Clay Shirky on What a School Lunch Blog Teaches Us About Open Government

A school in Scotland attempts to shut down a little girl's popular blog about the hideous aesthetic and nutritional values of the lunches served by her school. She puts up a goodbye post saying that she has been forbidden to take photos in the lunchroom anymore. The Internet flips out, the school backs down, and her privileges are restored. Internet big-thinker Clay Shirky asks:

This brings up the question: What made them think they could get away with something like that? And the answer is: All of human history prior to now.

So when it government going to get the Internet and vice versa?:

I would love to tell you that the fact that the open-source programmers have worked out a collaborative method that is large scale, distributed, cheap, and in sync with the ideals of democracy, I would love to tell you that because those tools are in place, the innovation is inevitable. But it's not. Part of the problem, of course, is just a lack of information. Somebody put a question up on Quora saying, "Why is it that lawmakers don't use distributed version control?"...

A new form of arguing has been invented in our lifetimes, in the last decade, in fact. It's large, it's distributed, it's low-cost, and it's compatible with the ideals of democracy. The question for us now is, are we going to let the programmers keep it to themselves? Or are we going to try and take it and press it into service for society at large?

As I have said before Clay Shirky Is Kind of Annoying. He Is Also Right.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This brings up the question: What made them think they could get away with something like that? And the answer is: All of human history prior to now.

    The internet is the ultimate game changer.

  • ||

    I love the idea of version control with lawmaking. I mean, that's honestly blowing my mind right now.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    As I have said before Clay Shirky Is Kind of Annoying. He Is Also Right.

    It's better to be right than liked. We have enough popular liars, idiots, and malefactors lording over us as it is.

  • ||

    Being able to easily discover who added or subtracted items from a government budget could be very rad. Having a government that actually passes a budget could also be very rad.

  • R C Dean||

    Having the author of every markup to a bill would be a blast of sunlight into the dank corners of our kleptocracy.

    Whether anyone would care, of course, is a different question.

    Can you imagine, though, if you could pull up a fully annotated mark of ObamaCare, and see just who's greasy fingerprints were on every syllable?

  • ||

    I think that additional information would make corporatism a harder sell. Regular jackoffs who don't have lobbyists would start to seek out that info and push back.

    I'm also generally optimistic about the future most times.

  • JeffR||

    Shirky kinda sorta equates "lots of people involved" with "in sync with the ideals of democracy" but they're not really the same. Distributed version control in particular is one but not necessarily the other.

  • ||

    I can see certain potential problems. Excessively elborate and detailed legislation that unfiarly favors politically popular groups, for example.

    Instead of making the laws more complex, what we really need is simple general laws that can be interpreted to cover new circumstances.

  • ||

    Would Reason fund the development of a collaborative budget wiki?

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    Slightly OT: I've "known" Clay from the days of alt.folklore.urban and used to read him occasionally in Scientific American

    Good to see that he is still around. Clay, if you happen to read this and remember me, drop me a line. Email is on the website.

    ... Hobbit

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