Us Now – a film on the power of mass collaboration, the internet and government – is now freely available online to stream or download. The film investigates the use of crowdsourcing, and other forms of citizen participation, to change the nature and role of government.
It follows the fate of football team owned and run by its fans; a “bank” in which lenders loan to each other in a peer to peer fashion; and an online network that encourages members to open their homes to strangers. The film documents how:
transparency, self-selection, open participation — are coming closer and closer to the mainstream of our social and political lives.
The film is not primarily concerned with the technology, but rather how its use can transform social interactions and remove the costs involved with mass collaboration. In this vein this quote from Clay Shirky epitomizes what these tools are trying to achieve:
A revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts new tools. It happens when society adopts new behaviors.
The changes in behavior that many of these new tools mandate provides an opportunity for a more inclusive and transparent government to emerge. The Whitehouse, and other governments around the world, have taken some tentative steps towards this through the use of social media tools and the crowdsourcing of ideas. Nevertheless, a real revolution will only happen when substantive legislative decisions are made in a transparent and participatory nature with citizen involvement. Only when the use of these tools becomes second nature to elected representatives and policy makers, will the behaviors associated with social software begin to inform and impact serious governmental changes. That day is coming, but the policy revolution is still some time away.