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What is "New Urban Mechanics" and Why Does Philadelphia Want Some?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 3 2012

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced on Monday that Philadelphia will get a new arm of city government called the Office of New Urban Mechanics, he was signing on to a sizable experiment in how government is supposed to work.

Nutter's administration is emulating a program Boston City Hall put in place two years ago to find innovative — you might also say "untested" — ideas and see if they can make government work better. The Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics is just a handful of people led by Nigel Jacob, a former programmer, and Chris Osgood, a city official who came to Boston after a stint at New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. Their job is to help those new solutions to old problems navigate the often tricky hallways of city bureaucracy.

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What the Early 20th Century and the SOPA/PIPA Fight Have In Common

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, September 26 2012

As it happens, there's a connection between the SOPA/PIPA fight and sexuality and politics in 1920s Austria. That's the argument Beth Noveck made Monday at New York Law School, during an evening book event Personal Democracy Media hosted to discuss Steven Johnson's new book, "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in the Networked Age." Noveck spoke alongside Tina Rosenberg, co-writer of the Fixes online column for the New York Times, Internet thinker Clay Shirky, and our editorial director, Micah Sifry. Read More

Coming Up: "The Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'" Monday 9/24 7pm in NYC

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 19 2012

We're looking forward to this Monday night's conversation on "The Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'" with author Steven Johnson that we're hosting along with NY Law School's Institute of Information Law & Policy. We'll ... Read More

PDM Special Book Event, Sept. 24: Steven Johnson on the Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 11 2012

Credit: Steven Johnson

Is there a new political philosophy emerging from things like open source software development; massive community sharing hubs like Wikipedia, Kickstarter, and Reddit; peer-to-peer social networking; experiments in "Liquid Democracy," and the rapid spread of resource sharing tools like ZipCar, AirBnb and Car2go? Is it time to start talking about replacing the "welfare state" with the "partner state"?

On Monday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the New York Law School, I'm looking forward to exploring all those questions and more with noted author Steven Johnson, whose new book "Future, Perfect" is must-reading for people who believe in the power of open, collaborative peer-to-peer networking to achieve real social progress.

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In China, Local Governments Play Whac-a-Mole With Taxi Apps

It seems these days that car-hailing apps exist only to give cities grief. In New York, car sharing start-ups like Lyft ignore labor, safety insurance laws and in China, the situation is no different except in one regard: taxi hailing apps in China are proliferating at a faster rate than in the U.S. In China, however, the taxi system is very much in its infancy and local Chinese governments are struggling to control the proliferation of new apps that flout the law. GO

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The Uncertain Future of India's Plan to Biometrically Identify Everyone

Since its launch in 2010, people in India have raised a number of questions and concerns about the Aadhaar card —formally known as Unique Identification (UID)— citing its effects on privacy rights, potential security flaws, and failures in functionality. GO

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