Q. What do you think of President Obama’s digital efforts?
Gavin Newsom: He raised the bar. What president did in his first day in office with open government. That executive order reads as so idealistic. It is just like Mark Zuckerberg’s IPO letter, in terms of what can be. Obama did incredible things in the first few years with openness, data sets, and transparency. Unfortunately we didn’t see follow through. The momentum waned. That is some of the frustration with the drone issue of secrecy and memos that were not made public and the lack congressional oversight. It is not an indictment, but I’m hoping we can resuscitate and revitalize it.
Q. Is it possible to bring that back?
Gavin Newsom: The revitalization is starting with cities. A lot of mayors took up the baton because of the external pressure. Organizations and groups educated us. People like Tim O’Reilly [the open source advocate] are saying we have to pick it up at the local level and people like [Code for America’s] Jennifer Pahlka are placing talent in departments all across the country.
Q. A government app isn’t going to exactly be cool. Will people actual use it?
Gavin Newsom: We are virtually farming and spending billions of dollars on virtual goods. A few years ago, no one would say that you could make people do that. In Manor, Texas they’ve created a virtual point system with Innobucks and are recognizing how to translate them into offline real life benefits. If we can make it fun and use civic currency and develop civic software, we can take the lessons from these brilliant geniuses who are advancing gaming, and apply it to democracy.
Hutchins: Internet dating, for instance, is such the norm now that we’re going to have to come up with a retronym for other types of dating. I don’t know what you would call it. “Bodily dating,” or “face-to-face.” I’m not deeply worried, but I do think there is a kind of distractible thing happening with technology that I’m not sure what to do about. There’s also a kind of fantasy life that happens on the Internet with search and this endless… you can get a kind of overly consumerist attitude toward even your love life. You can start looking through the thousands of possible matches on your dating site, which is pretty similar to looking through something at Costco or going to Amazon. There’s kind of a similar mechanism to all those that maybe we should be concerned about, I don’t know.
The Rumpus: Including those percentage matches on OKCupid.
Hutchins: Yeah, you’re like, “Do I want somebody I’m 60% matched to? I don’t know.” I had a good friend who was dating on OKCupid last year, and her way of interacting with guys she was looking at was she couldn’t stand any grammatical errors. If somebody had a grammatical error, and Lord forbid they e-mailed her with an e-mail with a grammatical error, she would e-mail the nastiest e-mails back to them. It was really funny. It’s an extension of us, so I think that’s the thing. You can’t worry too much about the technology, because it’s always just an extension of us.