I am honored to be today’s ambassador for OneWebDay which will be celebrated on September 22, 2008. The idea behind OneWebDay is simple: let’s set aside one day a year to reflect with others about how the internet has affected our lives. The brainchild of Susan Crawford, 2006 was the first year for OneWebDay. This year, the theme is the internet and participatory democracy.
My reflections on this theme start with data, unquestionably an occupational hazard for me. At the Pew Internet Project, we have tracked the growing number of people who use the internet to follow political campaigns. Check out our latest on the topic: The Internet and the 2008 Election. A striking figure from in that report is this:
- 39% of Americans have used online resources to get unfiltered access to campaign materials, such as videos of debates, text or videos of speeches, as well as position papers.
In politics, as in so many other areas the Pew Internet Project has studied, people like to be navigators of their own information pathways online; that’s a point we made in 2002 when we first wrote about adoption of broadband at home. The openness of the internet lets people connect, reflect, and share with others. It also lets them contribute to the content commons of the internet – maybe a video mash-up about the campaign or comments contributed to a blog or listserv.
This kind of unfiltered political discourse certainly helps many online Americans feel more connected to politics. Some 28% of internet users say online political information helps them feel more personally connected to their candidate or campaign of choice and 22% say they would not be as involved in the campaign were it not for the internet. The values that enable this kind of online engagement with politics are something to reflect upon as OneWebDay approaches.