Emergent Democracy: Theory and Practice

There was some hullabaloo last month, when Andrew Orlowsky made fun of the emergent democracy proponents as a bunch of techies who wouldn’t recognize politics if a ballot box fell on our heads.
In the real world, here’s how techniques of emergent democracy are being used in real live politics, helping activists combat the state-level DMCA. (An Orwellian bill which says that anything you do with your internet connection that is not expressly permitted by your ISP is forbidden.)
* I met the crew at EFF-Austin by going to a meet-up.
* Was alerted to the state-level DMCA by email from EFF-National
* Use Ed Felten’s blog the EFF website, and the Public Knowledge website to follow the bill’s progress in other states, share resources and network.
* Co-ordinate locally with a mailing list, and post local resources to a wiki.
* Work locally with the ACLU to inform legislators about the bills.
In practice, the emergent properties are more human and less AI.
* The net helps people with common interests find each other and get together
* Blogs, mailing lists, and wikis help people share and refine ideas
In practice, electronic channels interface with physical channels in traditional ways.
* Citizens visit, call and write legislators
* Supporters donate money to candidates
Over time, we may develop more sophisticated methods for aggregating conversation, enabling a broader and richer process of deliberation. Over time, the tools may be used for referenda and greater use of direct democracy.
The vision of the will of the citizenry, emerging from a million electronic messages, is science fiction today.
For now, emergent democracy enhances citizen participation in representative democracy.

One thought on “Emergent Democracy: Theory and Practice”

  1. Your one example does not do much to assuage the googlewashing of this newly packaged definition of democracy. Andrew at Register did not “make fun” of Ito’s crap, he drove some sense into it. The state level DMCA instance you cite is a minor success story (and note that it could have been achieved even by an offline activism organization otherwise, there was nothing that meetup and all that stuff did that was not otherwise possible through extant media) and only reinforces the abject stupidity of this new fangled “theory”.
    Ito’s site meanwhile is little more than a catalog of his self-important power lunches with other execs in Japan. His own gibberish is a prime example of why this blogging doohickey is no big deal — it is just a mechanism for an average Joe to write his own website resulting in a lot of noise on the net. I dare say 99% of all blogs are of the “Oh so we had this real cool party” or “Check out my new tatto and tongue piercing” genre.

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