A CHALLENGE FOR TECHNOLOGICALLY-ENHANCED SYSTEMS FOR WISE DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY:
How do we integrate the distributed intelligence capacities of self-organized computerized networking and the wisdom-generating capacities of high quality deliberation to do any - and preferably all - of the following:
* Identify public issues that are of broad public interest and/or critical to the public welfare and long-term health of the community, society or world?
* Create and make broadly available high-quality information about the full range of public issues -- information that is designed to expand the understanding of ordinary people in trustworthy (unbiased, balanced, and/or multi-viewpointed), insightful, and engaging ways? (Ideally this would include the shared understandings reached through the high-quality deliberations of diverse groups of experts and citizens.)
* Generate solutions to social issues that are popular, doable, creative and wise?
* Enable a full spectrum of citizen action around those solutions -- from lifestyle change to action groups to community programs to voting and lobbying?
* Pressure established sources of public policy, governance and social power -- politicians, bureaucracies, media, academia, corporations, non-profits, etc. -- to address and align with these solutions and to support the citizen deliberations and actions associated with them?
The ultimate goal would be to have a way for the inclusive We the People to continually generate -- in an organic, iterative, self-organized manner -- the coherent collective understandings, wisdom, will, policy and action necessary to guide our collective affairs: In other words, this envisions a society-wide collective intelligence capable of learning from its collective experience, anticipating future opportunities and dangers, and maintaining a healthy fit with its changing environment through appropriate initiatives and adaptations.
Such a collective intelligence would NOT be centrally controlled or homogenous. But it would have interconnected levels of inclusion through which (in and between the levels) the whole could encounter the parts and the parts could encounter the whole. It would have both emergent and designed forms of interactivity and coordination. It would support both divergence and convergence.
It would include and/or learn from (among many other innovations and resources): * e-voting * citizen deliberative councils * Civic Space capacities * wiki * blogdom * the wisdom of crowds * traditional experts * emergent experts * teleconferencing * televoting * conversation cafes * small gatherings like living room salons, support groups, and book clubs * study circles * open space conferences * the world cafe * random selection * self-organization * National Issues Forums * the power law
Here are some possible design elements for an emergent, wise, electronically facilitated democracy
1. WISDOM-GENERATING DELIBERATION
2. NETWORKS OF SHARING, VALUE-ADDING NODES
3. STORES OF ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE / IDEAS / POSSIBILITIES
4. FEEDBACK LOOPS THAT ENABLE COLLECTIVE LEARNING
5. FACILITATED GROUP-FORMING CAPACITY
6. ENHANCED CITIZEN-GROUP FUNCTIONALITY
7. PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THOSE CREATING EFFECTS AND THOSE AFFECTED
a. The primary fractal pattern is one of networks of deliberative sharing nodes in which the nodes may be individuals, groups, organizations and/or communities.
b. The deliberative sharing nodes raise the value of the information they receive and then pass on by connecting it to other information, people, possibilities, contexts, etc., and/or by changing it to bring out new applications or nuances or integrating it into new combinations with other information.
c. There are grades of deliberation, with the higher grades involving more useful, creative and/or elegant integrations of greater and more relevant diversity, producing longer, broader benefits (wisdom). (More different voices heard and well integrated with more co-creativity than compromise.)
c. The shared information is retained in accessible form to all nodes in the system.
d. At the individual level, individuals are linked as per network theory. At the group level, groups are linked as per network theory. At the organizational level, organizations are linked as per network theory. At the community level, communities are linked as per network theory. And so on, for every level and kind of human system. Furthermore, these levels and kinds are interlinked across boundaries, so that individuals can interact directly with communities and groups can access the accumulated information of an organization, etc.
Can we imagine a system that weaves together
* Stakeholder councils like consensus councils and future search for addressing conflict
* Open Space for creative self-organization
* Citizen deliberative councils to provide broad-spectrum integral solutions
* Representative governance
* Social software for identifying priority issues, connecting those of common interest, developing policy options, exploring issue complexities and interconnections, ...
Here are two different (but by no means mutually exclusive) strategic approaches:
a. Create infotech innovations to meet the informational and publicity needs of citizen deliberative councils and increase their effectiveness. b. Create innovations through which the deliberative functions normally concentrated in the form of citizen deliberative councils (see "CDC Enhancement/Deconstruction Project" below) can be filled in other ways using the distributed systems.
We don't know which of these, or what combination of them, would offer the highest cost-benefit effectiveness. . .
characteristic features of extreme democracy
competitive, empowers partisans and interest groups
distributed network intelligence
characteristic features of co-intelligent democracy
integral, empower an inclusive We the People
whole field intelligence
holographic. . . . .
Establish a pool of volunteers from which deliberative groups can be drawn and a pool of facilitators willing to facilitate such groups. Have software through which each person gives demographic and locational data that can be later used to randomly (or automatically) select diverse deliberative groups who can easily meet face to face with a facilitator.
There could be levels of group diversity, e.g.: BASIC GROUP - 4-24 volunteers willing to follow civic discourse rules (no diversity requirement) DIVERSE GROUP - A Basic Group that contains at least 2 members of each major party and 3 independent or minor party voters. REFLECTIVE GROUP - A Diverse Group that reflects the diversity of their community, with any demographic group that contains 10% of the community being represented in the group (although perhaps not necessarily in proportion to the whole-community profile).
We could then imagine different levels of "legitimacy" in citizen deliberations - ranging from whoever shows up to an online discussion to... a Basic Group of two dozen volunteers with a facilitator and organized web research on their topic to... a "planning cell" process made up of at least a dozen grassroots Reflective Groups with facilitators, consulting online with experts, and whose findings and recommendations are somehow integrated into one report to... a standard citizen deliberative council (CDC) with facilitated face-to-face deliberations by a group of 1-2 dozen people selected by rigorous random or demographic selection, cross-examining rigorously diverse experts in person and consulting web resources, and then engaging many study circles or Basic Groups in discussing the results which, if broadly approved of, would be widely promoted and advocated by groups like Move On.org (or a nonpartisan, inclusive We the People version of Move On).
A Move On type arrangement could be set up where issues are surfaced through online selection methods, and local Basic Groups meet every month to study those issues and make recommendations. Some way could be provided to integrate the results of diverse Basic Groups which, if they were consistent with each other, would have a sort of better-than-survey deliberative legitimacy even if they weren't convened with the rigor of a CDC. The degree of consistency could determine whether CDCs or ballot initiatives or other decisive processes would be undertaken by the entire network (funded by the same small-donation aggregation methods used by Move On to buy campaign ads).
Sometimes it may be advisable to have teleconferences or televote audiences through which rigorous CDCs can consult with less rigorous deliberative audiences who have studied and talked about the issue but aren't immersed in it. This is a gradient through which to check their sense of the issue before reporting to the raw public who may be less informed and deliberative about it.
1. Maintain quality deliberation 2. Make it cheap, and otherwise keep convening/participation obstacles low 3. Engage lots of people (one way or another) 4. Have impact on the whole population (public opinion, public action, public behavior) 5. Have impact on powerholders and decision-makers (politicians, corporations, media, etc.)
ISSUES ABOUT SURFACING ISSUES
Issues should be surfaced a. from public opinion surveys or other whole-population research b. from engaged citizens c. from experts who see emerging issues the broad public doesn't yet see (e.g. technological developments, powerful hidden system effects, etc.)
A possible outline for a talk not given in Palo Alto 9/16/04 (I gave another talk..)
Just let me get a reality check here, so I have a sense of how to talk about this. How many of you have some familiarity with my work and with citizen deliberative councils?
OK, thanks. Let me check a few other things:
How many of you have been in conversations where you ended off with most everyone having learned things - or having created new knowledge together - that none of you knew before?
How many of you have experienced a LOT of those conversations, or live or work where there's lots of that kind of conversation?
OK. Just a couple of more questions. How many of you think we'll need a lot more wisdom in our collective decision-making if civilization is going to make it through the 21st Century? (You can use whatever definition of "make it" suits you.)
How many of you think democracy should be capable of generating that collective wisdom?
Thanks for your patience answering my questions. (Pause)
I usually don't read my speeches. But I'm not giving you any of my stump speeches tonight. The Extreme Democracy folks have presented me with new challenges and new opportunities which have left me on new ground. I'm just beginning to get some clarity, but I don't know it well enough yet to give it to you fresh from my mind. I just wrote this last night, discovering things even as I did so. Except for the section on citizen deliberative councils, it is all quite new.
So I think what I'd most like to have happen tonight is to share with you a different vision of democracy than most people have - a vision of an integral or holistic democracy - and to give you an example of the kind of social technology that I am already aware of that could help us realize that vision. Then I'd like to actively explore with you ways we might weave together the emerging social technologies you and the Extreme Democracy people are aware of, and the emerging social technologies that I am most aware of. I have a hunch there might be a breakthrough available for all of us down that road. I don't know if we'll be able to get there tonight, but I am VERY intrigued with the possibility. We'll see what we do here.
First of all, let me say that it seems to me that among Extreme Democracy folks, the term "social technology" refers to things like telecommunications media, networking and computer hardware and software. I and a number of other people use the term to also embrace ANY techniques, methodologies, practical know-how that are designed to influence our social life - in groups, organizations, communities, societies, and so on. This can include computer-related technologies, but it can also relate to modes of governance, to public dialogue techniques, to innovative economic models, and so on. My own area of expertise in this field embraces the methodologies of dialogue and deliberation - primarily face to face dialogue and deliberation - and ways they can be improved, empowered and plugged into real-life politics and governance.
So now I encounter you folks (and I sadly admit I've been resisting this encounter for years) and I find some really remarkable other social technologies. And I'm sensing the marriage of these two could be quite powerful, if we could figure it out.
So let me give you an example of what I'm talking about as a dialogue-and-deliberation form of social technology. I call it citizen deliberative councils and it has cropped up in at least six distinct forms hundreds of times and places around the world.
:BC'S CITIZEN ASSEMBLY
Now, when Joichi Ito says "SOCIAL technologies have emerged that enable citizens to self-organize more easily. These technologies may eventually enable democracies to scale and become more adaptable and direct" and when he talks about technologies that could help citizens "participate and interact in a way that facilitates self-organization and emergent understanding" - THIS is what _I_ think of.
Now, notice that this isn't helping activists do their activist work. And it isn't networking thousands or millions of people together through email, websites and blogs. It is just a way of gathering a handful of DIVERSE and ORDINARY people to generate some community wisdom together. True, they may fight about their differences, but the conversation they're in is not DESIGNED to help any one of them to win. It is designed to help them together find something that is larger than what any one of them walked in the room with. Which is why I asked you that question at the beginning. This is a special kind of conversation. Many of us use the terms dialogue and deliberation to distinguish this kind of conversation from debate and argument. DIALOGUE has an exploratory quality to it, and DELIBERATION connotes people carefully considering a situation in order to come to a collective decision about it. Any adversarial energies are subsumed into the effort to find some hopefully creative and effective common ground.
Dialogue, in particular, (in this sense of the word) is concerned with discovering what piece of the truth or the solution each person has, getting that out on the table and then together realizing the bigger, more complex picture painted by that inclusive approach. Then, with everyone feeling heard and together confronting the real complexity of the issue they're struggling with, the whole group can search together for ways to handle the issue well.
This is what I mean by integral or holistic democracy. It is an effort to value differences as resources for greater understanding and wiser decision-making, rather than as a way to draw the lines of battle. Citizen deliberative councils are particularly effective at creating that common-sense consensus-seeking atmosphere. They actually generate community wisdom. They are little modular machines for cranking out wise perspectives and policy.
But we face a number of problems with them. First of all, they are expensive, at least for grassroots work. Cheap ones cost several thousand dollars and move up into the tens of thousands of dollars rapidly as you increase the quality or the scale you are addressing. So it isn't easy to get these rolling in the face of any skepticism at all. Secondly, there's the issue of publicity. Most CDCs have been used for advising government or nonprofit agencies or legislative bodies, and their results have not been widely promoted. While this is useful, their relative public invisibility seriously limit their ability to involve and uplift the broader conversations of democracy, which is vital if they are going to be made central to a new democracy. Thirdly, they are subject to the framings and information provided by the organizers and the chosen experts, without ever engaging with the vast informational ocean of the Internet or networks of grassroots expertise.
There may be other problems with CDCs which we could address, but these three alone promise to be provocative and productive enough. Is it possible that CDCs could provide a way for Extreme Democracy to become fully inclusive of the whole population -- to integrate the diversity of communities and nations instead of just empowering the partisans in the battle to fight more effectively? Is it possible that Extreme Democracy holds the secrets for CDCs to break out of their limitations into broader use so their gifts can become deeply interwoven into the diverse networked conversations envisioned by the visionaries of Extreme Democracy? Could it be that the combination of integral collective intelligence generated by the CDCs and the distributed collective intelligence generated by the vibrant and self-replicating networks of Extreme Democracy would create such a obviously wise and compellingly insistent Will and Voice for We the People - the Whole People - that parties and elite manipulaters would simply no longer be able to get a grip on a no longer confused population?
There are probably a whole lot of problems and possibilities I'm overlooking here. But perhaps at least some of you can smell the bakery I smell around the corner. I don't know exactly what's cooking in there, but it sure smells good!
1. Talk about the different assumptions, trade-offs, and benefits involved with the CDC vision of democracy and the Extreme Democracy vision 2. Use computer and telecommunications innovations to enhance and spread CDCs 3. Deconstruct CDCs so their positive functions can be performed by other aspects of Extreme Democracy
1. Comparative strengths of dialogue and info-telecom technologies
The strengths of the face-to-face dialogue technologies include * Concentrated collective intelligence * Wisdom-generation: relatively fast, high quality coherence attainable among significantly diverse views * Whole body-mind-heart-spirit encounter and engagement, including body language and tone of voice. Face-to-face communication can be more nuanced (including but not necessarily more intimate and safe). Heartful welcome, when it is present, is more readily experienced, giving facilitators a good means to evoke high-quality communication * Involving people who don't have, have access to, have competence with or like computers and technology -- which is especially important for certain demographic groups.
The strengths of the information and telecommunication technologies include: * Involving many people with minimal cost. This makes possible distributed collective intelligence, aggregating popular preferences and the rapid migration of memes, as well as a more easily grasped sense of participatory democracy. * Involving people who don't have access to scarce facilitated face-to-face conversations * Anonymity, which can provide safety and preclude certain kinds of stereotyping * The possibility of asynchronous conversation * The possibility of audiovisual non-local conversation * Often the communication, itself, leaves a written record * Can enhance the quality of communication because, in many forms, it allows second thoughts before responding * More flexible access to vast stores of information
BOTH, in different ways, make more possible * working over documents together * multi-media, multi-modal learning * facilitation
major disadvantages of CDCs and IT systems
CDCs * costs more than most grassroots efforts can afford (thousands of dollars per) * no independent way to promulgate or implement the results
IT systems * participation seldom reflects the diversity of the community * harder to ensure high quality dialogue
CDC Enhancement/Deconstruction Project
If we were going to deconstruct and reconstruct Citizen Deliberative Councils into something else (probably something that more easily fit the nature of Extreme Democracy) what would they look like? Here are elements that I consider particularly compelling about CDCs which I'd feel should be replicable in other forms (* indicates a characteristic of some CDCs, but not others, which I consider highly desirable). I've also included a few elements that COULD be part of CDCs tied into Extreme Democracy capabilities (indicated by **):
Appropriately diverse, free participants * Microcosm Reflection Of Diversity - cross-section of population reflects diversity of whole population (by way of a Random Reflective Sample or ________) * Individuals Can Be Themselves - participants not limited by their need to "represent" others; they behave as individual peers and can change or create new options whenever that makes sense to them. (facilitated by a Random Reflective Sample, special "charge", or ________) * They are not subject to lobbying (facilitated by a Random Reflective Sample, ad hoc status, official oversight, or ________) * Participants are selected with demonstrable lack of bias, which gives them legitimacy (facilitated by a Random Reflective Sample or ________)
Access to appropriately diverse, useful information * Full-spectrum information -- at least "both sides" and preferably more perspectives (facilitated by adversary oversight committee or ________) * Demonstrably unbiased compilation of materials -- at least "both sides" and preferably more perspectives (facilitated by adversary oversight committee or ________) * Information understandable to ordinary people (facilitated by intentional editorial work, audio-visual materials, and briefings to experts, or ___________) * Access to diverse (full-spectrum) expertise (facilitated by prior intentional arrangement or _______________) * Ability to interview and cross-examine experts (facilitated by prior intentional arrangement and design or _______________)
** Access to online sites that specialize in balanced, comparative or integral information about various issues. ** Online access to networks of grassroots activists ready to participate in helping them craft questions, find out what they need to know, figure out what the options (and related trade-offs) are and what they might recommend. ** Resources on the internet can be referred to and projected on the walls.
*** Publicly viewable interviews by experts (perhaps like the TV news interviews, on a big screen that is televised) *** Public could input streaming questions for panelists (the way the Google office has a stream of people's inquiries)
High-quality dialogue and deliberation * People truly MEET each other through safe, authentic face-to-face encounter and exchange (facilitated by being in the same room, facilitation and/or _____________) * Conversation is respectful (even when adversarial and emotional) (facilitated by facilitation, briefings, and _____________) * Comments are germane to the topic (facilitated by facilitation, briefings and _____________) * Everyone has a fair chance to speak and be heard, without a very few voices dominating (facilitated by facilitation, small-group interactions, and/or _____________) * Participants feel fully heard (facilitated by facilitation or _____________) * * Emotions and stories are welcomed, as well as analysis, facts and reasoning (facilitated by facilitation or _____________) * * There is real progress in understanding the views of others (facilitated by facilitation or _____________) * There is real progress in understanding the actual complexity and implications of the topic (facilitated by facilitation or _____________) * A record is made of the conversation (facilitated by chart-padding, note-taking, audiovisual recording, or _____________) * Group co-creativity is stimulated (facilitated by facilitation or _____________) * * Multiple CDCs held on the same topic simultaneously *
** Engage public DURING CDC with public brainstorming, innovation and deliberation -- possibly linked to the CDC participants ** A trained devil's advocate could ask experts tough questions. He could receive questions from the public in real time, and they could score him in real time on how he is doing ** A dialogue map of the CDC's deliberations can be posted online
Coherent findings and recommendations * Decisions are made by majority vote (or super-majority, or consensus*) (facilitated by pre-determined process) * Coherent findings and recommendations are produced (facilitated by facilitation, charge, _________________) * Minority views or issues that could not be resolved by consensus are noted and described in the final report (facilitated by design, facilitation, ______________) *
** Their first draft statement can be posted, blogged, wiki'd, etc., for a week or so before it is finalized.
Impact on governance * Findings and recommendations are sent to relevant officials or legislatures * Findings and recommendations are widely publicized * * There are many media reports on the deliberations and statement. * * Findings and recommendations are publicly discussed in some organized way * * Many citizens feel their collective identity and power as We the People * * Many citizens change their beliefs, attitudes or behaviors because of the report. * * Officials follow the recommendations or publicly say why they won't or can't. * * Recommendations are crafted into legislation for vote by the legislature. * * Recommendations are crafted into a ballot initiative for vote by the voters * * Recommendations re ballot initiatives or candidates are indicated on the ballot. *
** Publicize findings and recommendations through blogs, wikis and websites ** Have a party or political force like Move On dedicated to pushing whatever CDCs come up with, as a legitimate voice and will of We the People (vs. special interests that will try to undermine that)
How could blogs serve the power of CDC microcosms to reflect and create higher level resonance in their macrocosm?
How do we simultaneously * Support partisan advocates and enthusiasts to more effectively advocate for their causes * Make the best use of the wildly diverse but massive creative potential and energy that exists in the grassroots and the entire culture, to improve society * Enable ordinary citizens to understand a bigger picture of what's going on and exercise their citizenship more effectively * Catalyze a truly inclusive, integrative, powerful voice and will of We the People * Weave networks of interest and communities of practice into effective agents of democratic governance, especially at local levels (to the point of becoming parallel government?) * Reorient the philanthropic community from its institutional, ameliorative and adversarial foci to more focus on transforming the ways society creates its own order and consciously evolves (from political institutions to self-organized networking)
Purpose: The co-creation of shared understandings and activities that support a satisfactory quality of life for all (including natural systems and future generations).
Action: Catalyzing the highest collective intelligence and wisdom of We the People and then enabling We the People to self-organize to realize their wise collective will, either directly or through targeted influence on existing economic, political and governmental institutions.
We the People: The inclusive collective identity of a nation or world, as a conscious agent of the destiny of that nation or world. What "We the People" is NOT is all those people who happen to support our side, no matter how many of them there are or how visible.
:HISTORIC NOTE: The evolutionary manifestations of We the People have progressed from tribal consciousness - to kings - to elite leadership classes (aristocratic, bourgeois, proletarian, etc.) - to elected officials - to interacting microcosms consciously co-evolving with the macrocosm. (A microcosm is a part that reflects the whole, which is the macrocosm.)
The role of good democratic governance is tocraft rules for social interaction, solutions to social problems and enhancements of collective life and possibility that are
- wise - encompassing the full complexity of the situation and its relation to the rest of life
- practical - able to be implemented (in stages, if necessary)
- broadly appealing both to the public in general and to diverse stakeholders in particular
- engagement of a full-spectrum of viewpoints (on the issue and/or from the community)
- with full-spectrum information and expertise
- in creative debate, dialogue and deliberation
- involving anyone interested (one way or another)
- unbiased - overall neutral; won't be challenged as unfair
- transparent - no unviewable manipulation; available for review
- productive - produces high quality findings, policies, programs, etc.
- legitimate - widely honored as worthy of willing compliance
- informative - educating all parties and the broad public, including by providing insight into reasoning, motivation and context
- (in the case of government)
- implementation - including any needed funding, administration and enforcement
- oversight - to ensure competent alignment with original intention
- (in the case of self-organized efforts)
- orientation - through shared understanding, values, visions, etc.
- capacity to connect and coordinate activities
- review / feedback - to generate correction and collective learning
- individual and collective quality of life that works for all (including natural systems and future generations)
Misc. Notes and earlier versions
I read chapters of the EXTREME DEMOCRACY book and I soak up the vision, and I wonder, What do I have to offer this enterprise? And where do our visions intersect and resonate?
What I have to offer is a vision of democracy that resolves the struggle between activism and the common good -- a omni-viewpoint vision of democracy that specializes in using the diversity of viewpoint not as a testing ground for winners but as an inclusive alchemical soup for the generation of wisdom.
Mitch Ratcliffe says, "Public discourse is the process humans have used to organize themselves and work out their differences." and "The people's judgment is where a democrat's confidence rests and, if the people are well informed by a responsible government and press, if they are socialized to value participation, it is a confidence well placed." He also suggests that "As the potential number and range of connections available between people are increasingly dense and varied, the political center should be expanding to accommodate more perspectives; instead it is being eaten away by extremists who are shearing off constituencies from the center. If every one of these factions treats politics as a zero-sum game, where no compromise is possible, networked politics will lead to unending strife."
What I bring is a way beyond zero-sum politics. In fact, it is a way beyond mere additive politics and compromise. It is the politics of creative synergy -- of 1 plus 1 equals seventeen.
There is politics beyond activism if activism is the militant fight for a position we believe in. There is the alchemical politics of powerful dialogue and deliberation through which shared understandings are found. As ____ says (re shared understanding..)
There is more to politics than activism, political parties, campaigns, candidates and proposals. There is also creating the spaces and institutions where citizens can handle issues themselves and create policy together as an inclusive We the People, not a battle of interest groups. The battle won't go away; there are issues that will always require it. But most issues do not require battle for winners as much as dialogue and deliberation in search of creative solutions for the common good.
Mitch also says "The basic unit of organization in an extreme democracy is the activist -- a citizen engaged with an issue of concern about which they are willing to invest their time and effort to evolve relevant policy, whether at the local, state, national or international level. They engage their fellow citizens seeking support*" This is fine and powerful. It can be even more powerful if another basic unit of organization is We the People.
Joichi Ito says "New technologies can enable the emergence of a functional, more direct democratic system which can effectively manage complex issues [with]* a democratic style of collective consensus derived from 'many-to-many' conversations * [and] collaborative, innovative discussion" p 17 +18
How do you coordinate ongoing large-scale decision-making that is effective for a broad populace? How can the general population digest and comprehend the complexities involved in running a large state requiring deep understanding of the issues, specialization, and a division of labor. Representative democracy*is considered by most to be the only possible way to manage a democracy of significant scale*. [It] allows leaders to specialize and focus on the complex issues of governance, which an uneducated and uninterested general population could not be expected to grasp. [However] as the issues facing government have become more complex, social technologies (NOTE THIS) have emerged that enable citizens to self-organize more easily. These technologies may eventually enable democracies to scale and become more adaptable and direct." p 22 -23
NOTE THAT D&D ARE SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES
"Extremists and corporate interests can become dominant, and a 'silent majority' may have little input into the section of representatives or the critical debate." p 23 (CDCs handle this) Ito notes deliberative polling, but it is limited.
"The leader is often the messenger delivering the consensus of a community to another layer or group. As leadership becomes necessary to manage the development of an opinion or idea about a complex issue, information technology can enable quick and ad hoc leader selection and representation of consensus opinion in a larger debate." p 25 -- Note: CDCs can most legitimately play that consensus opinion in the larger community sphere.
Democratic process can be * representative - answerable leaders make decisions * participatory - many diverse citizens engage with each other over issues and/or * co-intelligent - wide-spectrum viewpoints and information interact to generate wisdom
Representative democracy produces legitimacy. Participatory democracy produces ownership. Co-intelligent democracy produces community wisdom.
"If information technology could provide tools for citizens in a democracy to participate and interact in a way that facilitates self-organization and emergent understanding [what I call real consensus], we can evolve a form of emergent democracy that would resolve complexity and scalability issues associated with democratic governance." -- Joichi Ito p 25
What ways do we have to use blogs (or other online solutions to social problems) in some organized way where they can be evaluated and accessible to the public and to citizen councils for (further) deliberation?
If political websites and blogs self-identified according to one (or a few) of a set (perhaps 20) of standard political labels (liberal, conservative, radical middle, independent, anarchist, libertarian, etc. - including "all sides integral" where things like CDC processes or results could be posted), then search (or other) software could be developed that allowed anyone to find sites that met their desired political criteria - including multiple criteria - including, most significantly, cross-divide multiples like BOTH LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE (meaning that the site specializes in describing more than one opposing perspective from a neutral, balanced stance) and the "all sides integral"/We the People sites (presenting material resulting from the sides actually talking together and coming up with something together). If we could combine that with ISSUE TOPIC searches, we could find sites that gave various positions about various issues, including the integral ones.
CDC experts could be on videos like on news programs, testifying to the CDCs but visible to everyone else, too. Other viewers could deliberate based on that testimony, either face to face or online.
Is it possible to have the web BECOME the full-spectrum experts that a CDC consults? It would have to be 2-way as well as just info, so there could be Q&A and challenges and cross-examination.
Ways to ameliorate the power law* * potlatch * random selection
*and its ability to render novel merit invisible*
* blog coalitions as one blog (mergers, shared portals of some kind?) * feeding criteria-based hierarchies into the system (where the criteria are popular), such as the Technorati Interesting Newcomers List * holding contests in various categories (including "new") - If many people run many contests using similar standards (perhaps easy-to-use software could be developed for this?) * can software spot "a sharp increase in links" that would highlight a newly popular blog? * A large group of volunteers who are automatically alerted to new blogs and do a quick rating of them. Each blog would go to at least three volunteers, to reduce personal bias.
Joichi Ito says in chapter one of Extreme Democracy:
Can citizens self-organize to deliberate on, and to address, complex issues democratically, without any one citizen required to know and comprehend the whole? This is the essence of emergence, the way that ant colonies can "think" and cellular DNA can evolve complex human bodies. If information technology could provide tools for citizens in a democracy to participate and interact in a way that facilitates self-organization and emergent understanding, we can evolve a form of emergent democracy that would resolve complexity and scalability issues associated with democratic governance.
In complex systems the role of the leader is not about determining direction and controlling followers. The leader maintains integrity, mediates the will of the many, influencing and communicating with peers and with other leaders.19 The leader becomes more of facilitator (or hub), and custodian of the process, than a power figure. She is the catalyst or manager of critical debate, or the representative of a group engaged in critical debate.20 The leader is often the messenger delivering the consensus of a community to another layer or group. As leadership becomes necessary to manage the development of an opinion or idea about a complex issue, information technology can enable quick and ad hoc leader selection and representation of consensus opinion in a larger debate.
This vision of democracy comes thrillingly close to mine - except that it uses the phrase "information technology" to describe where the tools for this come from. In my vision, the critical tools come from the field of dialogue and deliberation. However, Ito provides the missing piece two pages earlier, when he writes "SOCIAL technologies have emerged that enable citizens to self-organize more easily. These technologies may eventually enable democracies to scale and become more adaptable and direct." This is key. The phrase "social technologies" expands to include technologies of dialogue as well as technologies of networking and information. It may include other technologies as well, such as space design and citizen control of media. We often forget that "technology" is not made of just wires, silicon and electrons - it is primarily made of applied knowledge, of useful, workable design and technique. When we gain and apply the knowledge that allows us to create wise public policy from the collective minds and hearts of ordinary people, we are talking technology - SOCIAL technology.
And with that concept we can bridge and marry the previously isolated strands of know-how that we need to weave the new fabric of democracy we dream of.
So what I want to do with you here is to start this weaving. I've told you one type of technology from my world, the world of dialogue and deliberation -- these citizen deliberative councils. How do they and their role change when we begin weaving them together with the existing dream of extreme democracy? And how does that the extreme democracy dream morph?