Ming the Mechanic:
Ito and Lessig talk emergent democracy

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Ito and Lessig talk emergent democracy2003-03-06 23:59
by Flemming Funch

Joi Ito:
"Had dinner tonight with Lawrence Lessig to talk about emergent democracy and other things. Larry pointed out some interesting work called deliberative polling being done by Professor James S. Fishkin. Since polling is forces people to vote on something they don't really know too much, the data may be statistically accurate, but is not necessarily the best way to promote a democratic system. deliberative polling takes a diverse group of people, forces them to discuss the issues in small group, in large groups, small groups, over and over again for a fairly lengthy process until everyone has a pretty good idea of the issues and an balanced and eductated position. Polls are conducted through the process to track how people's opinions change. Afterwards, many of the people who have participated become much more active citizens. I think that this is similar to the emergent democracy idea that we have. Maybe we can try to do this deliberative polling using the online tools that we have."
Hm, interesting. Makes me think of Citizen Deliberative Councils. And wasn't it the Roman senate that picked regular citizens for its members on a rotating basis, whether they wanted to or not? There's something to say for bringing together a random cross-section of people, and hearing what they come up with, once they study the issues at hand. As opposed to career politicians and lobbyists trying to decide everything.
"Deliberative polling turns to the representatives to execute on these opinions. Antoin was the first to point out (many others have pointed this out later) that my paper misses an important part of the democratic process. The execution. It focuses on the deliberation part. Maybe emergent democracy should focus on those interesting moments in history where the people wake up and change government. Larry talked about how there were three such instances in the US. When the framers went against the bill of rights in writing the constitution, during the civil war and during the "new deal." Each of these involved a deviance from constitutional democracy because of a huge swell in the opinion of the people. Maybe emergent democracy enables the people to force an issue when it become important enough to engage the public to rise up. Sort of an information militia. We can rely on the experts in the representative democracy when this are running smoothly and the people are not engaged... Anyway, still very malformed thoughts, but a lot to think about."
Yes, of course, the action. There's something screwed up about deciding things in a disconnect from the action required to do it. That's again often what politicians do. Maybe real democracy is inextricably intertwined with action. Maybe it is what people choose to DO, if they're free to do so.

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