April Book of the Month: ‘WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency’ by Micah Sifry
This month we look at the newly-released WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, a thoughtful and eye-opening guide to the new age of internet openness brought on by Julian Assange and his controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
It’s one of the biggest news stories for years. A charismatic, white-haired Australian sets up a website devoted to publishing leaked documents in the public interest, and then, allegedly with the aid of a disaffected American soldier, starts releasing startlingly honest cables from the US diplomatic service – with explosive results. In WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, technology and politics analyst Micah Sifry looks beyond the media-frenzy surrounding Assange, and investigates what WikiLeaks means for the future of open democracy.
‘With insight and clarity, Micah Sifry explores the red-hot spot where politics and the Internet intersect. An indispensable resource for the future fight over secrecy and openness.’ – Arianna Huffington
Sifry tells the story of WikiLeaks in the context of the growing movement for transparency in politics and of the crowdsourcing activism that the Internet and Web 2.0 has made possible. In particular, he looks at the achievements of open-source web projects that collate information for individuals and governments alike, and describes how crowdsourcing initiatives have analysed MPs’ expenses, recorded political violence in Kenya and reduced bribery in India. Finally, Sifry discusses the rather ambivalent attitudes displayed by political elites, many of whom have embraced the idea of open government in opposition only to go quiet once in power.
‘Micah Sifry doesn’t just know WikiLeaks. He sees how it relates to everything from Obama’s victory to the Tea Party’s appearance to electoral politics in Croatia, and he uses his incredible breadth of experience to show us how Wikileaks is part of a large, long-term trend in favor of the spread and visibility of information about our world.’ – Clay Shirky
Micah Sifry is the co-founder and executive editor of the Personal Democracy Forum (where Assange has spoken twice), editor of its award-winning techPresident.com blog, and a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation. A former editor and writer at The Nation magazine, he is the author of Spoiling for a Fight, co-author of Is that a Politician in Your Pocket? and co-editor of two anthologies: The Iraq War Reader and The Gulf War Reader.
‘By studying so carefully how technology is changing politics, he’s been preparing for years to write this book. We should be grateful that he actually did.’ – Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism, New York University; author of PressThink.org
You can read more from Micah Sifry on personal blog, his TechPresident blog on the Personal Democracy Forum and on Twitter. WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency is available from Yale University Press.
Micah Sifry speaks with Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg
Micah Sifry discusses the power of transparency with renowned whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York City. Assange participated by Skype video from Australia. it was the first time the two men had ever talked with each other.
More on WikiLeaks
An in-depth analysis of a leaked military video showing a US army helicopter firing on Iraqis, including an interview with Julian Assange (from AlJazeera English)
An edited version of Julian Assange’s debate on freedom of information with David Aaronovitch and Jonathan Dimbleby (from City University London)