Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Matt Bai on the Power of the Internet

4:00 p.m. Waiting here in the ballroom for the closing remarks, Can't resist mentioning Matt Bai's lunchtime presentation. For the record, even though Matt is legendary, I had never heard of him or his body of work. Pity because Matt gave one the best presentations at the conference. Witty, informative, engaging, topical... have I left out anything?

No, I am not fawning. After listening to him, I honestly like this guy. Must have been the anecdotes about his toddler son's Thomas the Train PC and his attempts to engage Matt in a computer game called "Banana 4.0."

Or maybe because Matt is not as full of himself as he probably could be. He's a blogger/journalist on the scene since its inception, hand-picked to do a 2005 - quote unquote - book tour up the California coast with Marcus and Jerome of DailyKos. Matt is a rock star. Some paraphrased highlights:

"The Internet isn't changing politics...it's changing everything in our lives."

"Television took some time to become mainstream and has been the major form of influence for the past sixty years. The Internet is even more profound than television. Its influence will last much longer than sixty years."

"The Internet is a two-way dynamic. People can have conversations with the people they like and admire. This is something television will never be able to do."

"We are living in an 'Age of Confirmation,' meaning people are unwilling to go outside their comfort zones. The failure of people to read opinions from the political spectrum is unhealthy for democracy."

"The baby boomers are the first generation who were not born into the same world they ended up leading. Their generation of leaders must adapt to a different world."

"The purpose of the Internet is to empower people and give them more control over their lives. However, no one should dictate their beliefs to other people."

"Another value of the Internet is its ability to change the landscape of America. More people will be able to work at home and as a result they will be happier, their employers will have less costs, and workers will be more productive."

"As more political campaigns use the Internet, the energy for politics will be less about tactics and more about fostering new ideas and innovations."

Matt Bai is an innovator, but he is not about changing the core principals of democracy. He is also a defender of the electoral college. Matt doesn't view bloggers as competition for journalists. Blogging is a different form of expression. It's more of a conversation. And therein lies the power of the Internet.

At the end of his presentation, Matt was deluged by well-wishers. Too bad. I wanted to relate a funny story about divergent political views and my own personal experiences with a certain person in my neighborhood. But, that will have to wait for another time.

What do you know, no closing remarks. The conference is over. Wow. That was fast. Congratulations to Julie Germany and her wonderful group of student volunteers. The conference was a fabulous success.

Still have a couple of interviews to post, but things are winding down at the Renaissance. Hope to get everything done before Mashmeet.

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