The persistence of the pyramid

The last post was about tools and techniques to give more power to “bottom-up” organizations, and enable top-down organizations to get more done by empowering members. I see the pyramid getting flatter (or more arrows feeding into the network nodes), but I don’t see hierarchy disappearing for two reasons: attention and television.
The first reason is attention. In a complex society with a thriving democracy, most people can only commit a fraction of their time to civic activity. Organizational structures need to reflect hierarchy of commitment in attention and time — from people who’s willing to learn a bit and vote, to people who are committed volunteers, to people who have full-time public sector jobs.
Representative democracy takes the attention limit into account — there’s a relatively small number of people who are delegated to do the public’s business full time. These representatives are chartered with soliciting public input and making decisions.
There are alternate models of representation that are more democratic, but the representative structure demains. In the model of deliberative democracy promoted by Tom Attlee and others, deliberation is conducted more along the lines of extended jury duty. A group of ordinary citizens is chosen. They focus a significant amount of time studying and deliberating an issue, and then make a decision. This model used in the British Columbia project to choose a voting method.
The process of educating government decision-makers — lobbying, that is — can certainly be more democratic than it is — well-trained volunteers can get a lot done, at least on the state and local level. But there’s a practical limit to the number of people who can pursue face-to-face lobbying as a vocation or avocation.
The other source of hierarchy is television. Television is in persistent decline, but remains the single most effective means of political persuasion. It is conventional wisdom that in an election, television generates 48% of the voting decisions, and field get-out-the-vote activities get the last 3%. TV ads are extremely expensive, and the arts of ad polling and message-testing are in the hands of a small handful of wizards.
Young people (ages 18-34) use local tv news and the internet more than national news and newspapers for information according to a Carnegie study. The study reports that “the Internet, is number one among men, high-income groups, and broadband users.” According to the survey, young people say that the Internet, by a 41-to-15 percent margin over second ranked local TV, is

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