For the last 30 some years, forward thinkers have opined that modern communications technology (such as cell phones and the Internet) could give rise to a global democracy with a more empowered citizenry. Armed with information and the ability to communicate globally to anyone in an instant, people would rise up against oppressive regimes and other unjust concentrations of power. Sadly, this has not been realized in any sustainable way. Certainly, there have been events–sometimes major ones–that demonstrated the posssibility, but so far this has not created a lasting shift in citizen empowerment or in the quality of democracy. Still, I believe that the potential still exists, and this blog begins an ongoing journey to explore the latest developments.
It is an important journey, because we really need a revitalized democracy, a democracy that supports the greater employment of reason in public discourse and a more effective framework for public choice. As I have argued in other articles, the threat is that the same technology available to empower citizens is also available to powerful people who use it to unfairly and unethically consolidate their power and wealth, possibly permanently disrupting the counterbalancing mechanisms of democracy.
This concern has been recently explicated by former vice-president Al Gore also describes in his recent book, The Assault on Reason. Although Mr. Gore, in my opinion, attributes more blame to television than I think is reasnable (and will discuss more about in the future), he makes numerous solid points about the degradation of reason in public discourse. His book highlights some critical, subsurface issues that are largely ignored by the mainstream media. (For a much older, and I think even more alarming, study of the decline of public discourse and its contributing factors, see William Greider’s Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy.)
My proposal is that we need an active citizenry to engage in collective action. This may be possible by combining Web 2.0’s collaborative and massively interactive technology (ie., wikis, blogs, and Second Life) with social systems design to create a new kind of networked democracy. My interest is in exploring whether this is possible. If it is, it could fulfill the original vision of government legitimated by the will of the people in a way that has never before been possible in history.
To make this journey, I expect this blog will cover several themes such as
- Technology that is available (particuarly free or low cost) for self-organizing, grass-roots efforts
- Methodologies for mobilizing groups, especially large scale methodologies
- Approaches and techniques for creating social change
- Analysis of complex and pressing issues in global society
- The social impacts of technology
- The implications of technology on democracy–what changes, what stays the same
Of course, new directions will probably emerge. The journey may wind, reverse, and wander. It won’t be a finished or complete work, but rather regular presentation of current inquiries. I might change my mind as we go, but it will be on the basis of new information and an attempt to reach the truth. To all with sincere interest in the topic, comments and contributions are welcome.