the FOSE conference in DC and that we could catch the gist of his remarks by following the Twitter feed from the conference. The breaking news that the FBI was searching Kundra's old DC office in connection with a bribery case soon grabbed our attention, also via Twitter.

And then third, and most gripping, was a tweet from Andy Carvin (NPR's new media macher), relaying the fact that the International Space Station was going into a high alert: "Intl Space Station crew holing up in case of debris collision in the next 10-15 mins." He then passed along a tweet from @tavigreiner who wrote, "NASA to ISS crew just now: 'We wish you the best' - sure underscores the reality of the threat."

I soon discovered from following their tweets that the good folks at NASA.gov provide a live audio feed of communications between the space station crew and the ground crew that supports them. And then next thing you know I was listening in as they went through the steps of, in effect, battening down the hatches, hunkering down in the Soyuz capsule attached to the station, and then, once the emergency was over, going through the steps of restoring normalcy to the station.

Wow. Every day, the world live web is becoming more of a compelling reality. Which raises a question for everyone working in the political arena: if a private conference and private citizens can provide live news feeds, including live audio, to the web...and the astronauts in the International Space Station can have a live audio feed to the web...why can't our elected representatives and top government officials also provide a live feed to their public activities?

Hello Washington, are you listening? We are.

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