Loud power and quiet power

When the Internet erupted on January 18th to voice its discontent with SOPA and PIPA, it was a moment of loud power.  Fight for the Future has a nice infographic describing everything that happened that day: 115,00 websites blacked out, 10mm signatures gathered, 8mm calls to congress; all in one day.  The Internet exercised its voice, and boy was it loud. The SOPA strike was like a digital nuclear bomb — it needed to drop, to make it clear that the Internet can stand up for itself.  It’s critical to have that in our arsenal when we need it. But it shouldn’t have to come to that. Luckily, the Internet also has tremendous quiet power .  I think about the Internet’s quiet power in terms of production — the ability to make things of lasting value, together.  For instance, the ability of the Stack Exchange sites to surface the best answers to hard questions, or the OpenStreetMap community’s response to the haiti earthquake, or the way that the Peer-to-Patent program lets collaborators on the Internet help build a base of evidence for use in the patent process.  Each of these takes the input and attention of a large community of people, and turns it into a lasting asset. So, how can we harness our quiet power for ongoing, constructive engagement in civic issues (Internet-related and otherwise)?  By flexing our muscles and demonstrating the nuclear threat, I think there’s an opening to work with.

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