Announcing picamp Belfast

picamp-logoOver the next few weeks, I’m going to be promoting and working on ‘picamp’ – the political innovation camp event in Belfast on the 26th of May.

This project is being done in conjunction with the Northern Ireland political weblog Slugger O’Toole, with NESTA-sponsored Amplified ’09 and Queens University Belfast who have kindly allowed us to use their premises for the day.

The event will be a unconference – it will be managed in exactly the same way as a conventional conference, but there won’t be any listed speakers, any agenda or any charge to attend.

We’ve seen a proliferation of these unconferences recently. In Washington DC, Transparency Camp took place in March and one is planned for the UK in July. New applications that drive different forms of community are widely seen to have a disruptive potential.

We’re seeing a huge impact upon print and broadcast journalism, and it would be fair to say that politicians have been taken aback by the ability of activists to recruit and campaign in an active way.

For me, there are big political questions that need to be answered – ones that go to the heart of the notion of representation. The various pillars of our existing political settlement – politicians, journalists, political parties – don’t deserve any more shelter from rapid change than people who are subject to what Schumpeter described as the ‘creative destruction‘ of radical innovation. But how far are those pillars at least partly the product of a system that has evolved to protect us all from the tyranny of the majority, or the dominance of time-rich active citizens?

There is no question that most of the components of modern democracy will be required to address this creative destruction at some point in the not-too-distant. That is what this conference is about.

As there isn’t an agenda, I can only hope that the question that I have seeded the event with gets some interest from other attendees. It’s this:

What are the political consequences of the collapse in local journalism?

While media revenues are collapsing all over the world, who will hold government – from local to national level – to account when news becomes a commodity?

In Northern Ireland’s imperfect and developing democracy, who, if anyone, will undertake the role that a robust and well-funded broadcast / print media is retreating from?

This is an issue for the quality of democracy. It’s also a structural problem for Northern Ireland’s economy – many creative jobs rely upon a vibrant and effective local media.

We’ll want to know what you think this all means for the quality of government as well. All over the world, the cosy old compact between politicians and journalists has been busted right open – what do you think will replace it?

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