Women and Wikipedia

For my final project for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power in the Digital Age at the Kennedy School, I intend to research and write on why there are so few women editors on Wikipedia. The first global Wikipedia survey in 2010 found that only 13 percent of the site’s editors were female. Since then, many theories have emerged to explain women’s low participation (e.g. their dislike of “editing wars,” their lack of time, their dislike of the sexism and misogyny sometimes present on Wikipedia, etc.). Most theories center on elements of Wikipedia’s culture that make the site an unwelcoming or unpleasant space for women.

The theme I’ve identified across theories, and the reason I would argue for why fewer women participate as Wikipedia editors, is that it is not only the elements of Wikipedia’s culture that women find unappealing, but specifically the lack of control women have to change these as users of the site. For instance, an editor who contributes to Wikipedia has no control over what happens to her contribution, and may be frustrated to find that rather than have a dissenting opinion shared in a comments section (as might be the case on a site such as Yelp), it has simply replaced her work. Similarly, a Wikipedia editor cannot easily control or restrict interactions with others on the site, and thus has fewer methods of recourse if she experiences harassment from trolls (whereas on Facebook she might adjust her privacy settings). This inability to control some of the negative spillover effects of Wikipedia’s open-source model creates a scenario in which “open” doesn’t include everyone.

I’ll also explore how recent efforts by the Wikimedia Foundation to increase women’s participation have played out, and argue that the Foundation’s stalled progress on this front is due to their focus on training and engaging with women primarily offline, rather than providing them with greater control online. The latter would require fundamental changes to Wikipedia’s open-source model, however, that are unlikely to be welcomed by the Wikipedia community.


Politics: WikiLeaks & The Arab Spring

This post assesses WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring, as part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power at the Kennedy School. It draws on several pieces, including: Jaron Lanier’s “The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks” (2010), Raffi Khatchadourian’s “No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency” (2010), Rebecca MacKinnon’s Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (2012), Basem Fathy’s “A ‘Cute’ Facebook Revolution?” (2011), David Kirkpatrick and David Sanger’s “A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History” (2011), Evgeny Morozov’s afterword to The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (2011), Zeynep Tufekci’s “The #freemona Perfect Storm: Dissent and the Networked Public Sphere” (2011), and Ethan Zuckerman’s talk on “Cute Cats and the Arab Spring: When Social Media Meet Social Change” (2011).

In his 2010 piece, Lanier cautions against “nerd supremacy” as epitomized by WikiLeaks. Lanier is particularly disturbed by WikiLeaks’ disregard for potential collateral damage to real people (e.g. individuals whose names were leaked in diplomatic cables). Privacy, argues Lanier, is a key tenet of personhood and of democracy that is threatened by this type of nerd supremacy. Khatchadourian’s 2010 profile of Assange (pre-Cablegate) raises similarly troubling questions surrounding the production of Project B (aka “Collateral Murder”), specifically the degree to which Assange puts his spin on events. WikiLeaks limits the information it makes publicly available, deriving its power, in part, from strategic, limited releases, with Assange’s own brand of interpretation.

The power of narratives (and the question of who controls them) is a theme that carries over to the use of social media in the Arab Spring. As Fathy notes, the Egyptian Revolution was cast in different lights domestically and internationally, but is best understood as a movement stemming from the previous decade of activism in Egypt (both online and offline) which allowed for a networked, non-hierarchical movement to take place in 2011. Tufekci’s blog post on #freemona and the importance of social media in freeing the detained journalist further demonstrates the power of networks. Kirkpatrick and Sanger‘s coverage of Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 also highlights the critical role of digital networks in those revolutions, which drew on developments that had been underway for years (e.g. Academy for Change).

Underlying social media’s ability to effectively leverage dispersed networks, however, is a darker trend: that of governments monitoring, censoring, and/or controlling the online space. The concept is aptly captured not only in MacKinnon’s discussion of the “networked authoritarianism” of China and Iran, but also in the surveillance and censorship by democracies around the world. In his afterword to The Net Delusion, Morozov similarly notes the challenges to privacy online today, and the need for greater accountability among Silicon Valley companies, including acknowledgment of the manner in which Western technology has aided authoritarian regimes abroad. In contrast to Morozov’s pessimism, Zuckerman contends with his “cute cat” theory that it is the widespread penetration of online media such as Facebook and Youtube that makes them good tools for activists. Even if these sites don’t adequately protect their users, if they are taken down or tampered with, there will be a large enough group of non-activist users who notice and complain, which in turn ensures activists’ ability to use the tools.

What was most interesting for me in reflecting on these readings were the points laid out in Tufekci’s post on #freemona, specifically her last point: that it remains easier to use social media for “No” campaigns than for discussing complex issues. This distinction gets to the heart of many of the divergent points of view we’ve covered in Media, Politics, and Power regarding the efficacy of social media for change (e.g. Gladwell’s skepticism and Shirky’s rebuttal). To me it also explains why the promise-tool-bargain framework breaks down when issues become more complex and time lines more fuzzy (as I wrote about in my last post, specifically with respect to OFA, gun violence, and climate change). “No” is the simpler way to reach agreement — “yes” is too messy. On this point, Tufekci argues that Wikipedia demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses that come with “yes” (i.e. that it generally produces useful and balanced articles, but does so in a “high-conflict, mostly-male environment with powerful ‘wikignomes'”).

What I think is not captured in Tufekci’s Wikipedia argument, however, is the impact of time, which I think can greatly warp chances for a successful digital campaign. We have seen how digital organizing around a particular day or event can serve as a powerful framing device for achieving change (from election days to 350.org‘s Global Day), as well as how momentum can build to create social change in a rapid period of time drawing on digital tools (e.g. Arab Spring). However, we have not seen long-term online organizing efforts with fuzzier horizons achieve the scale or impact of these other movements in a sustained way. This matters in particular for issues such as climate change when the answer is (often) “yes,” but the solutions are varied, and the time line is long and unclear.

Politics: Persuasion and Digital Organizing

This post assesses Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, digital organizing, and persuasion, as part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power at the Kennedy School. It draws on the following readings: Jon-David Schlough et al.’s “Persuasion Points Online: Helping Harry Reid, One Click at a Time” (2011), Kevin Wallsten’s “‘Yes We Can’: How Online Viewership, Blog Discussion, Campaign Statements, and Mainstream Media Coverage Produced a Viral Video Phenomenon” (2010), Zack Exley’s “The New Organizers, What’s really behind Obama’s ground game” (2008), Seth Colter Walls’s “Neighbor To Neighbor: How Obama Targets Undecideds Block By Block” (2008), Sasha Issenberg’s “How President Obama’s campaign used big data to rally individual voters” (2012), as well as two Harvard Business School case studies on Organizing for America and Obama versus Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Big data has allowed political campaigns to “nano-target” voters, predicting behavior down to the individual, rather than just among particular demographics. Bolstered by significant resources, Schlough et al. used big data to their advantage in Harry Reid’s 2010 re-election campaign, and were ultimately successful. They argue that a digital strategy can be persuasive, particularly when layered with other more traditional media methods such as TV ads. Issenberg’s piece on the Obama campaign’s use of data analytics to predict voting behavior in 2008 and (especially) 2012 paints a similar picture, in which campaigns leverage data to target the long tail of voters and win.

Beyond the use of data analytics to forecast voting patterns, tech played a critical role in the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns’ efforts to mobilize volunteers in the field, register people to vote, and, on election day, get those people to the polls. My.BarackObama.com (“MyBO”), modeled after social networking sites, was critical to organizing and motivating supporters, from providing them with a point system to reward activity to allowing them to form groups (Reed’s Law in action). As Exley describes, volunteers went through a rigorous recruitment and training process, but were rewarded with real roles and responsibilities. The field campaign’s motto of “Respect. Empower. Include.” was critical to cementing relationships and a culture of professionalism on the campaign. Having the MyBO online community further reinforced supporters’ sense of purpose and shared belief in Obama. Combining the strong organizing mechanism of Obama for America with the data analytics noted above creates the phenomenon Walls describes, in which volunteers in battleground states walked throughout “their own neighborhoods the weekend before election day [and] could then feed back their data [to headquarters] on the last remaining undecideds in close to real time.”

Reflecting on both the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns’ effective use of technology to mobilize supporters, I wonder how such a strategy could effectively translate into other dimensions of the political sphere (e.g. passing a particular bill). Obama’s decision to transform Obama for America into “Organizing for America” or “OFA” (now known as “Organizing for Action“) was clearly a step in this direction. But OFA’s impact and reach are limited. It has largely failed to turn the energy of the two campaigns into support for Obama’s agenda as President.

While I originally saw OFA’s under-whelming performance as a reflection of people’s limited energy and attention for political causes (and post-campaign burnout), I now also think it is closely linked to Obama’s ability as a President to clearly and faithfully deliver to the grassroots in measurable ways–a constraint due in large part to the nature of our political system. With Shirky’s “promise, tool, bargain” framework in mind, I can imagine supporters getting behind Obama’s promise of action on a particular issue (for instance, gun violence), but then being disappointed and perhaps confused when he’s unable to deliver, that is, when the bargain breaks down and the promise suddenly feels hollow. Obama as President has to be careful in making his goals into promises, as they depend on so many other actors, particularly Congress. OFA’s web site currently features gun violence as an issue that Americans care about and are fighting for, yet it’s a promise on which Obama has not been able to deliver. The site lets visitors sign on to a petition to Congress to reduce gun violence, but is not linked to current legislation, a timeline, or a tangible outcome, weakening the bargain.

If re-mobilizing the support from Obama’s campaigns to put toward his legislative agenda has somewhat flopped, then I wonder whether it can be realistically sustained for issues that persist beyond an election cycle or beyond a country’s borders, such as global warming. While there have been major transnational efforts to urge governments to take action on climate change (including digital organizing, e.g. 350), we have only a partial (and largely insufficient) international regime to address the challenges posed by a warming planet. Digital organizing around climate change has had some major successes in terms of visibility and awareness, but it’s been unable to get us closer to a solution commensurate with the problem. The timeline for international action is also longer than that of a U.S. political campaign, potentially leading to burnout. 350’s successful organizing around one day demonstrates the power of a concrete timeline in spurring people to action (similar to an election day). However, until the promise to effectively address climate change, and the accompanying tool and bargain for doing so, are made between (and among) citizens and governments, progress on climate change will continue to stall.

Press: Business Models & The Triangle

This post assesses Peter Daou’s “The Triangle: Limits of Blog Power” (2005), Clay Shirky’s “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” (2009), and Dean Starkman’s “Confidence Game: The Limited Vision of the News Gurus” (2011), as part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power at the Kennedy School.

In his 2005 piece, Daou deconstructs “the triangle,” the term he coins for the intersection of the netroots, the media, and the political establishment. Bloggers’ influence stems from their ability to tap into the triangle to make an issue relevant within mainstream media and politics. Building on Daou, I would argue that the triangle serves as the power structure that allows bloggers to gain the necessary momentum to pull a critical issue from the long tail of the blog world to the head of the media and political establishments.

In “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,” Shirky argues that similar to Gutenberg’s printing press, the Internet has ushered in a period of revolution in the news industry. As the old ways of delivering information whither, we don’t yet know which of the new ones we can trust. Giving newspapers a “digital facelift” will not succeed. Instead, we need to pursue the “unthinkable,” and experiment with a variety of new models in an effort to figure out what really works. These experiments will need time to incubate before we can see their real impact. In the meantime, we’ll need to become comfortable with the chaos.

Starkman is more cautious about the impact of networked journalism and peer production. He questions the “future-of-news” (FON) consensus championed by Shirky, Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, and others. Starkman argues that the citizen-driven model of journalism runs into the “Ida Tarbell problem”: that public-interest reporting requires significant amounts of time, money, and energy to produce, and that the networked model does not support these as well as the old model did. He argues that we need to find a way to “re-empower” journalists to do the kind of critical reporting that speaks truth to power.

I think that Starkman’s point is critical: journalists need resources to do research on complex, largely hidden problems that involve powerful actors. Even if networked citizen reporters are partially able to overcome the challenge of resources, they will still face the additional hurdle of spreading news widely enough to spur change. Blogs and other small ventures will have to navigate “the triangle” adeptly. And sometimes, even though a blog may contain important investigative findings, it will get lost in the noise of the long tail.

I am particularly concerned about what this trend means for poor people in the developing world. For instance, without investigative reporting on the working conditions that many poor people face in producing goods for Western companies and consumers, there would be few mechanisms for action and accountability. Last month, The Guardian released an investigative piece on the inhumane working conditions and high number of deaths among Nepalese construction workers building facilities in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. This past summer, almost one Nepalese worker died each day, mostly from heart attacks and heat exhaustion. The Guardian’s reporting prompted public outcry against FIFA and the government of Qatar to take action.

Investigating appalling working conditions around the world requires time and resources. Creating international momentum to demand change requires a platform with significant reach. A world in which investigative journalism is severely underfunded does not bode well for poor workers, especially informal and migrant workers. When issues are transnational, publishing them in a global outlet is also key to mobilizing disparate actors (from labor rights activists in the U.S. to Nepalese ex-pats around the world).

So what can be done to preserve public-interest reporting as the old news industry model crumbles? Carving out enclaves for investigative reporting is critical. While it’s a young publication, ProPublica is a key example of how investigative journalism can be successful in the digital age. Starkman also argues for the “Neo-Institutional Hub-and-Spoke Model,” as exemplified in The Guardian’s News Corp. coverage, where traditional investigative reporting broke the story and social media powered its rise in the public consciousness. The Guardian’s investigation into the deaths of Nepalese workers in Qatar presents yet another interesting model for consideration: the story is part of a year-long initiative on modern-day slavery that The Guardian is undertaking with funding from Humanity United, demonstrating the potential for a non-profit and media partnership in support of investigative journalism. Ultimately, I think that it will require a mix of older institutions that bring legitimacy, reach, and (some) resources, along with new and hybrid actors (Shirky’s “experiments”) that successfully bridge citizen-driven investigation with the platforms that have greater reach and/or resources.

Wikipedia’s Take on Transitional Justice

This post assesses Wikipedia’s article on transitional justice, as part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power in the Digital Age at the Kennedy School. You can find my Wikipedia user page here.

I chose to evaluate Wikipedia’s page on transitional justice — the term used to describe a range of processes by which societies transition out of periods of conflict, or away from repressive regimes, with the goal of addressing questions of justice, truth, and/or reconciliation. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on transitional justice, conducted research on the topic in Guatemala, and currently co-lead the transitional justice committee of the Human Rights Professional Interest Council at the Kennedy School. I was curious about how Wikipedia would cover the range of mechanisms in transitional justice, as well as how it would handle some of the historical divides in the field (e.g. truth commissions vs. courts).

Comprehensiveness: The article adequately covers the basics of transitional justice: its origins, its objectives, its primary manifestations (e.g. truth commissions, reparations), its challenges, and its future. However, the article could be improved in at least three critical areas. First, the article could better acknowledge some of the regional and country-specific differences that impacted scholars’ and practitioners’ conceptions of transitional justice. For instance, the truth commissions used in many Latin American nations in the 1980s were designed to address a very different set of issues than post-genocide transitional justice efforts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Second, the article could provide further details on the most commonly used transitional justice mechanisms. For instance, truth commissions are summed up in four sentences and inappropriately nestled under the “Prosecutions” heading. Additionally, a sub-heading for forensic anthropology could be important to add, as it forms a critical component of many truth-seeking processes’ efforts to locate and identify the “disappeared.” Lastly, the article could better acknowledge the increasing use of mixed methods in transitional justice, for instance, the hybrid courts and truth commissions used in East Timor in the 2000s.

Sourcing: The article relies heavily on material from the International Center for Transitional Justice, an international non-profit that works on transitional justice initiatives around the world. The entry could benefit from a wider range of institutional reporting (for instance, additional material from the Crisis Group or World Bank), as well as further academic literature on transitional justice from a range of fields (e.g. law, public health, political science, philosophy, etc.). For instance, the work of Naomi Roht-Arriaza or Joanna Quinn could provide further insight into the evolution of transitional justice and its current challenges.

Neutrality: The article is fairly neutral, although its coverage of prosecutorial justice seems to overshadow other forms of transitional justice (reflecting a historical bias in the discipline). Additionally, labeling the section that covers different methods of transitional justice (including non-prosecutorial methods) as “Prosecutions” adds to the perception of prosecutorial justice as the primary means of transitional justice. Including a “Major Cases” section at the end of the article also signals a legal emphasis. This potential bias could be ameliorated with additional coverage of non-prosecutorial forms of transitional justice, as well as hybrid forms, as discussed above. Additionally, some of the language in the article seems to express negative judgment on the field’s origins and focus (for instance, “It is no surprise then that initial literature on transitional justice was dominated by lawyers…” or “These origins in the human rights movement have necessarily rendered transitional justice ‘self-consciously victim-centric.’”).

Readability: The article is readable, but sections of it are poorly written. There are a number of grammatical errors, including vague pronouns and run-on sentences. The article also assumes readers’ familiarity with a number of legal and transitional justice-specific terms. Further unpacking the field’s vocabulary would enhance the article’s readability (for instance, “universal jurisdiction” could be explained in the context of the International Criminal Court).

Formatting: The article does not fully comply with the Wikipedia Manual of Style. First, the entry does not properly attribute the opening two quoted sentences of the article to an author (opting for a footnote instead of a citation in the text). Additionally, the article uses external links in the body of the text, which should be placed in the external links section instead.

Illustrations: The article does not contain any illustrations, but could be supplemented with pictures of memorials that came out of transitional justice processes (e.g. the initiatives in Uganda that the article mentions).

Social Networks, Privacy, and Filter Bubbles

This blog post is part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power in the Digital Age at Harvard Kennedy School. The post assesses and responds to several key pieces on social networks, privacy, and filter bubbles, including: Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler’s Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009), Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (2012), John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (2008), Rebecca MacKinnon’s Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (2012), Sarah Lai Stirland’s “Internet Privacy: Are Lawmakers Thinking About It All Wrong” (2013), Jonathan Stray’s “Are we stuck in filter bubbles? Here are five potential paths out” (2012), and Eli Pariser’s Ted Talk on filter bubbles (2011).

Today we have unprecedented access to networks that amplify our ability to discover and experience the world online and offline. In the online universe, as in the real world, reciprocity and trust are critical to the formation of social capital. The challenge is balancing the need for openness and genuine connection in the digital realm with very real privacy concerns. Additionally, we need to find more transparent ways to sort through the vast quantities of information available to Internet users, in order to better manage the real and perceived consequences of “filter bubbles.”

Christakis and Fowler (2009) argue that the Internet and online networks enhance the power of real-world networks, providing new opportunities for interaction that allow us to achieve greater things. For instance, sociologists Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman found in their study of “Netville” — a Toronto suburb that provided free broadband access to residents — that those with access developed stronger and more numerous connections. Rheingold (2012) notes that the web allows individuals to truly thrive online through harnessing the power of small world networks and weak ties. In a world of networked individuals and societies, those who can bridge diverse networks will accrue power.

The ability the Internet grants us to access and leverage new information and connections, however, comes with a price (privacy/security), as well as some pitfalls (among them, filter bubbles). As Pariser’s TED Talk and Stray’s post highlight, we haven’t yet developed a satisfactory or transparent way to sort through the information that we search on the Internet. To make progress on this front, we need Internet search engines to provide users with a greater degree of control over what’s being filtered in and out of their queries (Pariser suggests a sliding scale of personalization). And, as Stray notes, we also need a clearer sense of what we expect a “diverse” Internet experience to look like.

As we share more information digitally in the process of building and interacting with our networks, we also give away details about our identities (often to unintended audiences). Palfrey and Gasser (2008) strongly caution the first generation of “digital natives” to remember not only their online identities (over which they have some control), but also their “digital dossiers” (over which they have virtually none). Governments and corporations retain and control vast quantities of personally identifying information that is used to market products to consumers (and to shape our filter bubbles). And these data are often un-secure (e.g. the British government’s accidental leak of millions of peoples’ sensitive information in 2007).

Navigating this complex landscape reminds me of how critical it is for people to be digitally literate. While my generation may be the first to carry our digital footprints from adolescence through adulthood, we all need better information about how to take advantage of the tremendous power the Internet grants, while making smarter decisions about its risks. I believe that non-participation or minimal online participation (though tempting at times) are not the answer, as they risk ceding our digital narratives to others. Just because we don’t blog or tweet, does not mean that there aren’t others blogging or tweeting about us. We need to foster a culture of smarter Internet use, given that virtually nothing is (or stays) private online.

Beyond steps that individuals can take to protect themselves on the Internet, however, there’s also a need for greater government oversight when it comes to people’s personal information and privacy. As MacKinnon notes, building accountability “into the fabric of cyberspace” will require “political innovation to match the rapid technical innovation” (2012, 31). Here important lessons can be gleaned from other countries. For instance, in Estonia, where access to the Internet is considered a human right, citizens have the ability to monitor and make decisions about the use of their personal information. No sensitive information (such as political affiliation) may be used without individuals’ consent.

While a more robust regulatory framework in the United States would have difficulty keeping up with companies’ evolving means of tracking personal data online (see Stirland on the pitfalls of the “Do Not Track” approach), it’s critical that frameworks are set up to manage the parts of the issue that they can, and that governments are held accountable. In addition to initiatives from the non-profit and private sectors (for instance, the increasing use of personal clouds), government actors will need to be further involved if we are to get smarter about keeping up with the Internet and its changes.

What is Web 2.0 & Here Comes Everybody

This blog post provides a brief overview and analysis of Tim O’Reilly’s “What is Web 2.0” (2005) and Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008), as part of my work for DPI-659: Media, Politics, and Power in the Digital Age at Harvard Kennedy School.

Tim O’Reilly’s “What is Web 2.0” provides powerful insights into the concept of web as platform, as well as the key features that have allowed companies, such as Google and Flickr, to thrive in the Web 2.0 world. O’Reilly argues that these companies’ success stems from their focus on continuous updates, rather than periodic releases, and the ability they give users to be co-creators of their products. From Amazon.com reviews to Google searches, users’ input is utilized to make constant improvements to products. And the more people participate in that process, the more valuable the products (and the unique databases that have been developed to manage them) become. Web 2.0 companies’ success is also rooted in designing software that’s usable across devices (think iTunes), that’s dedicated to enhancing the users’ experiences online, and that provides users with the ability to access the edges as well as the center (think the Long Tail).

Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody focuses primarily on the impact of the Internet and technology on the way that people form groups and interact with one another. The Internet has dramatically reduced the barriers to group formation, diminished the need for hierarchy in many cases, offered anyone the chance to self-publish, and strengthened the ability of dispersed individuals to come together to take action. Shirky has a generally positive outlook on the possibilities the Internet unleashes, but recognizes that its richness includes not only hope but also some dark spots (for instance, pro-eating disorder websites).

Both pieces demonstrate how people, individually and collectively, remain the source from which the Internet, its successes, and its failures flow. And O’Reilly clearly makes the case for why harnessing this energy is key to companies’ successes in the Web 2.0 era. As companies draw on the collective intelligence of users to improve products, users also derive greater value from the products that make their goals more attainable. As Shirky notes, “social tools don’t create collective action–they merely remove the obstacles to it” (125).

As a student of public policy, the concept of collecting input and continuously refining a platform to meet users’ needs (as in Web 2.0) strikes me as a democratic process with the potential for developing more people-centric policies. Shirky explores this concept as well in his 2012 Ted Talk on how the Internet will transform government.

Today, we as citizens of a connected world have greater opportunities to form groups and take collective action, including vis-à-vis traditional institutions. As Shirky explains, the “absolute” advantages of institutions such as schools and governments remain, but the “relative” ones are gone (2008, 27). Everyone, not only bureaucrats and policy experts, now has the chance to participate in an unprecedented manner in the shaping of policy and governance. To seize these opportunities, we must be digitally literate. Forming and harnessing digital connections has been and will continue to be a powerful step toward creating more a more participatory policy process.