As I sit down to write a reflection on all I have learned about opening government, about tapping into the expertise inherent in all communities, about creating wide-scale change through innovation, and about delivering the best to every citizen, I find myself pleasantly overwhelmed.
The amount of innovation that I have been exposed to inlcuding big data/open data, and data visualization, various projects, and so many other inspiring videos, presentations, work, as well as how this is spreading globally is exciting! (A full list of our weekly readings, videos, and other resources can be found here. )
With all of these burgeoning ideas, inspiring interviews and presentations, and alternate angles to take, it is difficult to sum up all that I have learned in a single post (at a length that would be of any interest to the general public) and so I have resolved to share a few highlights with the three essential principles of open government as my lens and framework: transparency, participation, and collaboration.
TRANSPARENCY: #accountability #citizenship
By providing transparency of data, governments are not only able to be held accountable, but they are able to cultivate the talent and expertise of their communities, build citizenship, and encourage growth and progress.
Artists are encouraging this by interpreting available data in new ways. Artists and creatives are able to engage people because they are associative, rather than illustrative. I think this is where their strength is in transparency--sometimes transparency can best be achieved by creating opacity, by which I mean illuminating data and problems in new ways and sometimes through obscuring one component to focus on another. They demand attention by creating materials that provoke reaction and provoke people to pay attention to the information available.
One example of a provocation by artists is the creation of "Automated Truth Machines" by the Rainforest Action Network. Artists devised a way to create transparency of existing information by covering up the Bank of America ATMS with a familiar looking, but new, menu that allowed customers to "select" where their money would go: coal-fired power plants, home foreclosures, bankrolling climate change, or padding executive bonuses.
PARTICIPATION: #civicengagement #publicinput
By involving and inviting input from all citizens we are able to dip into a much wider and deeper pool of knowledge. This does not mean that everyone must participate at once, but that by expanding who is involved and how they are involved we can cultivate and curate the best solutions--particularly through online platforms. As Chris Vein so eloquently stated in his visit, "the community becomes the capacity to help government work better; you can invite them in to help solve the problems."
Artists can encourage participation and input both locally and globally, by engaging audiencs in new ways. Artists have always been concerned with their audience and sharing materials in alluring ways.
One example of this is the If I could say to America project, which began in May 2012 at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France, as part of a six-week summer residency, where fellow artists at the residency and locals in the city were given an open moment of opportunity to say anything to america. The project has continued online with perspectives from many countries.
Another example, which is local in the context of its enactment, is the use of art to encourage participation during the Arab Awakening. In the midst of this change, artists were some of the main contributors who cultivated the type of participation that is essential to building participation, community and engagement. For example, artist Nsar rallied other artists and community members to turn the ruins of their Tunisian Town into images of hope and connection. "Artists help create an independent space by creating opportunities, through art, for people to engage with others about social issues" and to create a civil participatory society that is paramount to democracy.
COLLABORATION: #connection #exchange
Collaboration engenders investment, commitment, and new potent partnerships. This type of cooperation among various organizations, particularly those that are not working together currently, has the potential to create many new possibilities and develop government engagement and capacity.
One underused space for collaboration is to employ the skills and creative strategies of artists and creative entities within our communities IN CONJUCTION WITH other agencies and agents. Beth Noveck has argued that the difference between invention and innovation is collaboration.
Artists are in a unique position to collaborate and utilize their mediums and creative capacities to work with in variety of different disciplines and problem-spaces. Many examples of collaboration exist, but perhaps one of the most promising is the collaboration between the arts and government in Arlington, Virginia, winner of the "Innovations in American Government Award."
To conclude, it seems that artists have always been using the ideology of open government, the question is how can they begin to integrate technology into this practice and how can technology help bridge and invite them to help problem-solve and participate in government. So far technology has certainly served to disseminate work and create awareness, but how can it become more integrated itself?
Questions I am left considering:
- How can we utilize technology to invite further artistic participation in government?
- How are artists using technology to promote civic engagement?
- How do we transform online connection into tangible social change?
I keep returning to one of my favorite TED talks on technology and opening government, "Coding a better Government," in which Jennifer Pahlka asks "can government be run like the internet, permissionless and open?"
At the end she asks,
"Are we going to be a crowd of voices or a crowd of hands?"
I'm starting to realize that all of these resources are just the first step, but with them artists can collect these voices and perspectives in innovative ways, and in turn activate engagement and help to raise our hands to participate.