My focus tends to be the “citizen” in citizen media.

Over the last few years I’ve increasing found myself at conferences like Public Media and the Online News Association. I always feel a bit out of place, because despite the adoption of online interactivity in online news and media, I am still pretty much viewed as a “consumer.” Someone to be captured and delivered to advertisers or to become a donor to public broadcasting. Interactivity is often viewed in the context of news be it reacting with reader comments or creating “news.” True conversation, the heart of being a citizen where we set the agenda, is a poor cousin.

Well media world, I have some friends for you!

Meet the world of e-politics (the online campaigning and advocacy crowd) where most participants are viewed as “voters” or “money sources” to be organized and influenced in the act of gaining power and influence. When I put the first candidates ever on the web in 1994 (I told the Democrats and Republicans that each campaign was likely to give me their content and, hmmm, they both said yes to my non-partisan Minnesota E-Democracy effort), I had a lot of optimism that the Internet would play mostly a positive role in politics. Now that “politics as usual” has pretty much mastered the tools, I am not so sure. It is time to get ready for mud fest 2008 online.

Oops, I meant to inspire folks in the media world to connect with the e-politics world. The grinding sparks of these two worlds coming together might actually do some good.

On March 4-5, the Politics Online conference in Washington, DC is the place to be. If you attend, drop by the Local eGov session and say hello. While the conference is increasingly more than just e-campaigning, you’ll learn terms “e-mail segmentation” and conversion rates.

And speaking of doing good, those in the “goody goody” camp (e-democracy/e-participation) who seek to change politics (and media) for the better are convening the first e-democracy BarCamp also in Washington, DC on March 1-2. So come on along to this “unconference” and see where citizen media and online news can connect to become something “of” the Internet and not just “on” the Internet.

Steven Clift
E-Democracy.Org