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Archive for February 9th, 2010

You like those stories about the new words that make it into Webster’s each year, right? Well, I’m putting my Cal Rhetoric degree on the line to state that “Gov 2.0″ is headed that way.

Plenty of smarter people have written a lot about the “language panel” at February’s Gov 2.0 LA Camp, which was more of a look at humanizing a movement that could easily devolve into a technocratic and ultimately narrow-minded clique than it was about trying to do away with jargon. But every now and then, we want to define our terms and argue about them, and this past weekend was as good a time to do that as any.

I want to cite quickly why I’m convinced the term “Gov 2.0″ is here to stay.

First, the term is a semantic umbrella for several movements with real muscle: open government (in the sense of transparent decision-making, “sunshine”/”sunlight”); open source software in government; free release of data collected by governments, preferably in machine-readable format; social media in government; collaboration, crowdsourcing and prediction markets in government; and traditional “eGov” online services. Really, the term has already taken on a much broader meaning than even “Web 2.0.”

Next, I could cite the growing number of uncamps around Gov 2.0 or the fact that a growing number of public sector workers are embracing the term to describe their interest in shiny-cool government reform. Growing adoption of the term to describe a number of related and not-so-related initiatives and movements is part of the foundation for my opinion. But the key conversation that tipped me was a recent sit-down with Laurel Ruma, the chief Gov 2.0 evangelist for O’Reilly Media. Now, it might not agree with everything Tim O’Reilly says, but each time I’ve interacted with one of his company’s employees, I’ve come away impressed. O’Reilly Media is a serious company that picks its tech advocacy battles for the long haul – open source and Web 2.0 being the big ones – and with some great success. The fact that O’Reilly has staked a claim on Gov 2.0 and Ruma’s assertion that the company anticipates a decade-long evolution of the movement (O’Reilly’s definition is “gov as a platform“), give me faith that whatever tech-enabled reform good government folks are working on in 2015, it will still fall under the umbrella of Gov 2.0.

Last Saturday night, I was around bouncing Bill Grundfest’s Gov 2.0 LA language thoughts with Chris Heuer, co-founder of the Social Media Club. (Heuer’s definition is “technology making government better.”) Anyone who says “social media” with a straight face has already been in a few debates about the term, and staking his business model on it means Heuer’s been at the center of the blogwars over how to describe the ever-evolving world of zero-cost communications. With his frank style, Heuer explained that whatever arguments exist, at some point people just call something what they call it.

“Gov 2.0″ may be a Rorschach blot, but it’s here to stay.

~ Adriel Hampton is a public servant and host of Gov 2.0 Radio. Sometimes he stays up late at night wondering how to pronounce periods, and what they mean for search trends.

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