Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama and the "we" generation

I've been struggling to articulate the question of Barack Obama's alleged lack of policy detail and how this actually makes him more favourable to some people, including myself, but found that Henry Jenkins has already explained it, and more besides.

Jenkin's posts tend to be long (academics, huh?), but I think this one is worth reading in its entirety. Here's the section dealing specifically with how I, and assume many others, view Obama's less than fully-detailed policy plans:

...the fact that the vision is blurry and not yet well defined is a virtue rather than a limitation: it is a virtue if we set up processes which enable us to collaborate to find further solutions. I look on Obama's more vague statements as something like a stub on wikipedia -- an incitement for us to pool our insights and to work through a range of possible solutions together.

After eight years which have sought to revitalize the once discredited notion of an Imperial President, it is refreshing to imagine a more open, participatory, and bottom up process. In such a model, the experience of the leader is less important than the ability to channel all of those voices and the commitment to make sure that everyone is heard. This is like the difference between older notions of expertise (based on monopoly and control of information) and newer notions of collective intelligence (based on creating a self-correcting and inclusive process by which we collect, evaluate, and distribute knowledge.) This may be what commentators are groping towards when they talk about a generational shift or discuss Obama as the candidate of the future.

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