Debugging Democracy: A Critical Analysis of the Rhetoric of Gov 2.0 at the USPTO




Lucas, Benjamin

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In its first year, the Obama administration established the Open Government Initiative, a program requiring all executive agencies to use digital media to advance transparency, collaboration, and participation. In this thesis, I consider the consequences of the initiative for democratic communication by examining an open government program administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO is using an online platform called IdeaScale to allow the public to suggest revisions to the written policies in the office's Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. First, I situate the program within the discourse of key proponents of the Open Government Initiative. Second, drawing on public contributions on the IdeaScale website and interviews with officials in the USPTO, I analyze IdeaScale as a site of generic communication. Third, I consider the way that the computer process implemented by IdeaScale functions as an expression of open government rhetoric. My analysis shows that the Open Government Initiative represents a shift away from the deliberative public-sphere model of communication and toward a competitive information-exchange model, drawing on a tradition of neoliberalism that is modulated by open-source development methods.



Gov 2.0, Open Government Initiative, Procedural rhetoric, Idea Scale, Internet genres, USPTO