About Personal Democracy Media
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Technology and the Internet are changing democracy in America. This site is one hub for the conversation already underway between political practitioners and technologists, as well as anyone invigorated by the potential of all this to open up the process and engage more people in all the things that we can and must do together as citizens. We value your input and ideas.
Democracy is changing.
A new force, rooted in new tools and practices built on and around the Internet, is rising alongside the old system of money intensive broadcast politics.
Today, for almost no money, anyone can be a reporter, a community organizer, an ad-maker, a publisher, a money-raiser, or a leader.
If what they have to say is compelling, it will spread.
The cost of finding like-minded souls, banding together, and speaking to the powerful has dropped to almost zero.
Networked voices are reviving the civic conversation.
More people, everyday, are discovering this new power. After years of being treated like passive subjects of marketing and manipulation, citizens want to be heard.
Members expect a say in the decision-making process of the networked organizations they join. Readers want to talk back to the news-makers. Citizens are insisting on more openness and transparency from government and from corporations too.
All the old institutions and players - big money, top-down parties, big-foot journalism, cloistered organizations - must adapt fast or face losing status and power, and some of them are. That evolution is happening as some governments, political organizations, businesses and nonprofits begin to embrace participation and transparency.
The realization of “Personal Democracy,” where everyone is a full participant, is coming.
Since 2004, Personal Democracy Media has helped nurture a world-wide conversation about technology’s impact on government and politics, and society - providing a place to meet the people who are making that change happen, discover the tools powering the new civic conversation, spot the early trends, and to share in understanding and embracing this dynamic new force. Many of those who are challenging the status quo, learned what they know, or found people to collaborate with, by being a part of Personal Democracy Media.
Now as Personal Democracy Media, that effort will grow as we work to contribute authoritative news, tools and resources focused on adapting to and thriving in a world where together we are building and fulfilling the promise of a 21st century democracy. (Updated January, 2011)
Micah L. Sifry
Operations and Events Director
Andrew Rasiej, Founder & Publisher
Andrew Rasiej is an entrepreneur and technology strategist. He's counseled national and international political leaders, government officials, academics, and heads of nonprofits and foundations on issues related to civic engagement, technology, transparency, digital diplomacy and campaign strategy. Andrew got his start working at the intersection of technology and politics in 1999 offering early new media advice to leaders like Hillary and Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and Congressional Minority leader Dick Gephardt. In 2003, presidential candidate Howard Dean and his campaign manager Joe Trippi named him chairman of the Technology Advisory Committee for the Dean for America Campaign which demonstrably moved all political campaigns into the future—by pioneering tactics in constituency development, community building, and networked political fundraising that used digital media in strategically orchestrated and thoughtful ways.
After the 2004 presidential campaign, Andrew founded Personal Democracy Forum, the international cross-partisan conference series that examines and analyzes how technology is impacting the evolving global political landscape while illuminating how activists, organizers, technologists, journalists, politicians, and government officials are advancing democratic ideals, using digital media to facilitate a more participatory, connective and transparent world. In 2007, he co-founded techPresident, an award-winning group blog that covers how activists and candidates are using the web. His commitment to finding and promoting digital solutions for a more open and accountable government extends to his position as senior technology advisor to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2006, which works to use the power of technology and citizen use of the internet to promote greater government transparency and accountability.
To help demonstrate the potential of the technology to empower local communities, in 2005 Andrew ran a highly publicized campaign for the office of New York City Public Advocate promoting many ideas now being championed by politicians in NYC and elsewhere such as inexpensive public WiFi, using social media to report potholes and other local infrastructure issues, and connecting citizens to each other to improve their neighborhoods and communities.
Andrew's belief that technology could empower citizen engagement originally took hold in 1997 when he founded MOUSE.org (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education), a nonprofit helping under-served public school students to become technology leaders in their schools. Today, the MOUSE program is active in 10 states and 58 countries worldwide.
In the wake of the September 11 tragedy he mobilized dozens of volunteers to aid in relief and recovery efforts and subsequently proposed creating a national emergency technology corps to be organized for future natural disasters or terrorist attacks. After his lobbying, and with the help of Senator Ron Wyden, Congress voted 97-0 to create the National Emergency Technology Guard (NET Guard) in 2002, which was later incorporated into the law creating the Department of Homeland Security.
In 2010 Andrew was named chairman of the New York Tech MeetUp, an organization comprising more than 18,000 entrepreneurs, technologists, venture capitalists, and other professionals engaged in the tech start-up renaissance driving innovation and investment in New York.
Prior to a life in politics and education, Andrew founded several music-focused enterprises including: Irving Plaza, the world-famous Gramercy Park/Union Square music ballroom; Digital Club Network, the first live music streaming and archiving channel on the internet; and, Plug-In, the first conference focused exclusively on the future of digital music distribution. While operating Irving Plaza he also founded the New York Night Life Association to promote the hundreds of clubs and live music venues in New York City as an integral part of its economic vibrancy and cultural scene.
He is a graduate of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, an alumnus of the prestigious David Rockefeller Fellowship Program administered by the New York City Partnership, and a member of the Board of Directors of PopTech. Andrew lives and works in New York City.
Micah L. Sifry, Editorial Director
Micah L. Sifry is co-founder and editorial director of Personal Democracy Media, which produces the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference on the ways technology is changing politics, and techPresident.com, an award-winning blog on how politicians are using the web and how the web is using them. In addition, he consults on how political organizations, campaigns, non-profits and media entities can adapt to and thrive in a networked world. He is a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation, which he helped found in 2006, and also serves on the board of Consumer Reports and the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. He is the author or editor of seven books, most recently The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn't Transformed Politics (Yet) (OR Books, 2014) and Wikileaks and the Age of the Transparency (OR Books, 2011). In 2012 he taught "The Politics of the Internet" as a visiting lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
From 1997-2006, he worked closely with Public Campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on comprehensive campaign finance reform, as its senior analyst. Prior to that, Micah was an editor and writer with The Nation magazine for thirteen years. He is the author of Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (Routledge, 2002), co-author with Nancy Watzman of Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day (John Wiley & Sons, 2004), co-editor of Rebooting America (available online for free download at rebooting.personaldemocracy.com), and co-editor of The Iraq War Reader (Touchstone, 2003) and The Gulf War Reader (Times Books, 1991). His personal blog is at micah.sifry.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @mlsif.
Anthony Russomano, Operations and Events Director
Anthony Russomano received a BA in history with a minor in New York City Studies from Pace University in May 2004. While attending Pace University, Anthony worked in online marketing as the Assistant Director of Marketing for Wall Street Rising, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoring the vibrancy and vitality that existed in Lower Manhattan prior to the devastating events of September 11, 2001. During his senior year, in addition to working at Wall Street Rising, Anthony interned at the district office of New York City Councilmember Alan J. Gerson. There he was responsible for researching and drafting legislation that would become New York City laws. Anthony currently resides in Brooklyn, NY and enjoys spending time with his goddaughter Antonia and his nephew Angelo.
Jessica McKenzie, Managing Editor
Jessica McKenzie is the managing editor of techPresident.com. She began writing for techPresident in 2013, covering international stories about the use of technology and innovation in politics, development work and activism. She continues to write about all manner of civic tech. Jessica graduated from Barnard College in 2011 and interned at The Nation in the fall of 2014. You can follow her on Twitter, @jessimckenzi.
Antonella Napolitano, Europe Editor
Antonella Napolitano is PDM Europe editor and works as social media consultant.
She is also editor and outreach coordinator for Diritto Di Sapere, an Italian NGO that works to enhance access to information in Italy and abroad.
In the past she served as consultant and volunteers coordinator for UDC, a moderate Italian party, as community manager for Kublai, a project of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, and worked at the Consulate of Italy in New York. She also founded Micromacchina, a nonprofit association that works on enhancing citizens participation.
She graduated in Media Studies (M.A.) at University of Bologna (Italy) and was Research Fellow at Vassar College. She writes about tech and politics for l'Unità and other Italian magazines and she is the author of "Facebook e la comunicazione politica" (Apogeo, 2013).
Her personal blog (in Italian) is Vassar Stories, and you can follow her on Twitter (in Italian and English) @svaroschi.
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Personal Democracy Media maintains a divide between our editorial work on our publications, including techPresident, and our other endeavors. Because, on occasion, PdM may work with organizations that are also covered in our publications, in the spirit of transparency we offer you an accounting of those relationships. We will update this note as needed.
Ongoing -- PDM co-founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry are senior advisers to the Sunlight Foundation, and have been since its founding in 2006.
Ongoing -- PDM co-founder Andrew Rasiej is an investor in the following companies: ChallengePost, Daylife, Mobile Commons, Blip TV, Medical Algorithmics, CapitalNY and Fluid DB. He is also an advisor to MadRaces.
Ongoing -- PDM is working with the Ford Foundation on a quarterly series of meetings bringing together rising leaders from the technological and philanthropic communities.
Past -- PDM worked with Fight for the Future, a project of the Center for Rights, on a non-partisan initiative funded by the Ford Foundation to increase voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election (http://www.theinternetvotes.org).
Past -- PDM co-founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry, along with their associate Allison Fine, consulted for the Avi Chai Foundation from May 2010 thru December 2011, advising them on how to integrate social media into their mission.
Past -- Personal Democracy Media produced and facilitated a one-day "Tech Camp" on November 20, 2010 in Santiago, Chile for the U.S. State Department.
Past -- PDM co-founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry have consulted in the past for the New York State Senate's CIO's Office, Air America, the Campaign for America's Future and the Regional News Network.
Past -- PDM co-founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry consulted for TechSoup Global, helping the organization grow its presence on the East Coast and offering strategic advice to its leadership as needed.
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