Sunday, April 11, 2010

The interactive manifesto?

I've been meaning to post on this for ages and never getting around to it - mainly because I want to do it properly. But time is running out. So here's something towards a rough-and-ready first draft:

I believe that there are a lot of people on all sides of the political dartboard who have a general belief in the positive potential of interactivity. I've found that there is a community of opinion that cuts across traditional ideological divides that would agree with everything in this post.

If this is the case, perhaps it calls for the establishment of a short-term alliance in which we collectively use the latter part of the election campaign to advance questions that are important to us together. All of them are based around a need to promote the aim of increased interactivity - in all it's forms - in pursuit of the public interest. Better thinking, more fairness, higher standards and more inclusion all wrapped up in one neat package.

This means that we would all agree on the need for ....
  • Libel reform. Jack of Kent blogs regularly - among many others - about the way that corporate or quack-doctor interests abuse the necessity for a law protecting reputations to stifle free comment. The result benefits charlatans of both commercial and ethical varieties at the expense of medical science - and therefore, the public interest. We need a short statement agreed by a lot of people about what libel reform should set out to achieve -and a commitment to overcome the status quo ante that always prevails in the absence of a wide consensus on the best alternative
  • Copyright. Again, there is an optimal balance between the rights of the originators of content to be rewarded for their work, and the public interest benefit that arises from a high rate of exchange of intellectual property. Outdated inflexibilities in the various publishing markets mean that huge opportunities are being missed. We need a short statement agreed by a lot of people about what that optimal balance should look like in order to give the public the benefit from a high rate of exchange in the products of human inquiry.
  • Open source. Too many IT projects are the product of a successful salesperson rather than a good public / commercial decision. As Dominic says, it's time people started getting fired for buying IBM. We need a government that is more effective at demanding open standards and developing software that is supplier-independent. we need a less mechanistic and more human model of public procurement. It would save money and lead to a better outcome. We need a short statement agreed by a lot of people about what they would expect an incoming government to do about this.
  • Interactivity. In the perfect storm that has grown out of a combination of Freedom of Information legislation and a more interactive polity, the term 'transparency' has been almost fetishised. This creates some problems. It may be creating a less reflective polity that is open to attack from well-heeled pressure groups. In sort, a crude interpretation of the term 'government transparency' may not be in the public interest. If, however, all of the players in public life - politicians, civil servants, pressure groups, journalists, NGOs and QUANGOs, business interests, etc were encouraged to be more interactive - open, human, honest and conversational - this would undoubtedly lead to a more engaged and democratic polity. I was involved in the 'interactive charter' about a year ago, and this idea needs waking up and energising. But we also need a short statement agreed by a lot of people about what they would expect an incoming government to do to get all of the players out of their silos and to create an expectation of a higher quality / quantity of public conversation.
  • Democracy: There is a high quality of intelligence and judgment outside any institution - of a quality that can usually beat the quality of thinking within that institution. We need a short statement agreed by a lot of people about what they would expect an incoming government to do to ensure that intelligence and judgment is crowdsourced wherever possible. Elected representatives should be expected to understand how interactive tools can enable them to improve the quality of their thinking and deliberation. I'd really welcome the opportunity to work with a few people to agree a short statement about what could be done to further this aim.
  • Service design: For far too long, public policy, architecture and service design has been a narrow monopoly governed by experts, civil servants and suppliers. No school, hospital, housing scheme or major public service should ever again be developed without a high level of participation among the people who are expected to use the services. My mates Ty Goddard and Ian Fordham have been working to make the national conversation on school design (as one example) more inclusive with their 'Centre for School Design'. In recent years we have reached a much better understanding of how to reach and involve these people in the design of their services and I think that it's time that government placed inclusive and participative design at the centre of their modus operandi. There must be a more coherent and concise way of saying that, and it would be good if a few people could get their heads together to agree it.

So there you go. A quick burst of keystrokes. Have I missed anything? Could you put any of it better? I think that - in each case - we need a strong concise argument as to why more interactivity is in the public interest, and a strong well-written statement of what we would expect an incoming government to do to achieve these aims.

I'd love to refine it and turn it into a published manifesto. If anyone else is interested? If so, email me using this link:

I'll then share a Google Doc with you and you can make your own changes to my rough start.

Update: Just after posting this, I see Tom Watson has posted something - much more digitally defined - but very good all the same - and he's using User Voice to allow others to get involved.


dissertation discussions said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stella said...

Can't help thinking that this is not about all political hues. There are too many with too much vested and invested to 'allow' such a way forward.