Thursday, November 04, 2004

Harvard Last Night

At the Berkman Center last night, on the Harvard Law School campus, I had a fun time at David Weinberger's session on Democracy and the Net where some great folks like Dan Bricklin, Wendy Koslow, David Isenberg, Rebecca MacKinnon and others popped up.

Wait a minute, "a fun time" ... okay, maybe that wasn't quite the right term. Of course, I have a fun time most everywhere, but honestly the mood last night when my friend, Nathalie Panier and I walked in, was SOMBER after the election slaughter, to say the least.

Nathalie is a Frenchwoman from Grenoble, who's been transferred here with her start-up company. Our sons are in the same grade at school and my kid, knowing I spoke French, hooked both our families up. Nathalie and her son Geoffrey have become good friends and needed as many French-speaking friends around here as they could get.

Nathalie had never been to Harvard, so not only did we have a fun time at the law school at Harvard Berkman, but then we went on a tour of the campus and made the scene at the Harvard Coop, the bar at Grafton Street, wandered into the shops that were still open and just had fun knocking around.

Back to David's discussion. We had a lot of to say about the "what next?!?" problem. I think there's a feeling among us (mostly all Kerry supporters) that we're "all dressed up and no place to go" after learning how to use the web to foster democracy and create a way to connect with others (Blogs, MeetUp, MoveOn, etc.) The election loss -- which was quite close, so everyone stop freaking out -- hit us hard, in a way similar to how you felt the wind knocked out of you after the Dean campaign ended, which energized so many people to participate as citizens -- many for the first time ever.

Call me Pollyanna, but I compared it to being a person who was out of shape, decided to run the Boston Marathon, had never run any long distance and then didn't manage the 26 miles but ran a very impressive 10 miles.

That's how I feel about my experience. I started to be involved in politics and learn about being a net citizen and get right in at a grassroots level like I had NEVER done before.

Okay, I didn't run the whole marathon. We didn't win. But I can run 10 miles now! And I couldn't do that before.

So I said a few things about this last night

1. Let's not let the energy of these new democratic muscles were flexing just dissipate; let's keep at it;

2. Blogging the truth about your life and being there to inspire or give permission to other people to be do that, or simply giving them the encouragement to be BRAVE and try things is what the blogging infrastructure we're building is all about;

3. We need to study what happened with all that momentum towards citizen democracy in the Dean campaign, understand why it wasn't channeled into electing Kerry and not let that ever happen again.

David Isenberg had many good things to say about how this makes you feel as a blogger, rather raw and vulnerable, maybe even paranoid about continuing to be so outspoken under this Bush administration. I agreed.

Dan Bricklin brought up a bunch of things about how each technology (even blogging) takes a while to move from rare to generally accepted by the public. He said he was quite surprised how often he heard the political pundits mention the word "bloggers" in the last few days and how that was really rather shocking considering how new it is.

Rebecca MacKinnon told us cool stuff about some of the blogging efforts she knows of which are involved with human rights activism worldwide. I hadn't met her, and it was good to finally get to do that.

David Weinberger always says brilliant things and I figure he'll write about them today.

Afterwards, Nathalie and I discussed the thing in French and of course, how the French and other Europeans felt about Bush. As we walked through Harvard Yard, I showed her the statue of John Harvard in his rather chilly chair. In the Coop we looked at the massive amounts of books and talked about the people who had studied at Harvard, taught at Harvard, or were just part of the Cambridge community. She was pretty impressed, but so was I as I thought about the many bold and brave minds that had traipsed through those same streets. It was an encouragement in its own right, to remember all the people who had been at Harvard before us, been brave enough to think new things, speak about them, make the world change through ideas.