A session with the founding President of Facebook and the former Vice President of the USA is the sort of one off experience that on its own can justify the trip to Austin. The excitement in the vast auditorium was palpable.
This was a tour of the history and future of democracy and how it might be shaped by the social web. The Athenian ideal and the importance of the Gutenberg press were the scene setters. Gore remains the master of the sound bite. He illustrated the impact of print on the spread of democratic ideas with the line “Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was the Harry Potter of the18th Century”.
There was agreement between the two that democracy in the US in its current form is deeply flawed. The ability of people to promote and publish on-line may have an even more significant impact than the arrival of the printing press. Whilst the people in power don’t really understand the power of the social web says Sean Parker “we may have an opportunity to take back the system.”
Gore is a great orator but at times he seemed unaware that for this audience Parker was the person that many of the SXSW audience came to hear. That said when the the “Nerd Spring” arrives and the history of democracy and the web is written both of these men will be cited in dispatches.