[talks] H Yu preFPO
mml at CS.Princeton.EDU
Mon Apr 18 09:30:42 EDT 2011
Harlan Yu will present his preFPO on Friday April 22 at 2PM in the
CITP Conference Room, 3d floor, Sherrerd Hall. The members of
his committee are: Ed Felten, advisor; Jen Rexford and Beth
Noveck (NYU Law School), readers; Mike Freedman and Matt
Salganik (SOC), nonreaders. Everyone is invited to attend his
talk. His abstract follows below.
Title: Designing Software to Shape Open Government Policy
An open government is fundamental to democratic societies. Openness enables citizens to
make well-informed electoral choices and to hold the government accountable for its
actions, and it promotes trust between the government and its people.
Modern advances in computing and communications technologies have transformed what it
means for a government to be open and transparent. Governments today can instantly
transmit large amounts of data directly to citizens, and citizens now have vast
capabilities to process and understand this information.
In this dissertation, we establish the basic principles for government's use of
information technology to increase openness, by focusing on the publication of raw
machine-processable datasets. We then discuss how the design of software can help guide
the government toward these openness principles and eventually to changes in existing
policies, processes or both. We consider two projects aimed at creating such changes at
the federal level.
The first project examines the closed nature of federal court records in the United
States. We describe the RECAP browser extension, which we purpose-built to liberate court
documents in a distributed and collaborative way, and show how its core design features
were essential to its widespread adoption. We address the impact our tool has made on the
policy discourse, as well as the limitations of this methodology to influence desirable
The second project looks at Congress and how the current legislative process significantly
hinders software-enabled transparency efforts. We show how the maintenance of the United
States Code is similar to-and distinct from-revision control of source code, and we
discuss the implications of these differences. We demonstrate new software tools that can,
in a limited setting, provide novel benefits to the legislative process, including
automatic error-detection and more efficient bill drafting. Finally, we outline what
Congress should do to facilitate the development of these new transparency tools.
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