Beyond Broadcast 2007

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Renat's Comments


  • "Naked democracy": The basic idea is that most people don't participate in the democratic process on a regular basis. Going to a local school or library to vote every two or four years has become a milestone participatory event. "Naked democracy" is a vision of the democratic process where participation in decision-making becomes an everyday occurrence ("voting from one's bedroom").
    • As we discussed in class, the Internet (via blogging, wikis, etc.) enables and promotes naked democracy. Could it also be be making traditional milestone events like voting appear relatively less important?
    • Naked democracy is relatively easy to achieve in small groups (e.g., college co-ops), where everyone is familiar with the issues and has a direct stake in the outcome. Blogging etc may be restoring a "small village" feel to the complex and large system in the US.
  • Second Life: I attended the conference in SL as I wanted to see what all the hype was about
    • My overall impression is that the virtual conference was little more than a webcast + IRC. Several people expressed interest in doing something more radical with SL's capabilities, but it's unclear what else could have been done.
    • SL is just like RL. A couple of robot-looking participants notwithstanding, everyone looked normal (some people designed their avatars to look like them in real life). Everyone "sat" in virtual chairs and looked at the virtual screen. Is there more to SL?

Chris's Comments

I participated in the Participatory Policy working group. The group discussion evolved along several lines:

  1. What is the right way to promote legislative outcomes that favor participatory culture and democracy? Much of the discussion was on the effectiveness of and its applicability to other movements, including those not directly involving the Internet.
  2. What tools are available for participatory policymaking? Two of the tools mentioned were Congresspedia and OpenCongress, both of which currently seem to serve as aggregators for existing policy information. This certainly serves a valuable person, but it did not mesh with my idea of "participatory policy" - I was expecting more of a discussion on how wikis and other tools enable collaborative efforts to write policies, and the appropriateness and feasibility of implementing procedural rules on forums of that sort.
  3. How does participatory policymaking alter the current democratic regime? One argument was that it is tantamount to direct democracy, removing legislative power from elected representatives and vesting it in the citizenry. Another perspective was that participatory policymaking had more relevances to questions of authority and legitimacy than power; in other words, policies derived from citizen participation are not binding on governments, but departures from those policies require explanations and may result in democratic backlash. The latter appears to be a more workable method of encouraging participation in policymaking without devolving everything to a plebiscite.
  4. Is there an appropriate structure for participatory online policymaking? One of the major concerns is that there is a real connection between procedure and substance; thus, there are likely to be meta-debates about the appropriateness of, say, Robert's Rules of Order in structuring ongoing policy debates. Are peer ratings and reputation systems appropriate to structure community discourse?
  5. What preconditions are necessary for participatory policy? The primary requirement seems to be an engaged electorate and a clear expectation that the government will respond to the emergent policies; this presents something of a chicken-and-egg problem, as participatory policy is also identified as a solution to current civic apathy and criticisms of remote governance. Is it sufficient to trust that the communicative powers of the web will draw increasing interest to political discussions? If not, how can other mechanisms be deployed to attract this interest in the first instance? If critical mass can be reached, there was general consensus that the process would become self-sustaining, but there were no clear methods for reaching that point.