Perhaps no one demonstrated the power of technology in our democracy as well as Barack Obama did in his 2008 presidential campaign. He was the first presidential candidate to truly embrace new digital communication technology to attract, recruit, and mobilize a diverse political coalition. Since then, the role of technology in civic engagement has only increased.
The 4th annual Technology Learning Collaborative (TLC) conference, held at the Free Library’s main branch, will provide an in-depth exploration of how online communications continue to shape our national discourse and inform levels of participation.
TLC is a collaborative of over 40 community-based organizations from across the city, each of which has a hand in digital inclusion, including Philadelphia OIC, the Village of Arts and Humanities, and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha. The conference is a full day of programming focusing on digital literacy, digital inclusion, and digital citizenship efforts. There will be a series of brief presentations by featured speakers, a panel discussion, and hands-on workshops on topics ranging from healthcare to voting to employment and more.
But don’t expect this to be your typical sit-and-stare conference. The focus is real solutions. “The voices of our most vulnerable populations are essential to public discourse but can be drowned out in traditional engagement efforts,” says TLC co-chair Tan Vu of the People’s Emergency Center. “Current apps and internet tools can amplify those voices, enabling society to better address the concerns of families experiencing homelessness, disenfranchised youth, senior citizens, and reintegrating adults.”
What we’re doing right now just isn’t enough. Says fellow Co-Chair Ben Burenstein from Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation, “Many low-income Philadelphians still don’t have ready access. We need to become aware of the technological ramifications of civic engagement so we can step up to support individuals who want to participate in making real choices that affect their lives as city residents.”
The solutions offered will be wide-ranging. Civic engagement isn’t just about voting, after all; it also encompasses individual volunteerism, organizational and corporate involvement, and even just being knowledgeable about the issues. All of these forms of civic engagement can be informed and heightened by modern connected technology, but we need to figure out how to do it as well as possible and how to get that technology into the hands of as many people as possible.
The Citizen is a co-sponsor of the event, at the Free Library on Friday, October 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We’ll also be there to take your suggestions for innovative people and programs working to make Philadelphia better. Have ideas? Stop by our booth and let us know. (For inspiration, check out our Citizens of the Week, Ideas We Should Steal, and Meet the Distruptor series.)Header photo by Knight Foundation via Flickr