Change V2 at SXSW Interactive: Lessig IRL vs. The Political Machine

Captain Obvious
Captain Obvious
Alexia Tsotsis

Having learned from

our mistakes yesterday

, we decided to eat something bland for breakfast this morning (what kind of a person has a taco for breakfast anyways?) and hit the convention center early in order to make one of the morning panels - specifically one I was really looking forward too. (

Subjectivity alert!


Lawrence Lessig

and his Creative Commons work has been one of my obsessions since he gave a speech at USC regarding the Internet Privacy Act. Listening to Lawrence Lessig like listening to calming music or having a brain massage; I actually care what he has to say.

Like every other happening, no matter how minute at SXSW, the Lessig talk was documented like nobody's business. L.A.Times writer David Sarno got into the twitgeist so hard that he structured his entire coverage on how many people where using their experience as a form of status update, culminating in the almost fatalistic comment: "All that's left to do is make a meta-comment on all the commenting."

Maybe it was because I'm from a different generation (born in 1982) and maybe because I left my laptop power cord back at the hotel, but I sat down to watch Lessig speak very much in the same way I had watched him speak at USC at 19-years-old, with a pencil and a piece of paper. I couldn't even tweet because I was using my phone to record the speech, more for my own personal use than for this post.

The best thing about Lawrence Lessig is that he has the ability to explain to the most unaquainted audience members the poignacy of the very complex subjects he attempts to deconstruct; he presents his material in away that someone who enters the room having no experience with the subject (like me and politics for example) matter that Lessig presents end up leaving the panel with more than just a cursory knowledge. 

The talk he gave at USC four years ago was on Intellectual Property and had the honor of introducing me to the Internet, and now that Lessig has had some success with Creative Commons, he's ready to take his philospohy of actionable change to the next level and launch Change Congress. With some of the most effective powerpoint and presentation skills I've ever seen at a panel, Lessig argued for a donor strike with the eventual objective of establishing publicly funded elections so that people would begin to regain trust in the government and the democratic process.

Lessig is currently concerned with "king cash" where the desire for money (in the case of lobbyist contributions) has taken precedence over the desire to do a good job. The mechanics of campaign funding was never the sexiest subject, but when the talk finished I had achieved real clarity on the subject and a definite curiosity to learn more - the same curiosity that inspired me to become an Internet/tech journalist. Not wanting to let the opportunity go, I introduced myself to Lessig and let him know (personally, not through an e-mail, a tweet, a text, or even a phone call) that he had deeply affected my life and I wanted to give him the most humble of podiums, this blog post, to affect the lives of those not fortunate enough to hear this talk. He used his 140 characters to implore politicians to "worry about voters, not funders." Simply put, by one of the world's most expert communicators.

Follow us on Twitter at @alexiatsotsis and @laweekly. Also, check out Village Voice Media's SXSW Festival site for more coverage.

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