November 3, 2008

Building a Bridge to 18th Century Democracy

Four years ago, we gathered to share thoughts about the role technology could take in reshaping democracy. After creating open source social software to help the Dean campaign. After Gov. Dean lost the primary, we shared thoughts on what worked and what didn’t.

As I write this, we are in the final hours of another election cycle. Soon, we will be talking about the role of technology in the Obama campaign. The campaign has made tremendous use of social technology to raise money, get its message out and motivate volunteers. The extent of the impact is likely to be argued extensively over the coming days. Yet there is a larger question, what affect has all of this had on the basic fabric of democracy and of our daily lives?

I must admit, I have not been as intimately involved with the Obama campaign as I was with the Dean campaign, so it may be that what I haven’t seen in this election cycle was there and I just missed it, but it seems like there were a few things that were missing that worry me.

The first is what I like to call the invitation to innovate. There was not the same imperative to innovate for the Obama campaign as there was for the Dean campaign. Many of the social network tools that we sought to create five years ago are done much better with off the shelf tools of today. I would go so far as to suggest that the use of social media far surpassed what we dreamt of five years ago. This time, the innovators have gotten lost in the crowd of early adopters and the early majority.

The second thing that I missed in this election cycle was the breathless theoreticians. Perhaps somewhere, someone was talking about whether or not the Obama campaign can bring about a Habermasian Public Sphere. A few different groups talked about publicly drafting policy, but like similar discussions in 2003 and 2004, this hasn’t seemed to get very far.

Now, grassroots organizations are talking about retooling, about how they can keep everyone that got energized by the Obama campaign involved. Will we see a real move towards a more open government? Will we see progress in eGovernance? Will we learn from those who came before us, and use technology, not only for fundraising and volunteer recruitment, but also to create a new Public Sphere?

Will we use technology to build a bridge to 18th Century Democracy?

Posted by Aldon Hynes at 3:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 21, 2007

Join extdemo discussion group

extdemo is a discussion group of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society, Texas Forums and Extreme Democracy focused on the book "Extreme Democracy" and its further development.

Click here to join.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 8:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2007

What's Next?

What's next for the extreme democracy discussion group? go to Texas Forums' Wiki and enter your ideas. Then join in the discussion on Monday, October 1, 2007 in the Texas Forums OPAL room at 7 pm CDT to discuss.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 7:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2007

Extreme Democracy Discussion Series

The Extreme Democracy Discussion Series was conducted almost every Monday evening from June 18, 2007 to September 17, 2007. The following are the set of discussion guides used in the discusion (when one existed). Recordings will be available in the future.

Framework for Extreme Democracy
Overview and History of Development of Extreme Democracy (interview)
Emergence, Emergent Democracy & the Emerging Second Super Power (no guide)
Extreme democracy (interview)
Politics and Networks
Strategy and Political Process
6.4 Billion Points of Light (interview)
Activist Technology
Political Tools
Future of Democracy

Posted by Paul Schumann at 3:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 24, 2007

Information, Values & Democratic Tools and Processes

In the discussion last night on Networks, I introduced the concept of a matrix of information and values. You can see this matrix by clicking on the link below:

Download file

The question I raised during the discussion was how do the tools and processes of extreme democracy map into this matrix?

Posted by Paul Schumann at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


“Diversity plus freedom creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.”
Clay Shirky

Power law

N = c/n

What factors control the rank?
When is the power law important?
When is the power law not important?

Traditional democracy does not scale well from small to large groups.
Networked society is not constrained by geography.
Extreme democracy takes place in real time.

“Failure to scale is evident when people feel disenfranchised, when they no longer have sufficient contact or interaction with their government to see their wishes reflected in its actions.”
Mitch Ratcliffe

Politicians express this disconnect by seeing only their own well being, sacrificing the common good for their own benefit at the expense of others.”

“Rule of 150”

“Mohandas K. Gandhi said, ‘One cannot unite a community without newspaper or journal of some kind.’ These separate trends of individual expression through blogs, an egalitarian journalism, and organized online activism are waking unrecognized communities of interest that will confound a political system designed for representation geographic constituencies. A concerted effort by the peoples of the world can transform the perception of the means and ends of government. Meanwhile, politics, the art of participation in social decision-making and a practice closely related to being "polite," which leans to achieve refinement, continues to function essentially as it has throughout history, through debate and compromise among people.”
Mitch Ratcliffe

“An answer to the continuing debate about political process will be based the integration of many, though not all, threads in recent human development into an expanded concept of the individual as the basis for the concept of sovereignty and the redefinition of the role of government institutions in order to revitalize political processes. A political philosophy must incorporate more than the experience of participation. An analysis of power, definite ideas about the role of the citizen and the government, and the principles society will embrace about the value of the individual are required, as well. Extreme democracy seeks to provide these foundational ideas to place the thrill of emergent organizations into socio-political context.”
Mitch Ratcliffe

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deep Confidence in the People

What’s your definition of extreme democracy?

Our republic and the founder’s distrust of the people has been documented. What do you mean by deep trust in the people?

It’s been my observation that it takes at least two of the major driving forces for change to be acting in order for a movement to be widespread – social, political, environmental, technological, demographic. Extreme democracy certainly has the technological driving force. What other major force is driving the acceptance of extreme democracy?

Do you see the change brought on by extreme democracy to be revolutionary or evolutionary?

Is our political system broken?

In the Wisdom of Crowds, and other recent books, as well as First Democracy, the need for and the power of judgment has been shown to be important for a democracy:

5. Citizen Wisdom: “In First Democracy, ordinary people were asked to use their wisdom to pass judgment on their leaders.” Woodruff concludes, “…the heart of democracy is the idea that ordinary people have the wisdom to govern themselves.”
6. Reasoning Without Knowledge: “Reasoning without knowledge is essential in government,” he writes. “Doing it well requires open debate. Doing it poorly is the fault of leaders who silence opposition, conceal the basis of their reasoning, or pretend to an authority that does not belong to them.”

What do we need to do to develop judgment in the people?

What do you see are the necessary conditions to enable the widespread application of extreme democracy? Principles, goals, systems & tools, and applications?

What are some examples of recent applications of extreme democracy?

What’s the future of extreme democracy?

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 2, 2007

Setting Happiness as a National Goal by Richard Layard

The best society is the one where the people are happiest, and the best policy is the one that produces the greatest happiness. So argued great eighteenth century thinkers like Jeremy Bentham, and their admirable views did much to inspire the social reforms of the century that followed. But in many cases it was difficult to apply the principle, because so little was known about what makes people happy. However, the last 30 years have seen a major scientific revolution, and we now know much more about what causes happiness - using the results of psychology and neuroscience.

Continue reading "Setting Happiness as a National Goal by Richard Layard"

Posted by Paul Schumann at 2:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Structure for Extreme Democracy?

It seems to be that the structure for extreme democracy is composed of principles, goals, systems & tools, and applications.

We have in our definition of our American democracy – of, by and for the people. While I’ve said this many times, I’m still not quite sure what it means. But, it seems to be related to the goals. And, the three goals I see for extreme democracy are:

1. Democracy: Participative, deliberative, grass roots, collaborative, one to one, open democracy, or many other descriptive terms for a broader involvement of the people.
2. Partisan: Political campaigns for people to represent us (by the people)
3. Advocacy: Activism, issues related goals (for the people)

These three sets of goals are vastly different.

Extreme democracy then has to have systems and tools to satisfy those goals. The tools are all the social software programs in use and being developed to foster the applications - communications, collaboration, conversation, deliberation, attraction, affinity, documentation, research, etc.

For me, if I can gain understanding of this three dimensional matrix, then I can begin to develop strategies and plans for the dissemination of the parts.

And, of course, it needs a set of principles to guide everything.

I’d really like to hear for you. What do you think of the structure? What are some more of the elements? How can we begin to complete the matrix?

Posted by Paul Schumann at 12:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

One World, Indivisible by John Renesch

Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1858 speech emphasized "a house divided against itself cannot stand” – words that also come to mind as I was pondering the excess divisiveness so prevalent in my country today. We are presently building silos of ideologies, isolating ourselves into factions and preaching to our choirs about the faults and defects of “the other.” Each silo is suffering from “groupthink” – reinforcing its own dogma and avoiding any feedback that disagrees with the party line. This simply builds the walls dividing us higher and higher, making reconciliation more difficult.

Continue reading "One World, Indivisible by John Renesch"

Posted by Paul Schumann at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)