The emergent democracy discussion has attracted various criticisms and defenses.
Richard Bennett suggests that the discussion is pointless, because some of the arguments in favor of emergent democracy are fuzzy, and because politicians aren’t paying any attention.
So I’d like to suggest an exercise for our utopian technologists: show how your technology can affect the passage of a legislative bill on a measure close to your heart; then try to make it happen in real life, and analyze why your expected result didn’t materialize.
Mitch Ratcliffe is encouraged by the focus on new tools, and believes that it is useful and important to discuss and experiment with new tools. His post includes very nice citations and analysis of the affect of new communications technologies throughout history.
These criticisms and defenses make the discussion sound more monolithic than it actually was.
My perception is that the “emergent democracy” discussions included a variety of opinions, including:
- a preference to focus on new tools to facilitate internet discussion and organizing
- a history of technology approach; identifying opportunities for new technologies to empower more people to influence and transform the political process
- a techno-determinist faith that the internet, blogging, etc. will somehow cause the emergence of an artificial intelligence that will govern us better than a human system of communication, power, and compromise
- a belief in the internet as a medium for direct democracy, which will replace and transcend representative democracy
Personally, I agree with the first two points, and disgree with the second two.
Even though I disagree with some of the more radical AI-inflected approaches, I agree strongly with Mitch that it’s valuable to discuss the concepts and experiment with the tools.
And I disagree strongly with Bennett, who argues that it’s pointless to experiment since politicians aren’t listening yet. If these processes aggregate votes and dollars, politicians will start paying attention.