Reactions to the Digital Democracy presentation

Joi and I gave our workshop at the Digital Democracy Teach-In at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego yesterday. Daniel Steinberg, writing for O’Reilly, has a good overview of the day – Doc Searls links to a dozen different accounts of the event.

David Weinberger has the best account of our session, a rough transcription of what Joi and I both said. Jeff Jarvis has a similarly stream-of-thought post. And Joi’s posted a list of URLs we used during the presentation.

As it turned out, we were the last speakers on a long day. Almost all our fellow presenters focused on the influence of new ‘net-based systems on American politics. In many ways, the day was a day-long meditation on the Dean campaign. Danish friend Tomas Krag got increasingly annoyed at the US-centricity of the discussions. Tomas certainly has a point – Joi and I tried hard to steer the discussion overseas, especially towards Africa… but there’s a strong feeling within this conference that the interesting stuff in emergent democracy and social software is happening in the United States.

One great counterexample to this is the Iranian blogosphere. Pedram Moallemian from Eyeranian.net is here – he’s been talking about the explosion of Farsi-language blogs (more than 100,000 at last estimate) and the decisions Iranian bloggers made to start blogging in English so that a larger audience to participate in the conversations.

All this has gotten me thinking – is there a good way to take advantage of the collective resources of the Internet to do translation of key blog posts? How about a plug-in that allows you to push a blog post through Babelfish or Google translation services? Or a service that lets you offer to translate an entry for someone, opening the post in a wiki, allowing you to translate and others to tune your translation?

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