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Govit: A New Social Network for the Politically-Minded

Why the best way of taking The Man down may be by playing his own game. Welcome to the Down With The Man issue: Part 3.

Sure, sticking it to The Man is oh-so-indulgent. But doing it on his own turf, playing by his own rules, somehow feels even more gratifying. Which is exactly why Govit, a brand new social network for the politically-minded, is out to take grassroots to its roots.

The non-partisan project aims to make US Democracy a truly citizen-centric process where everyday people become empowered citizens through learning about legislation and discussing government issues with others. Govit members get to vote on legislation just like elected officials do, offering a raw assessment of how well the government represents its citizens.

Think of it as one big web-based Model UN forum… if Model UN political debates were relayed back to the real UN.

Because here’s the kicker: when Govit members vote on legislation, they have the option of having their votes sent straight to government representatives at the click of a button.

That’s where you pause and have an oh-what-an-age-we-live-in moment. (We certainly did.)

And while we may have doubts about how much weight any of the relayed information will have with the real government, we dig the idea of fostering true interaction outside the context of staged campaign appearances. But, more than anything, we truly believe in the power of informed choice — it may be a worn adage, but knowledge really is power, and we live in a world in desperate need of more informed citizens, more informed consumers, more informed human minds.

BP

Down With The Man | Part 4

Why The Man hates Canadians. Welcome to the Down With The Man issue: Part 4.

SHUTTING PANDORA’S BOX

If you’re like us and have a severe chronic email compulsion, you’ll both love and hate the newest 2.0 holiday: this Saturday, May 3, is Shutdown Day. That’s right, if you ever feel like The Man’s got you by the throat by way of your own computer, now’s your chance — sure, there are bound to be withdrawal symptons, but we’ll be right there with ya shaking off the offline jitters.

The non-profit organization is the brainchild of Denis Bystrov, a Canadian computer programmer who partnered with British filmmaker Michael Taylor in 2007 to spread awareness about the far-reaching effects — physical, mental, social, environmental — of today’s excessive consumption of all things i. We find it fascinating because it’s such a perfect metaphor for the good/evil dichotomy of the web: the initiative could easily become one of the largest Internet-based global experiments as its success hangs solely on the power of the social web, but its “success” by definition also urges us to reduce the use of this very same medium.

We also dig the way it puts things into perspective environmentally: if a single 24-hour period of shutdown could save 6814.8 kilowatt hours of energy in the U.S. alone just from the people who have already registered, imagine the impact of reduced everyday global computer use in the long run.

But, let’s face it: between Facebook hurling friend birthday reminders at you, your boss sending you those pesky “if you get a chance…” weekend emails and your bank bombarding you with e-statements, you sure could use a full-on, no-buts, no-peeks breather — and make a difference all at the same time. Besides pledging you’re in, you can also join the Shutdown Day Facebook group or even be part of an offline flash mob in your area.

So go ahead, pencil it in your calendar. Oh, who are we kidding — we know you don’t have a paper one and haven’t touched a pencil in years. But, hey, that’s one iCal event reminder you’ll be looking forward to.

BP

Down With The Man | Part 5

Why being fake has never been easier. Welcome to the Down With The Man issue: Part 5.

MMM, MEATY

Privacy. Between spam, phishing and the daily wear-and-tear of your email, it’s no wonder many of us craft alter egos for the Interwebs and open email accounts specifically designated for worthless emails. But even that can be too much work. Well, time for a break: say hello to Mailinator, the no-signup, no-registration, no-hassle fake email address generator.

Why is it better than a made-up invalid email? Because it allows you actually get past that first step of email validation when you register for forums, fill out web forms, get free trials, and are otherwise spam-endangered by various one-time signup processes.

Here’s how it works: you just make up an @mailinator.com email on the spot — could be anything, from eatspam@mailinator.com to iheartoatmeal@mailinator.com — and Mailinator generates a temporary email account when mail arrives for you. You can check it on the site, via RSS, through a widget, or straight from your browser toolbar — just enough to validate your email for each signup and forget about it.

Word.

BP

Down With The Man | Part 6

How music got its groove back. Welcome to the Down With The Man issue: Part 6.

DANCING IN THE STREET

Lately, we’ve been focusing on the music industry a lot, what with all the massive tectonic shifts it’s undergoing. Artists big and small are sticking it to the Big Label Man, anyone from big-leaguers like Madonna and Radiohead to indie mavericks like Ghost Away and Jill Sobule.

The latest shaker: cult British 90’s trip-hop getup Portishead just released their first album in 11 years, Third, exclusively on Last.fm on April 21, where it could be streamed for free until its official release today. (You may also recall our fervent raves about Last.fm and our early predictions of its revolution potential.)

PORTISHEAD – Hunter

It’s the very first exclusive for the social networking music site. But even more interestingly, Portishead was also the very first artist to join Last.fm’s catalog, with their track Cowboys as the first one to ever be played on Last.fm when the site went live in 2002.

And here’s the fascinating thing: traditionally, the music industry has employed an event-based model with album launches, where the launch is heavily promoted and positioned as an object of anticipation by sending the album out to music critics and reviewers well in advance, building up solid media hype. Then, that the record label and retailer can monetize this by pricing the anticipated new release much higher than other stuff.

Recently, in an excellent piece for Wired, the Talking Heads’ David Byrne and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke tackled the current business model, probing the capacity for change. And we think this Portishead/Last.fm move is tell-tale sign of days to come, where artists use new media and the power of the social web to promote, publish and eventually distribute their work, creating a loop of self-sufficiency that not only puts the fans first, but also completely circumvents the red tape of the Big Labels model.

BP

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