You can help untangle Pittsburgh’s web of powerful people

Updated 3:15 p.m. Sept. 27

Figuring out which politicians are connected to which companies are connected to which lobbyists and so on doesn’t take an expert.

And Gabriel McMorland wants to prove that to you.

On Sunday, you can learn how to map the connections of powerful people in Pittsburgh using public documents and LittleSis — as in the opposite of Big Brother — which can be added to and used by anyone.

“Mapping Pittsburgh’s Power Elite” takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the county Department of Human Services building, 1 Smithfield St. (It was originally at the Thomas Merton Center, but moved due to high interest. Check out the Facebook event for more details.)

McMorland, an organizer at the resource center for peace and social justice work, said the map of connections can help people in Pittsburgh work on a variety of issues. To get something done, you have to know who to talk to, and no matter what the problem is, there are specific people and organizations that have the power to do something about it, McMorland said.

Connections are surprisingly — or maybe not so surprisingly — common, he said.

“It’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but it’s more like three.”  

Mapping the power

To create a resource that is accessible to anyone and easy to read, McMorland plans to use LittleSis, an open source website that calls itself “an involuntary Facebook of the 1 percent.”

There’s some information about Pittsburgh on the site now, but McMorland said he’d love to see it grow to the amount available for places like St. Louis and Chicago.

The website allows anyone to add to the content, but users and the LitteSis team are on the look out for mistakes. McMorland added that details in entries usually have supporting documents as well.

By using the website, McMorland said the center’s event will have a decentralized approach. There’s no new organization to join. If someone comes to this event, they don’t have to come back and, and if they miss the first one, they can come to the next ones. Also, everyone can track their own interests.

But doing it in the same place as other people makes it more fun and social, he said. Especially when connections are found.

“It’s fun to have eureka moment as a group,” McMorland said.

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