Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For Free Culture…

As you undoubtedly know, President Obama has led an unprecedented era of openness in American governance, and although the record is mixed, there is much reason for hope. One of the more interesting examples of participatory government that has emerged has been the crowdsourcing of citizen input during the transistion period where Americans could submit feedback for the newly elected administration and others could vote for their favorites.

Now, the Office of Public Enagagement has published a PDF of the top suggestions (also available online). It provides a zeitgeist of sorts for the American public, and, excitingly, many of the topics are related to our work at Students for Free Culture. 

A couple commenters desired increased access to knowledge (A2K):

Libraries of all types need our support, 10810 points
“The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of thegreatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from allour history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to thecollective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth ofour awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all betested by how well we support our libraries.” ~Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Carl said it best. Please continue and expand upon the support provided to libraries of all types.
– NJ Busch
Create an online E-Library, 8100 points
Start a program scanning the library of congress into an online library where it can be accessed for free. It would make it so much easier and cheaper for public/ school libraries to offer the people they serve quality access to knowledge. Going hand in hand with the plan already in place to drastically expand broadband lines and invest in 21st century schools, this would do much to improve American education while making it more cost effective. It would also save money and the enviornement by reducing the amount of paper purchased by the government when stocking multiple libraries with the same books.
– Kevin J. Kauth
While others pointed to the need for supporting innovation and creativity:
Focus on the Art and Creativity, 12970 points
It is always the arts that are first to be cut back in our schools and communities, yet the arts are
at the very center of creativity. This is where creative skills are born, not just for artists and musicians, but for scientists, engineers, researchers, innovators, and all thinking peoples. Now, if ever, is the time when we need creative thought and creative action to find the means and the human energy and spirit to find our way out of the problems that face us.
– Maples
Expand Small Business Innovation Programs, 6550 points
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has been providing near-term growth with long-term benefits for many years now. It is an established yet dynamic program created and administered by the federal government. 
Because the program administration and guidelines are already in place, an expansion of the program could be accomplished almost overnight, perhaps by merely generalizing a previous Executive Order (for example, 13329).
– Next Generation
Others encouraged more technology-enabled transparency:
people talking to government, 41740 points
One of the problems with politcs is that the people’s voice isn’t heard. This website is amazing! Please expand this so that people can vote on things that congress votes on. This will show congress what the constituants want. You can have the people vote on items and then show how their congress people voted on the same issue. It’s been too long that a small, disconected group of people control the lives of the US population. The American people have NOT stood up. Expand this website so that the people’s voice can be heard again. Great job with
– aDAM
Honesty and Transparency, 45610 points
Whatever the issue — economy, energy, forgein policy, health care, homeland security, or other — it is most important that honesty and transparency guide the debate. In communicating with the American people, the President and his representatives must remain true to the principles of honesty and transparency.
– GeneL
Vote and debate all bills online and show what industries contribute the most to each Representatives campaign, 40080 points
Vote and debate all bills online and show what industries contribute the most to each Representatives campaign while they are voting. Let’s show the American people who really run the country!
– JimBO
Some people called for the government to provide for open technological platforms:
National WiFi, 23540 points
Internet access in the new emerging world and culture needs to be a right and not a privilage. Those who cannot afford broadband access will be left behind dispreportionately. Broadband Internet Access needs to be avalible to all Americans and most especially to those who can’t afford it. Let’s make this a priority.Further National WiFi access will broaden new business opportunities in a new emerging economy. Americans could have cell phones that have no service fees, internet access at any location and the ability to be in contact with anyone or anything instantly. The possibilites are endless.
– Jesse E
Restore Net Neutrality Protections to the Internet, 46220 points
During the campaign, Barack Obama pledged to “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality” and to “protect the Internet’s traditional openness to innovation and creativity and ensure that it remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will revitalize our democracy.” The administration can show it’s commitment by working with the new Congress and FCC to pass laws that make Net Neutrality the cornerstone to protecting innovation, free speech and choice on the Internet.
– TimKarr
Finally, many people recognized the need to protect civil liberties, such as privacy:
Find a Balance Between US Security and Civil Liberties, 15660 points
With the reversal of many civil liberties by the Bush administration in the past eight years in the name of Terrorism, we need to find a balance between protecting our country without giving up our cherished rights as American Citizens. I am hoping a balance can be met without giving agencies carte blanche and no oversight.
– Admiralu
There are certainly points for disagreement on the particulars of these proposals, but as a general impression of the importance and widespread interest in the topics that matter to Students for Free Culture, this is an encouraging sign that the tides of public opinion are recognizing the importance of innovation, transparency, civil liberties and the role that technology can have in promoting those.
Now, it would seem, the question is what can Free Culture do for your country?
Leave Yours +


  1. Thank God we still live in a world where you can get internet privacy, even if it comes at a price. Since we the people have been deemed unworthy to maintain our own internet privacy, what has the world come to?

  2. [..] A little unrelated, but I quite simply liked this website post [..]

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