Public Affairs 2.0

by Michelle Simmons

Marriage equality, growing income inequity, technology and democracy, the Second Amendment—all were subjects of this spring’s speaker series hosted by the newly formed Public Affairs Committee (PAC).

The committee is the result of the Student Senate’s efforts to modernize the 50-year-old Public Affairs Symposium. Titled Next Great Debates: Perspectives on Emerging Problems, the lectures tackled current issues and featured speakers that would resonate with students across the ideological and political spectrum—from Heritage Foundation Fellow Ryan Anderson and economist and author John Lott to California’s Prop 8 plaintiff Kris Perry and Equality Trust co-founder Richard Wilkinson.

The keynote event on April 25—the annual Poitras-Gleim Lecture—saw Clay Shirky, widely quoted writer, academic and consultant on the social and cultural effects of the Internet. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired and Harvard Business Review, and one of his books, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, was named by The Guardian as one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books ever written.

Shirky’s lecture focused on how the Internet and mobile technology can foster collective action. Using open-source software Linux as a model and metaphor, he extended the concept to governments, media, corporations—all of which could benefit from ad-hoc collaboration over competition. “We need to start thinking through the possibilities of pooling our resources to solve problems that we previously could not have taken on together,” he noted, pointing to a new paradigm of “open-source government.”

“The Poitras-Gleim Lecture has always brought some of the world’s brightest and most innovative minds to Carlisle, and this was no exception,” said PAC chair Will Nelligan ’14. “The connections that Clay has spent a lifetime drawing—between technology and psychology, the fine arts and the media arts, are the same connections that we make at Dickinson every single day.”

Published Jul. 24, 2013