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[Nettime-bold] Re: [CPI-UA]: Reform Democracy for the Internet Age
Michael Gurstein on 6 Feb 2001 19:15:31 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: [CPI-UA]: Reform Democracy for the Internet Age

I've been thinking about issues of on-line participation and democracy quite a
lot recently and so I guess, have a lot of other people.

What I think is clear is that the Field of Dreams approach--build it and they
will come is just that, a Field of Dreams... lot's of folks are building them
(on-line processes for consultation/participation)
but not many folks are using them...

The question is how to draw some useful conclusions/direction from the
participation (or lack of participation) in these
and on a different level, to ask the question does the lack of (low level of)
participation overall mean that this
approach doesn't work and should be abandoned.

My personal conclusion is that we are just at very early stages in this process
and we are just testing out different technologies--physical, social,
emotional--for how these things can, or can be made to, work.  We are collecting
examples of how they won't work (Fields of Dreams) but there are also some
interesting examples of how they can be made to work--the anti-MAI and anti-WTO
C4LD in Toronto, even GKD and the GDG discussion are very good examples...  The
failed examples are too numerous to even try to list...

Some personal observations:
    * if you want specific kinds of outputs, you need to work at them and this
doesn't come for free... If someone wants to use ICT's for consultation it is
not enough to just set up an email list and expect the consultation to flow...
It needs care and nurturing--facilitation and animation--time and attention
    * web consultations work even less well than email consultations except in
highly constrained spheres or environments
    * to a very considerable degree silence is consent.  Around any single issue
or area of concern, there will be a rainbow of responses--from those with a
passionate interest to those with only the vaguest knowledge.  If the issue
matters enough to them, people will begin to pay attention and respond.  If
those with the passionate interest are diverting the process then they will
elicit a response from those with a less passionate interest and so on... This
happens on the net just as it does IRL...
    * we have no idea at this point how to link Net democracy/participation into
Real Life democratic participation... what has been done in this area to date is
the political equivalent of the DotCom craze/crash people threw a lot of
unsustainable models at the problem and when they weren't sustainable they
crashed... it doesn't mean that E-Commerce (E-participation?) is a dud, only
that figuring out how to make it work is going to take more effort/resources
than people originally expected
    * we need some theory on participation/democracy on the Net and we need some
significant re-analysis of current theories of participation/democracy in the
light of the Net as participation prosthetic.

However, IMHO the technology is fundamentally supportive of democratic
participation.  It has the capacity not only to facilitate communications,
information/knowledge sharing, and multi-logues but also to enhance and extend
these and thus by any definition they can only lead to greater democratic
participation (political disintermediation) rather than less.

There are of course, issues of access, but probably even now in developed
countries and in many parts of developing
countries, more folks have more access to broader political and participatory
processes via computer communications than through any other available means.

(I have a feeling BTW that a lot of those who are saying, well it hasn't worked
so let's give up on it, are pursuing other and fundamentally anti-democratic or
anti-participation agendas rather than anti-technology ones...

Mike Gurstein

----- Original Message -----
From: Colin J. Williams <cjw {AT} sympatico.ca>
To: CPI-UA Universal Access <cpi-ua {AT} vcn.bc.ca>
Sent: Sunday, February 04, 2001 2:19 PM
Subject: [CPI-UA]: Reform Democracy for the Internet Age

A Don Tapscott, a Toronto guru, offers advice to President
George W. Bush and looks to the new president to lead the
way so that Bush will assure his place in history.

As he sees it, an interactive democracy would increase civic
engagement.  With politically engaged citizens, we would
see a flowering of civic-society organizations, businesses and
social relationships.

He gives the ICANN process as an example of electronic
democracy and claims that elected representatives and
lobbyists would both feel threatened if a move were made
in this direction.

He gives no attention to the problem of ensuring that everyone
has an opportunity to participate in the process.  Is the legislator
to spend his/her time reading a list server for guidance?


Colin W.

hosted by Vancouver Community Network  http://www.vcn.bc.ca

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