This is my first blog post within GovLoop. I am happy to be here.
A little gov/tech background: I am a writer/editor/project manager/interactive designer who is currently working as a contractor on a federal website. I call myself a content wrangler; I’ve done everything from write copy for tiny display cards in a Kentucky arboretum to chasing down data feeds for 20-story-tall sign in Times Square. I have also written a couple of books. And I sent my first email in 1981, and fell in love with all things Internet (no www back then) at that very minute. I thought it was unbelievably cool that technology could connect me to somebody on the other side of the world. I still feel that way.
But even before that, I was around public service–my mom recruited me as a poll watcher when I was 15, after she’d broken me and my sisters in as folders and stuffers of countless flyers. I thought “Collate” was a game until I got a little older. I watched her volunteer in elections and help run campaigns and serve as a committeewoman for her district. I saw her push for school lunch programs (that worked) and civilian police review boards (not so much). Through her, I met lots of committed public servants who were trying to make change, trying to serve the public. I still think that is cool, too.
Here’s what I’d like to suggest, based on what I learned from a very wise technologist, and maybe a little from my own experience: Gov 2.0 will succeed in direct proportion to the fact that regular, non-techy people don’t notice it happening. And I would argue that that’s what we should be aiming for.
Sara Kiesler, a scholar at Carnegie Mellon, did a wonderful study of the adoption of the telephone in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh (that’s 20th century). No big surprise–and Kathy Sierra pointed this out beautifully at the Gov 2.0 conference recently–the idea that change is easier to effect when it is tied to, and builds on, a person’s existing passions. The phone caught on not when businesses bought it–but when grandparents had to have it to talk to their grandchildren. (Replace “phone” with “email” or “Skype” or “smartphone” for more recent examples.) In Kathy’s example, people are more likely to read a water quality report when it looks familiar: like a beefcake calendar. (The beefcake-iest is the 2005 calendar.)
So…what do you think? How is it possible to make Gov 2.0, however you define it–both inevitable…and invisible? If you agree with me, what does that look like? If you don’t, tell me why I’m all wet.