Us Now

I’m just back from a screening of Us Now courtesy of NESTA. It’s a one hour documentary exploring the question: In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power? It doesn’t so much answer it as invite the audience to think about it, provoked by some interesting examples of how folks are using the web (and some lower-tech methods) to collaborate as never before.

The scene that particularly engaged me tonight was of an experiment in participative democracy in Morecambe. The community gathered in a school hall to vote on competing proposals for investing £20,000. Voting was done on sheets of paper, not through fancy technology. The camera lingered on a guy wanting to improve his churchyard and a group of model railway buffs. The latter won no money, but their reflections on the process were quite interesting: they were not sore losers, though disappointed they respected the process. That little scene points to what feels like an important truth about the merits of transparency and participation – there are some deeper wins that people can appreciate beyond getting what they ostensibly want.

Disclosure: I’m hopelessly biassed as I’ve been working with both NESTA and Thinkpublic (where Ivo works when not being a film director). So you’ll just have to see the film for yourself, I guess.

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