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Bringing Hacker Culture to the ASPA Conference

UPDATE: Want to give a lightning talk at the ASPA conference? See http://wp.me/p4a7oW-18

If a public administrator wants to be taken seriously, should she wear a suit or a hoodie? It depends which culture she’s dealing with. Traditional public administration culture focuses on hierarchical institutions--how the public administrator can serve the institution’s mission and advance in the institution’s hierarchy.

But another culture is growing in public administration--hacker culture. It celebrates individual creativity and peer-to-peer cooperation, rather than hierarchical institutions. Hacker culture arose among software developers, as personal computers and then the Internet reduced practitioners’ dependence on large institutions for access to resources. Increasingly, governments are engaging with hacker culture among employees, constituents, and advocacy groups. In the 2013 National Day of Civic Hacking, 11,000 people participated in 95 civic hacking events in 83 cities, according to the organizers. Federal, State and local government agencies participated by providing venues, opening new access to data, posing challenges for hackers to work on, and sponsoring employees’ attendance.

We will bring a taste of hacker culture to the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) conference in D.C. this month. Our panel, “Open Government: Civil Servants encounter Civil Society” (Saturday, March 15 at 3:30) will start with a lightning talk--a five minute presentation from a volunteer participant. Lightning talks have become a fixture in hacker and open government events, to encourage peer-to-peer information sharing rather than limiting speech to invited speakers.

Our main speakers will present important experiences of traditional public administration encountering the culture of technology-enabled open government:

  • Laurenellen McCann led a study at the Sunlight Foundation of the reasons government officials give for not releasing data, and how open government advocates respond.

  • Ben Balter from GitHub shows that collaborative workflows aren’t just for software development anymore. Governments are using them for policy-making and problem-solving.

  • V. David Zvenyach, General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia, who overcame technical, copyright and contractual hurdles to make the District's laws available on the Internet without restriction.

We will even have laptop stickers--a tradition at hackathons and open government events. A glance at the stickers on the lid of a civic hacker’s computer shows what events she has participated in. Pick one up with our compliments when you attend the panel.

Both suits and hoodies are welcome. Full information about the panel is at opengovernmentpanel.wordpress.com

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