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Rebooting America

Rebooting America

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© 2008 by the Personal Democracy Press

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us
Rebooting Democracy is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
ISBN: 978-0-9817509-0-3
Printed in the United States of America
C o n t e n t s
Preface 1
Foreword 5
Est|e| 0]sur
Acknowledgements 9
Introduction 11
to: Micah L sifry, Personal Democracy Forum 2008 19
Zoc| Erle]
21st Century neo-enlightenment 27
Julie Bo||u Ce|aor]
echo Chambers = Democracy 32
0o.iJ weir|e|ce|
Participatory Democracy Demands Participation 38
Mic|oel Tu||
Winning the Future in the Personal Democracy Age 43
lewt Circ|ic|
Participation As sustainable Cooperation In Pursuit of Public Goals 48
Yuc|oi Ber|le|
By the People, For the People 54
/rJ|ew Rosiej
the Merciful Death of the Freedom of Information Act and the Birth
of true Government transparency: A short History 59
Eller Mille|
the Void We Must Fill 64
Ric|o|J C. |o|wuuJ
smartmobbing Democracy 70
|uwo|J R|eirculJ
Weaning Campaigns from old Media’s teat 75
B|oJ Teauletur
the Power of Inclusion 79
Mo|ie wilsur
In the Beginning there Were Wikis 83
Jus|uo |e.]
saving America from Its 18th Century Political system 87
Jor ||el orJ liccu Mele
small “d” Democracy 92
Susor C|owíu|J
Professional Politicians Beware! 95
/o|ur Swo|t/
sidewalks for Democracy online 101
Ste.er |. Cliít
Privacy in the Internet Age: time to Go? 108
Clerr |o|lor Re]rulJs
Can social network sites enable Political Action? 112
Joro| |u]J
In skypeoogletubeapedia We trust 117
Mo|tir Keo|rs
Grassroots Activism is More than a Campaign 122
Mu||o /o|ursMele
Corruption, technology and Constitutional Design 126
Zeu|]| Teoc|uut
our Voting Re-Public 133
Ju|r C. Buriío/
Checks and Balances Reinvigorated 139
C|oic lewao||
the “Killer App” of Public Participation 142
Mo|| Mu|u|]
Citizen 20 147
lorc] E. Tote orJ Mo|] C. wilsur
the Last top-Down Campaign 151
Jue T|iuui
tangled signals of Democracy 155
Mico| |. Sií|]
Finding Your obviousmeter 161
Mott Stulle|
Congress Reloaded 165
Mott|ew Bu|tur
Beyond WarGames 168
0uuclos Rus||uíí
the obvious Answer: online Voting 171
/llisur |. |ire
Who needs elected officials? 177
To|o |urt
new Gadgets Do not new Humanity Make 181
/.e|] Krouu orJ Terr]sur McCollo
Deliberative Democracy in theory and Practice 185
Koli]o |oalir
Government by the People 192
Bet| Siaure lu.ec|
self-organized self-Government 198
Scutt |eiíe|aor
the Digital Will of the People 201
|o|lu Jel Reol
Political Collaborative Production 204
Clo] S|i||]
Community Information Commons 209
|o||] C. Bu]te
the ethics of openness 215
Jeíí Jo|.is
Creating Humane Codelaw 221
Cere Kuu
Digital natives as self-Actualizing Citizens 225
w. |orce Berrett
A Millennial Upgrade for American Democracy 231
0o.iJ B. Sait|
Glossary 237
About the Editors 243
About Personal Democracy Forum 247
PReFACe
t
his project began as so many good things do, over a cup of
cofee. Our conversation wandered to talking about new social
media tools like blogs and social networking sites and their
important role in fostering an explosion of public participation in and
around the national political campaigns. We started wondering when
we might see the rise of similar public energies and optimism about
government and governing. For it’s clear we’re living in a new age,
where millions of people can participate directly in governance and
policy making, not just in ratifying the results on Election Day.
Te Internet is putting individual voters, and networks of activ-
ists, in positions that used to be the sole reserve of professionals. Today
anyone can be a reporter, a fundraiser or a community organizer; all it
takes is an Internet connection and a compelling message. And so we
wondered: as the Internet revolution hits the institutions of American
democracy, how might it change things for the better?
Dana Perino, the White House Press Secretary, summed up the
typical response of government ofcials accustomed to shutting cit-
izens out of governance when she responded to a question from a
1
Z PReFACe n
reporter earlier this year about the Iraq war by saying, “You had input.
Te American people have input every four years, and that’s the way
our system is set up.” In other words, the people had their say at the
election booth (a vote that may or may not have been recorded and
counted accurately, by the way) and now it’s our turn to run the coun-
try as we see ft, away from the watchful, interfering eye of citizens.
As we have seen, this kind of thinking and behavior is dangerous for
Americans and for American democracy.
On January 21, 2009, a new tenant will occupy the Oval Ofce,
and that person will be wise to continue to build on the public input
and participation that helped to put them there. Returning to business
as usual will be an enormous missed opportunity for both the new
president and the American public.
America’s wonderful, messy experiment with a republican form of
democracy is a work in progress, an unfolding story of astonishing
possibilities and periodic disappointment. Te storyline of this new
century is the yawning chasm between the passion that Americans,
particularly young people, have for a fair and just society, with the real-
ity of near permanent incumbency for elected ofcials and a gridlocked
political system.
Voting is our most visible political activity; it’s easy to see and mea-
sure, but it’s only a small part of the spectrum of political activities that
form the backbone of our democracy. Political campaigns have begun
to use an array of social media tools to connect with potential voters,
but there are far greater uses for these tools beyond campaigns and
elections. Social media and broad, enthusiastic participation together
can profoundly afect governance and policy development, who runs
for ofce and how, the communications between elected ofcials and
citizens beyond elections, and the loosening of the death grip of mon-
eyed, interests on politics and policies.
Tis jarring juxtaposition of our political reality against the poten-
PReFACe n J
tial for great political change is vividly revealed in the awful uses of
technology (e.g., touch-screen voting machines or microtargeting of
voters by what beer they buy) versus wonderful uses of technology
(e.g., cell phones used to mobilize voters or live-blogging of politi-
cal events that engage thousands of people in direct conversation with
candidates). Rebooting America is dedicated to understanding these dif-
ferences and providing a vision of how we can realize our collective
hope for a better future.
We invited a variety of interesting, creative thinkers spanning the
political spectrum and the generational divide, and from a variety of
diferent professional perspectives, to write essays for this anthology.
We also posted a general call for essays at the Personal Democracy
Forum website, and three of those submissions are included in this
volume.
Te essays are naturally as varied as the participants. Tey range
from revisiting the need for checks and balances within government
and between the government and its citizenry, to a radical reinter-
pretation of the public’s “right to know,” to the exponential power
of many-to-many deliberation to shape public policy. Tese essays
confrmed our optimistic sense that the political system is due for
substantive changes. Undoubtedly there are many more voices and
thinkers whom we failed to engage, and we apologize for those over-
sights. It is our hope that Rebooting America will continue as a living
document online, and to that end we are publishing all of the essays
at rebooting.personaldemocracy.com and inviting public comment
on (and of) the site.
We hope that, you, our readers and participants, will help to jump-
start conversations about increasing citizen participation in gover-
nance, opening the doors of government wider and making the walls
see-through, and unleashing our collective creativity to help solve
technical problems and break through long-standing entrenchments.
+ PReFACe n
Our future does not have to be a continuation of the past or the pres-
ent. We can create a new and better course—we just need to imagine
it frst.
—Allison Fine
—Micah L. Sifry
—Andrew Rasiej
—Josh Levy
FoReWoRD
Est|e| 0]sur
i
n 1816, Tomas Jeferson wrote, “If a nation expects to be igno-
rant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was
and never will be.” Tose words have never been more salient or
important than they are today. We have pressing public policy prob-
lems, adults who should be leaders yet instead lead willfully sheltered
lives of comfort and ignorance, a citizenry increasingly active in elec-
tions yet alienated from governance, an amazing array of new digital
tools and platforms that have the potential to inform and empower us
and let us self-organize in astonishing and efective ways. Te stage is
ready and the sunlight of the Internet is shining on us: It can provide
light and energy for a fertile, thousand-fowers-blooming garden, or it
can ignite the whole thing into fames and burn it out.
Tis anthology of essays is intended to shine light, to spark conver-
sations among citizens, and between voters and elected ofcials, about
how we can engage more people in public problem solving and com-
munity building. Just as the Net created new business models, so can
it foster new governance models.
Te essayists, an array of creative, innovative thinkers, were invited
to contribute short essays on the following topic:
5
c FoReWoRD n
When the Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787, they bravely
conjured a new form of self-government. But they couldn’t
have imagined a mass society with instantaneous, many-to-
many communications or many of the other innovations of
modernity. So, replacing that quill pen with a mouse, imagine
that you have to power to redesign American democracy for
the Internet Age. What would you do?
Each of the essays has a unique central idea. Tere are common
themes of citizen participation and empowerment, but within those
broad brushstrokes are interesting areas of convergence and divergence.
David Weinberger discusses the critical importance of echo chambers
to the conversation among citizens that powers our democracy. danah
boyd points out the need to break through these silos to broaden the
conversation about community life, but also cautions about the poten-
tial of today’s social networking sites to produce big changes in political
behavior. Glenn Harlan Reynolds discusses the fallacy of trying to protect
people’s privacy in the Internet Age, arguing that we should instead focus
on fostering greater transparency around (and through) government
institutions. Martin Kearns argues the opposite, that more protections
of individual privacy and data are needed to provide people with a sense
of personal security in order to engage civically either online or ofine.
Some essayists focused on lessons from the past (Julie Barko Ger-
many, Harry Boyte), others zeroed in on improving the present (Steven
Clift, Newt Gingrich), and a few gave us a view from the future (Ellen
Miller, Zack Exley). Several essayists proposed a radical restructuring of
our entire system of government (Aaron Swartz, Nicco Mele and Jan
Frel, and Douglas Rushkof) and others dwelt on the need for individu-
als to act outside government to propel change (Scott Heiferman, Susan
Crawford). And, of course, the radical libertarians call for the radical
restraint of government (Avery Knapp and Tennyson McCalla)!
Est |e| 0]sur n /
Our society is relentlessly focused on short-term news and results:
On Wall Street you have intraday stock movements and an obsession
with quarterly earnings and weekly sales fgures; in government, poli-
ticians pander to the polls using sound bites rather than engaging in
reasoned debates (e.g., the gas-tax tomfoolery of the recent presidential
campaign). And in private life, you have daily weigh-ins and snack bars
full of foodiness in place of plain old healthy living.
Rebooting America is a look at the long term—the past that could
have been and the future that still could be. It’s ironic that it’s a book,
but consider it a mere seed containing DNA seeking complementary
strands of life in an online conversation with other Americans about
how to “reboot” our country.
Please take a moment to explore the ideas and approaches in this
anthology. Share them with others and argue—constructively and
deeply—about them. Make them into something more than just a
book by extending them and giving them life.
—Esther Dyson
New York City
April 30, 2008
About the Author
Esther Dyson does business as EDventure Holdings. She spends most of
her time fostering new companies, new technologies and new markets.
In the Nineties she wrote a book about the impact of the Internet on
individuals’ lives (“Release 2.0”) and a seminal article for WIRED Magazine
about the impact of the Net on intellectual property. This decade, she
is focused not just on the Internet, but also on the privatization of
space exploration and the use of information technology in health care,
including the mapping of individuals’ genomes. She sits on a variety of
boards, most notably (in this context) that of the Sunlight Foundation.
ACKnoWLeDGeMents
i
t’s one thing to have an idea, and quite another to have the where-
withal to bring it to fruition. We are enormously grateful to the
Schumann Center for Media & Democracy for their fnancial
support for this project.
Of course, without our essayists, our volume wouldn’t be very
voluminous. Teir enthusiastic willingness to share their creative ideas
without remuneration and on an impossible deadline was enormously
gratifying. And this gratitude extends to our online essay entrants who
courageously shared their ideas with the world; we wish we could have
selected more of them for inclusion in this frst volume of essays. We
hope we have done justice to all of the contributors and their ideas and
are delighted that we will have the opportunity to share them widely.
We birthed this entire project in just a few months’ time, a ges-
tation period that usually spans several years. Tis was only possible
with team members who were extraordinarily fexible, enthusiastic,
and talented. We feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Julie
Trelstad and her team at Plain White Publishing. Julie is pioneering
the iTunes paradigm for publishing and we’re delighted to be along
for the ride. Her colleague Russ McIntosh of Studio McIntosh showed
9
1J ACKnoWL eDGeMents n
great patience and creativity in his designs. Mira Lieman-Sifry jumped
on board and became our excellent and adept lexicographer. Finally,
our good fortune extended to working with two outstanding editors,
Christina Baker Kline and Melissa Seeley, who worked very quickly
and with great aplomb. Our thanks and appreciation to all!
IntRoDUCtIon
o
ur greatest risk, we felt, when we began this project was
that all our essayists might somehow respond to our chal-
lenge with exactly the same answer. Much to our relief, and
hopefully your enjoyment, the answers are enormously and uniquely
diverse and interesting. Te essays in Rebooting America refect an array
of experiences and political perspectives; they also refect the themes,
concerns and hopes of our Founding Fathers. We decided, therefore,
to organize the essays around these themes.
We begin with a quote from Tom Paine, “When we are planning
for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” Zack
Exley embraces this idea in his very entertaining essay, a memo written
to Personal Democracy Forum editor Micah L. Sifry from the future
that suggests that what we need most to reinvent America is selfess
leadership.
We then move to our desperate need for an informed and edu-
cated citizenry, or as put so elegantly by John Adams, “Let us tenderly
and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to
read, think, speak, and write.” Julie Barko Germany gracefully retraces
the roots of our democracy from the philosophical underpinnings of
11
1Z I ntRoDUCtI on n
the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18
th
century. David Weinberger fol-
lows with a thoughtful and surprising essay on the importance of echo
chambers to support the conversations between like-minded people
that are the backbone of democracy. Michael Turk closes out this sec-
tion by lamenting that too much information and not enough curiosity
is depressing participation, but that the Internet makes an informed
citizenry and direct democracy possible.
Benjamin Franklin, prescient as always, recognized our current
dilemma of citizens shut out of government decision-making when he
wrote, “Tose who govern, having much business on their hands, do
not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into
execution new projects. Te best public measures are therefore seldom
adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion.” How-
ever, even Franklin could not have imagined the new digital tools that
enable large groups to co-create magnifcent new resources like Wiki-
pedia. But our essayists could and do imagine such great things. Yochai
Benkler, Newt Gingrich, and Andrew Rasiej strenuously, surely and
convincingly imagine our government remade by, in Gingrich’s words,
the “vast collective creativity of the American people” that supersedes
the narrow expertise and interests of government bureaucrats.
As previously mentioned, citizens need to be knowledgeable and
curious about their government. However, our government also needs
to easily, openly and energetically share information with us. Tomas
Jeferson wrote, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be
trusted with their own government.” Ellen Miller writes to us from
the year 2015 after the Freedom of Information Act has mercifully
passed away and a new era of complete government transparency has
emerged. Richard Harwood and Howard Rheingold describe the need
and opportunity to engage our citizenry in local eforts through virtual
commons that will force our government to open up and inform the
public. Brad Templeton closes this section with a forceful argument
I ntRoDUCtI on n 1J
for the need to wean the political system from the teat of big money
and big media, with an intriguing proposal to expand the use of free
e-mail communications from candidates to voters to better inform and
engage the public.
In their own time, the Founders pressed for the equality of man
with a passion and commitment never before seen (although their
vision was largely limited to land-owning men). Our essayists Marie
Wilson and Josh Levy expand this dream of equality and write com-
pelling essays on the opportunity to involve more Americans across
gender, race and income divides in government and policy making in
the Internet Age.
Te power of individual people to catalyze and lead great soci-
etal improvements was never far from the thoughts of the Founders.
Tomas Jeferson’s words echo many of his compatriots, “When the
people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government
fears the people, there is liberty.” Nicco Mele and Jan Frel argue that
the American system of government needs to be radically altered to
become more distributed and democratic, noting that we are long way
from the days of face-to-face democracy and relatively small numbers
of constituents per representative. Conversely, Susan Crawford argues,
“We should not discount the power of minor, visible, short-lived
action to have a great impact.” Aaron Swartz writes a fascinating piece
on the need to completely revamp our structure of government with
the introduction of a cascade of councils that would reach from the
neighborhood level all the way to the top of the federal government.
Finally, Steven Clift, a pioneer of e-democracy, provides a blueprint for
myriad ways to engage and activate citizens in local government using
new digital tools.
Te Founders constantly feared the seeping intrusion of govern-
ment on the lives of the people. “I believe there are more instances
of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent
1+ I ntRoDUCtI on n
encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpa-
tions,” wrote James Madison. In four very diferent approaches to this
topic, Glenn Reynolds argues for the need for government transpar-
ency rather than waging the quixotic fght for privacy in the Internet
Age. danah boyd writes that, “Rather than fantasizing about how social
network sites will be a cultural and democratic panacea, perhaps we
need to focus on the causes of alienation and disillusionment that stop
people from participating in communal and civic life.” In a unique
challenge to conventional wisdom, Martin Kearns argues for more, not
fewer, politicians, more “churn,” as he puts it, or turnover, in leadership
positions, more participation that will only happen when we ensure
greater preservation of our privacy, rather than more rules or govern-
ment agencies. Finally, Morra Aarons declares that there is no more “of
season” for citizenship. We need to transport the grassroots communi-
ties that are powering political campaigns to the capital after Election
Day, she argues, to help develop policy and govern the nation.
“Te essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it
must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Tis statement
holds as true today as it did when James Madison said it in 1829.
Zephyr Teachout details the long history of corruption in government,
aided by technological developments like gerrymandering and central-
ized media. She also provides specifc suggestions of the ways that our
Founders would have altered the Constitution to avert these threats.
John Bonifaz shares the concern about corruption eating away at the
foundations of our government by systematically detailing the threat
to our election system from private ownership of the machinery of
elections. On a more hopeful note, Craig Newmark describes the boon
to our system of checks and balances of new databases and citizen jour-
nalism tools like blogs that hold government and government ofcials
more accountable for their actions.
In a full circle of thought and commitment, the Internet revolution
I ntRoDUCtI on n 15
has enabled us to rediscover our passion for broad public participation
in government and governance. Mark Murphy, one of the winners of
our online essay contest, forecasts the next “killer app” that will engage
millions of Americans, probably through their existing online social
networks, in conversations about their government. Joe Trippi, in his
trademark candid and forward-thinking way, bears witness to the death
of top-down political campaigns. Micah L. Sifry shares a creative series
of ideas to make our vote more meaningful and communicative than
an “X” in a box. Finally, the people who know best about citizenship,
Nancy Tate and Mary Wilson of the League of Women Voters, describe
the opportunity for greater and more signifcant citizen involvement in
the Internet Age. Tese essayists have taken to heart Tomas Jeferson’s
warning, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of
the people alone. Te people themselves are its only safe depositories.”
We often despair of our inability to shape government to meet
our needs. It is helpful to be reminded that this isn’t a new lament.
Over two hundred years ago, John Adams wrote, “While all other sci-
ences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill—little better
understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand
years ago.” Matt Stoller has his own personal “Obviousmeter” that tells
us when government rules, like no YouTube postings on government
websites, reach critical levels of absurdity. Matthew Burton, another of
our essay contest winners, proposes a “Delegation for the Future” as
an addition to the House of Representatives that will solely focus on
future concerns that our federal government routinely ignores. Douglas
Rushkof is an enthusiastic proponent of using new gaming techniques
to rethink the structure and approach of government. Finally, Allison
Fine challenges us to recognize that the obvious answer to remedy the
awful 8-track tape voting machinery and greatly expand voting partici-
pation, particularly by young people, is voting online.
Back to the power of the people to control, instruct, and guide
1c I ntRoDUCtI on n
government. George Mason wrote, “In all our associations; in all our
agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim—that
all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from,
the people.” Tara Hunt takes this maxim to heart and questions why
we need elected ofcials at all. Te radical libertarians Avery Knapp
and Tennyson McCalla go even further and question the fundamen-
tal value of government to society. Kaliya Hamlin brings us back to
earth with a thoughtful examination of the diferent ways that citi-
zens can deliberately examine public issues in person aided by new
media tools.
We are left to explore the many ways that citizens can participate
in governance and policy development without becoming a profes-
sional member of the governing class. Tomas Jeferson weighs in, “I
have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be
trusted to govern themselves without a master.” Beth Noveck describes
the specifc ways that citizens, particularly those with technical exper-
tise, can successfully add value to policy and procedure development
using wiki-style processes, for example the very successful Peer-to-Pat-
ent open review process. Scott Heiferman, the founder of Meetup.
com, passionately defends the need for civic associations that advocate
for better or diferent government policies. Pablo del Real, the third of
our contest winners, imagines a civil society where citizens can weigh
in on every bill and resolution on the foor of the House of Representa-
tives. Clay Shirky longs for a new mechanism that will enable citizens
to more easily form groups with long-term political goals. And fnally,
Harry Boyte, the dean of democracy observers and writers, elegantly
discusses the possibility of recapturing the transformative public spirit
of the 1960s civil rights movement by reimagining the pubic commons
using Internet technology.
We are, of course, not just a nation of citizens but also a nation of
laws. However, what happens when laws are created with the express
I ntRoDUCtI on n 1/
purpose of shutting citizens out of our own government? Jef Jarvis
demands a new ethic of openness in government; transparency ought
to be our governmental default setting, he writes. Gene Koo provides a
compelling illustration of the Orwellian dangers of code law, “software
that assumes a particular interpretation of an ambiguous law, and in so
doing, essentially makes law.” In the words of Madison, ““It will be of
little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own
choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so
incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
We end our anthology on a hopeful note about the opportunity
that every successive generation has to improve upon our model of
government. Again, Tomas Jeferson: “We may consider each genera-
tion as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind
themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the
inhabitants of another country.” Lance Bennett afrms this view with
a description of a new style of citizenship practiced by young people,
the so-called Millennials, that he calls self-actualizing. We close our
volume with an essay by a Millennial, David B. Smith, and his hope-
ful message of the ways that young people of his generation are using
Internet tools to reshape our country into Democracy 2.0.
Te reader should feel free to sample the essays by particular
authors or themes, or to read the book from cover to cover. Any way
this anthology is sampled, the reader will quickly come to see that our
essays call for the people of this country to slice open our government,
turn it upside down and inside out, and reimagine it and us in new
ways.
to: MICAH L sIFRY, PeRsonAL
DeMoCRACY FoRUM 2008
Zoc| Erle]

Therefore, more than anything we will try to
build the ethic of true leadership not only into the American
political system, but into the American spirit.

TO: Micah L. Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum 2008
FROM: Micah L. Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum 2058
SUBJECT: Leadership
Dear Micah,
Tis e-mail has been delivered to your inbox via Google Time
Machine from the year 2058. I’m writing to share the results of an
incredible experiment, inspired by your Rebooting Democracy proj-
ect and carried out on its 50th anniversary. It is extremely important
that you recover from the shock of receiving this e-mail and act on
my recommendations as quickly as you can. As it turns out, you and
your Personal Democracy Forum buddies are better positioned to save
American democracy than even the Founding Fathers.
So, I have some good news for you and some bad news. First the
19
n ZJ to: MI CAH sI FRY, PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM 2 0 0 8
good news: In the biotech revolution of the 2020s, you and your Personal
Democracy Forum (PDF) business partner Andrew Rasiej invent the
“Bionet,” a network of wireless brain implants that connects all of human-
ity in one continuous, decentralized and unmediated conversation.
Te Bionet began as a gimmick at the Personal Democracy
Forum of 2022. You were only trying to give people an enhanced
way of making snarky comments behind panelists’ backs instead of
the on-screen back channel chats that had become too linear and
uninteresting. But conference goers refused to give up their Bionet
headsets, and found infnite uses for this new “mental telepathy”
in the wider world. You and Andrew became fantastically wealthy.
But I’m pleased to report that before anyone even had the chance to
grumble about a proprietary network of human consciousness, you
made the Bionet protocol an open standard—from the data abstrac-
tion layer all the way down to the headset specs.
Today, most people around the world have their Bionets implanted
at birth, along with other biological enhancements. Market penetra-
tion is efectively 100% because the benefts to businesses of providing
implants to workers and farmers to monitor their brain activities and
thoughts far outweigh the cost of subsidies for the poor.
I wish I had time to explain all the political upheaval, wars and eco-
nomic chaos of the past fve decades. But I’ll have to stick to the changes
brought by the Bionet. Basically, it’s turned the whole world into one
giant “Personal Democracy Forum,” in the truest sense of that phrase.
As you and many of our friends predicted, in a hyper-networked
world, the state has become less and less necessary. Te Bionet made
instant secret ballot voting as easy as daydreaming. In 2032, the Bionet
re-vote resolved the surreal election debacle between Karenna Gore and
George P. Bush. It was only a matter of time before “mind voting” was
used for every social decision great and small. A mind vote cost noth-
ing, and took only a few seconds to conduct. Rudimentary artifcial
Zoc| Erl e] n Z1
intelligence even made it possible to enable the Bionet to vote for you
automatically on most issues. Any time politicians were making unpop-
ular decisions, pressure would build for mind votes. And because mind
voting was so easy, it was difcult to argue against conducting one.
Naturally, there were problems. In fact, our nascent system of
instant, continuous mind voting in the United States helped to cause
World War III. Just a matter of growing pains, we thought. And so,
Lawrence Lessig’s frst action as prime minister of the post-war World
Parliament (long story!) was passing the “Personal Democracy Act of
2042.” Te law abolished politicians and delegated all policy making
to direct, instant “Personal Democracy.”
In that same year, Tomas Friedman published his bestselling
book “Te World is a Point,” arguing that the Bionet had efectively
eliminated distance, personal space, and any useful personal bound-
aries. He argued that the problem was not that there was too much
instantaneous, decentralized decision-making, but not enough. He
urged the have-nots of the world to metaphorically wear what he called
“the cellophane business suit” (a follow up to his concept from the old
Globalization Debate of the “Golden Straight Jacket” wherein, accord-
ing to Friedman, all nations had to accept the new rules of a global
economy including fair trade and transparency).
Te Personal Democracy Act did not have the intended results.
In the press, a lot of the problems were blamed on the fact that such
a high proportion of us in government were long past our “expiration
date.” But trust me, we’re all sharper now than we ever were with our
old biological brains. Tough it’s true, some of us did give them reason
to wonder. Press Secretary Joe Trippi’s immortal words, “Don’t worry,
this will fx everything!” became the slogan for just how out of touch
we Americans were with reality. Minister of Industry Yochai Benkler,
with his slogan,”All Power to the Network!” became more and more
dogmatic against any sort of industrial or agricultural planning. Te
n ZZ to: MI CAH sI FRY, PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM 2 0 0 8
results were immediate, dramatic and disastrous. First, there were the
mass famines and ecological catastrophe of the “Great Leap Inward.”
Benkler’s unfortunate televised comment, “Let them fgure it out for
themselves!” joined “Let them eat cake!” on the short list of historic
phrases that sparked full-blown revolutions.
However, because government had virtually withered away, the
revolutionary mobs in the street found that they had no one to rebel
against but themselves. Mind vote followed mind vote on thousands
of diferent economic policies and schemes to no end. We found it was
very easy to vote against pollution, but impossible to vote a replacement
non-polluting industry into being. We found it was easy to vote against
exploitative trade, but much more difcult to vote for a means of mak-
ing a living for poor countries when we stopped trading with them.
I can’t even bring myself to write down the fgures associated with
the economic, agricultural and ecological failures of the past 15 years.
I’ll just say that it made the carnage of Mao’s Great Leap Forward look
like a minor hiccup.
In reaction, an overly authoritarian camp rose up in politics (or
rather, what was left of politics). David Weinberger, after a transfor-
mation reminiscent of Mussolini’s turn from socialism to fascism,
became its intellectual leader. Zack Exley served as iron-fsted party
leader. But we kept our faith that “too much democracy” could not
be the problem.
Facing the failure of our eforts at Personal Democracy, we laid
blame on the doorstep of history. Te ability to “fgure it out for them-
selves,” we decided, had been stolen from humanity by the centuries
during which people were forced to live without the liberating efects
of Personal Democracy.
And so we hatched an idea. We would bring the Framers of the 1787
Constitution to the present day and show them the disastrous results of
their old-fashioned, “top-down” democracy. We would then send them
Zoc| Erl e] n ZJ
back with millions of Bionet headsets so that they could “reboot democ-
racy” and jump start progress toward a Personal Democracy utopia.
We knew that changing the past would erase our present, but with
billions of people starving and war waging all around the world, we
believed it was worth the sacrifce.
With the whole world watching through their Bionet mind’s eye,
Constitution Hall was teleported to the present with all of the Found-
ers inside. If you think you were shocked by the arrival of this e-mail,
just imagine how those guys felt at their arrival in a fantastic world of
the future.
It took a while, but they fnally got over their shock and accepted
the new reality that had been presented to them. After caucusing alone,
their appointed leader George Washington told us that the group
wanted a chance to read up on the events of our history (and their
future). We told them that they could take as long as they liked and
we would transport them back to the very same instant from which we
plucked them when we were done.
During their study, they kept their deliberations secret from our
world in the same way that they had kept their constitutional delibera-
tions secret from their world. We were impatient, but no one was going
to argue when George Washington told us, “Remove yourselves from
our premises!”
Two months passed. Ten America’s Founding Fathers presented
the world, via the Bionet, with their fndings. Te group chose Alex-
ander Hamilton as their spokesperson, because he had mastered the
terminology and the ways of the modern world better and faster than
anyone else in the group. More brains, in more languages, tuned in to
Hamilton’s speech than to any other event in the history of the Bionet
(save for the unveiling of Madonna’s new body in 2051).
21
“Dear Sirs,” he said (showing he hadn’t mastered every aspect of
st
century culture), “On behalf of my colleagues of the 1787 Con-
n Z+ to: MI CAH sI FRY, PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM 2 0 0 8
stitutional Convention, I thank you for giving us this opportunity to
study our future—your past—toward the aim of improving it.
“We now understand that the stakes of our enterprise were higher
than any of us imagined: Our United States of America will go on
to have a greater impact on the world than any other nation during
these three centuries. And yet, in our time it does not even call itself
one nation. We do see that we made many errors as we laid down the
foundation for this new country.
“But we do not accept your conclusion that this ‘personal democ-
racy’ is any solution for our age...or yours. First of all, we do not hold
democracy to be a panacea or an end in itself. We set out to create a
republic based on the non-negotiable principles of ‘Life, Liberty and
the Pursuit of Happiness.’ We believed that democracy was the best
means to that end.
“We knew it was a gamble. We knew that private interests would
descend upon our president and Congress as they had upon the Crown
and Parliament. Tat is why we attempted to base our democracy on
the hope that a democratically elected aristocracy of merit could replace
the old aristocracy of birthright.
“We now see that was folly. We were naïve to think that our compli-
cated system of ‘electors’ could replace the necessity of every generation
to fnd its own leaders, and empower them—’from the bottom up’ as
you love to say—to do what must be done. We were looking for a way
to make good leadership automatic. But we were wrong to believe we
could relieve future generations from that responsibility. We were treat-
ing our political system as if it were a mousetrap that merely needed
fne-tuning. You have brought us here in the hopes that we would go
back and commit that very same folly, but this time with your own
ingenious new system instead of ours.
“Today, you have reduced the concept of democracy to the ‘per-
sonal’ quest for happiness of twenty billion people, all rushing in
Zoc| Erl e] n Z5
diferent and often opposing directions. But democracy can never be
‘personal’—it is communal. Democracy is not a way to take care of
oneself, but a way to take care of others.
“We risked our lives for that kind of ‘democracy for others.’ But too
many of you are not even willing to risk your next promotion or grant.
“In our study of history, we have seen how our children and grand-
children immediately swept away our hopes for disinterested, selfess
leadership. Almost instantly they organized into petty political parties
that pandered to short-term private interests rather than the long-term
common good.
“We have not come up with any answers about what a diferent
system would have done better. After you send us back to Philadelphia,
we will consider that issue. But we have drawn one conclusion: We took
for granted that our example of selfess leadership would speak for itself
and be emulated by future generations. It didn’t. Terefore, more than
anything we will try to build the ethic of true leadership not only into
the American political system, but into the American spirit. Please wish
us luck, just as we will wish you great good fortune and fortitude.”
As we look back through history, we see a precipitous decline in
the quality of leadership right at the moment when mass media and
the Internet created the greatest opportunities for good leadership.
So, my dear younger self, and all others who are reading this, it is
up to us in every generation not just to build a better system in which
leadership can function better; it is up to us, above all, to be better
leaders. Terefore, you who are living at the dawn of the Networked
Age have the greatest responsibility not to abdicate humanity’s right to
conscious action to an abstract notion of ‘network,’ but instead to use
the powerful networks available to you as good leaders.
Good luck!
Yours in great hope,
Micah
n Zc to: MI CAH sI FRY, PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM 2 0 0 8
About the Author
Zack Exley is a strategic consultant with ThoughtWorks, Inc., where he
advises organizations on communications, organizing and technology.
He is also a co-founder and president of the New Organizing Institute.
He directed the online campaign for the British Labor Party’s 2005
re-election, was Director of Online Organizing and Communications at
Kerry-Edwards 2004 and served as national organizing director at
MoveOn.org.
21st CentURY
neo-enLIGHtenMent
Julie Bo||u Ce|aor]

Digital citizens should not be afraid to know
or to act, but we need a leadership willing to listen and
participate–not on platforms or pedestals, but on egalitarian
footing with their constituents.

f
our years ago, in the middle of the 2004 primaries, the online
political community heralded the rise of the political blogo-
sphere as an evolution in—and improvement upon—the printing
press. Political bloggers became the new pamphleteers, and more than
one journalist compared online political discussion groups, blogging
communities, and listservs to cofee houses, where people go to get
their daily fx of information.
It is not a coincidence that we embraced the metaphors of the
printing press, which once led Western Europe to question the tradi-
tions established by religious and political authorities, and cofeehouse,
where so many connections were made, business transactions were
conducted, and ideas were debated during the Enlightenment—the
Z/
Z8 21st CentURY neo- enLI GHtenMent n
era that birthed many of the ideas upon which our Declaration of
Independence and Constitution are based.
Tus, I cannot divorce a discussion about democracy in the
Internet Age without reference to the ideals and innovations of the
past. During the frst century BC, the Latin poet Horace wrote, “To
have begun is to be half done; dare to know; start!” Immanuel Kant
adopted the later part of this line, the phrase sapere aude, as the motto
of the Enlightenment in an essay titled “What is Enlightenment?” He
translated it to mean “have courage to learn” or “dare to be wise.”
When I read this translation, I feel a sense of movement, a belief
that through humanity’s reasoning faculties, we can envision new
forms of government, build new societies and—to quote (rather
anachronistically) Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem Ulysses—“to strive,
to seek, to fnd, and not to yield.” Or, to use a phrase popularized by
presidential candidate and Senator Barack Obama, Enlightenment-
era thinkers (including many of the Founders of our country) pos-
sessed the audacity to hope that through knowledge, reason, and
wisdom, men—and indeed, they meant men—could govern them-
selves without an intercession of a king, ruler, or tyrant. With reason,
wisdom, and knowledge, humanity and government could achieve
perfection.
Another Enlightenment thinker, and contemporary of our nation’s
Founders, French political scientist and philosopher Antoine-Nicholas
de Condorcet, outlined this belief in his Sketch for an Historical Picture
of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795). Educated citizens, he said,
will be able to govern themselves according to their own
knowledge; they will no longer be limited to a mechanical
knowledge of the procedures of the arts or of professional
routine; they will no longer depend for every trivial piece
Julie Bo| |u Ce| aor] n Z9
of business, every insignifcant matter of instruction on
clever men who rule over them in virtue of their necessary
superiority; and so they will attain a real equality, since
diferences in enlightenment or talent can no longer raise a
barrier between men who understand each other’s feelings,
ideas and language, some of whom may wish to be taught by
others but, to do so, will have no need to be controlled by
them, or who may wish to confde the care of government to
the ablest of their number but will not be compelled to yield
them absolute power in a spirit of blind confdence.
Tis concept remains fresh in 2008, during the early years of our
new era—an era in which citizen journalism challenges mainstream
media gatekeepers, regular voters track the fundraising and spending of
political candidates, and elected ofcials use blogs and wikis to ask for
public input about pending legislation. Te wisdom of the (informed)
many may, in fact, govern as well as an elite few. Tis was the spirit of
the age and ideals that swirled throughout the early years of our nation,
and that echo in our founding documents. It is this ideological tradi-
tion that makes 21
st
-century democracy so vital.
Tough technology, we are able to access information at rates that
would have seemed impossible to Condorcet, not to mention Tomas
Jeferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and the rest. Tis same
technology enables us to harness the wisdom of many to accomplish
everything from tracking congressional spending, to writing an ency-
clopedia, to the process of translation. And yet neither access to infnite
information, nor the ability to collaborate with fellow citizens instantly,
regardless of physical location, produce wisdom.
In order to progress towards this lofty and rather Utopian ideal,
democracy in the 21
st
century requires a few adjustments.
JJ 21st CentURY neo- enLI GHtenMent n
1. A system of education that enables the population to
possess more than just a functional literacy. We need an
education that teaches technological literacy and fosters
innovation system.
2. Increased, afordable access to the Internet, including
civic Wi-Fi, cybercafés and Internet stations in
economically disadvantages areas, and broadband
networks in rural communities.
3. A spirit of public leadership that understands and
values technology, and a belief that some buzzwords
of the Digital age—such as “increased openness,”
“collaboration,” and “transparency”—are imperatives for
public ofce, not clichés.
4. Additional guarantees of free speech and privacy, despite
the temptations that ubiquitous computing will pose to
more closely monitor citizens and restrict speech.
5. Finally, a lack of fear about and exploration of the
potential of technology to make voting more accessible
and more direct.
I agree with Lee Siegel, who wrote, in Against the Machine: Being
Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (you can ascertain from the
title that Siegel is criticizing the Internet), that “Web culture is the fnal
stage in the long, slow assimilation of subversive values to conventional
society.” But only if one believes, as I do, that those “subversive values”
include the belief that technology, knowledge, innovation, and civic
engagement can produce a nation of leaders and thinkers able to work
collectively and create a new era of enlightenment in American democ-
racy, governance, and civil society.
Dare to think for yourself!
Julie Bo| |u Ce| aor] n J1
About the Author
Julie Barko Germany serves as the director of the Institute for Politics,
Democracy & the Internet at The George Washington University’s
Graduate School of Political Management. Julie is the principal author
and editor of several publications, including Constituent Relationship
Management: The New Little Black Book of Politics; Person-to-Person-to-
Person: Harnessing the Political Power of Online Social Networks and
User-Generated Content; and The Politics-to-Go-Handbook: A Guide to
Using Mobile Technology in Politics.
eCHo CHAMBeRs = DeMoCRACY
0o.iJ weir|e|ce|

A democracy needs such “echo chambers,” even
though their discussions inevitably appear like nothing but a
bunch of homogenous supporters rah-rah-ing each other.

t
alking together is the fundamental political act. While the
Internet is certainly providing new features and new forums
for talk, it is not transforming the near-genetic basics of how
human conversation works. In this case (despite the overall premise of
this anthology), the technology isn’t changing the nature of democ-
racy so much as clarifying our understanding of democracy. And that
may be no less important.
Our confusion about the role of conversation in democracy is mani-
fested in the persistence of the question whether the Net is enhancing or
dismantling the political conversations we think essential to democracy.
Rather than opening us up to a wider range of opinion, is the Internet
barricading the doors of belief? Will we use the fact that we have more
control online to hang out exclusively with people like ourselves, or will
JZ
0o.i J weir|e| ce| n JJ
we use the frictionlessness of web connectivity to engage with people
from diferent walks of life? Will the Internet become an enhanced pub-
lic forum or a set of “echo chambers?”
We’ve been unable to resolve these questions for three reasons.
First, the Net is too young and is not yet what it will be. We don’t
know what efect it will have once its frst generation of users has grown
up with it as a ubiquitous part of civic life.
Second, the empirical research that exists is extraordinarily hard to
interpret. Do we look at the patterns of links between websites? Tat
doesn’t necessarily tell us how the information fows. Do results vary
based on topic? Over time? By demographic? Perhaps we form echo
chambers around political candidates but not cultural topics. Around
TV shows but not movies. Around reality TV shows but not sitcoms?
When we link to people with whom we disagree, are we cursing insen-
sibly at them or engaging in a rational back-and-forth?
Tird, even if we knew which vectors to follow, we would still
have the enormously difcult task of comparing the results to the state
of openness in the real world. As Yochai Benkler, the author of Te
Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and
Freedom, says, the question is not whether the Net will make our politi-
cal discourse perfect, but will it make it better. Te law professor Cass
Sunstein reports that only low double digit percentages of links point
to opposing viewpoints, and Benkler is right in responding that he
doesn’t know whether that’s a cause for rejoicing or despair. To what
could we compare such statistics? To the percentage of space newspa-
pers give over to views that oppose their editorial positions? Typically,
that’s a few Op-Ed columns and some percentage of the half-page of
Letters-to-the-Editor that papers run. How often do people read the
columnists they disagree with? How much time in the day do you
spend talking rationally and calmly about matters of state with people
J+ eCHo CHAMBeRs = DeMoCRACY n
with whom you disagree? How deep does the disagreement have to go
before you are too angry to talk, or simply see no point in pursuing the
discussion? Have you ever actually sat down for a long, respectful con-
versation with a neo-Nazi or an out-of-the-closet racist, a conversation
in which you’re open to having your ideas changed?
Me neither.
Te question, therefore, is not whether the Internet is closing us
down or opening us up, but rather what assumptions make the persis-
tence of online echo chambers—the same kinds of cliquish gatherings
that have always existed on land—seem simultaneously so urgent and
so hard to resolve.
Tis urgency is undergirded by our belief that democracy is a
conversational form of governance. It’s not enough (we believe) that
everyone gets to vote. Everyone also has to be able to talk about her
beliefs in public so that those beliefs can be well informed and well
reasoned. Yet when we look out across the Net, rather than seeing peo-
ple engaged in deep conversation, we see clusters of people saying the
most godawful things and, in so doing, giving permission to others to
say even godawfuller things. Tere’s no denying the despair we all feel
when turning over certain rocks on the Net. Hearing sentiments that
are forbidden from the real world public sphere uttered in the perceived
privacy of the Internet legitimates those sentiments. Tis is worse than
an echo chamber: It is a room full of people egging each other on to the
most extreme and vile opinions. “You think you hate her? Here’s how
much I hate her...” is not a helpful trope in a democracy.
It would be foolish to argue that this never happens. But how
much does it happen? How important are such echo chambers? What
infuence do they have on our democracy? And why have so many
people focused on them as the example of the Net’s efect on democ-
racy? After all, we could look at hateful real-world groups and despair
for our democracy, but we recognize that such groups are the evil we
0o.i J weir|e| ce| n J5
have to live with in order to get the benefts of our freedom to assemble
and to speak.
Echo chambers loom large in our thinking about the Web, not just
in our thinking about democracy. In part it’s because some of the echo
chambers appear on highly popular sites. Tus, they are not equivalent
to marginalized extremist groups such as the KKK or the Stormfront
White Nationalist Community. Yet not all echo chambers are born
equal. Shouldn’t supporters of a candidate have a spot on the Web
where they can be supporters together? Is a site an echo chamber if
it fails to rigorously challenge its participants’ every view, including a
supporter’s most basic commitment to his or her candidate?
Further, the most prominent political sites—other than candidates’
sites—are not all the hatefests they’re often portrayed as by the media.
Yes, participants encourage one another in their beliefs, but not all of
them are devoted to ever-tightening spirals of hatred. At the progres-
sive site HufngtonPost.com, reasonable disagreements are common.
Present a calm argument against the progressive viewpoint of an arti-
cle, and you’re likely to fnd just the sort of vigorous debate we want
for a healthy democracy, although it may be more rough and tumble
than we’d imagined. Trolls and hand-grenade throwers are ignored,
famed, or moderated out, because, by defnition, they’re not looking
for a genuine discussion. Likewise, at the conservative Redstate.com,
reasonable discussion is the norm. (You can fnd plenty of examples of
awful interchanges, but you can fnd plenty examples of everything on
the Net.)
Our picture of the Net as a set of hateful echo chambers is encour-
aged, too, by the premise that the only sites that matter are those with
hundreds of thousands of readers. Tat’s how the mainstream media
works. But the Web is characterized by a “long tail” of sites with rela-
tively few readers. Te echo chamber dynamic is facilitated by sites so
large that the commenters are functionally unknown to one another,
Jc eCHo CHAMBeRs = DeMoCRACY n
and the way to get attention is to be more outrageous than the previous
person. Tat dynamic is missing on the smaller sites that, in aggregate,
constitute the bulk of web trafc.
Nevertheless, our focus on echo chambers, our notion that they typ-
ify Net dialogue, and our taking them at their worst, tell us something:
Our image of what a democracy should sound like is misconceived.
For example, while we can map the links going into and out of
a site, and we can analyze the political positions of people who write
posts or comment on them, there is little actual data about the readers
of these sites. Perhaps the readers are diverse, even though the writers
and linkers are fairly homogeneous. Perhaps data would show that in
fact we’ve achieved the democratic ideal on the Web after all: People of
all persuasions are reading sites of every persuasion.
Pretty lame, eh? Sounds like I’m grasping at straws to defend the
Net? I agree. In fact, that’s my point. Te previous paragraph is uncon-
vincing because we all agree that people generally don’t spend a lot
of time reading that with which they disagree. We know that, on- or
ofine conversation simply doesn’t work that way. Never did. Never
will. Conversation fnds an area of agreement and then explores the
diferences. It hardly ever in our lives is an isolated exercise of pure,
unfettered rationality in which we suspend core beliefs in order to
think again about what those beliefs ought to be. Even taking that as
an ideal requires a picture of rationality that is unrealistic. Pure reason
is a better corrective than architect.
So, what good does conversation really do in a democracy? It
helps us work out diferences based upon shared ground. Conversa-
tions shape our existing ideas and occasionally generate new ideas that
are in line with our existing beliefs. We can probably count the times
on one hand that conversation changes our minds about anything
important.
Tat doesn’t mean conversation is irrelevant or trivial. Even when
0o.i J weir|e| ce| n J/
conversation doesn’t change minds, it serves other social roles, includ-
ing binding people together so they can engage in efective political
action building trust, community and political commitment. From the
outside that may look like an echo chamber, but that is how people
come to make common cause. A democracy needs such “echo cham-
bers,” even though their discussions inevitably appear like nothing but
a bunch of homogenous supporters rah-rah-ing each other. Conversa-
tion among people who are in basic agreement builds relationships and
foments political movement. It also makes possible the rare conversion
of beliefs, and, when done in the public forum of the Net, it leaves
traces by which opposing views can understand—and thus tolerate—
one another better.
Te persistence of “echo chambers” on the Net is not a failure of
democracy. Rather, their continued existence is evidence not only of
the fractures in our society, but of the gap between our ideals of democ-
racy and the mechanics of human social intercourse. We are never able
to stand fully apart from our commitments in order to evaluate them
in the cool light of rationality. If the Net does nothing but help us
accept the primacy of standpoint over reason—while leaving reason
some footholds in the wall of belief—it will have done our democracy
the valuable service of making it more realistic.
About the Author
David Weinberger is a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet
& Society. He was an adviser on Net policy to the Dean and Edwards
campaigns. He is a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of
Everything Is Miscellaneous.
PARtICIPAtoRY DeMoCRACY
DeMAnDs PARtICIPAtIon
Mic|oel Tu||

An electorate so easily swayed by simple
arguments and disinclined to look for more information
with easy access to voting on policy decisions or elections
is more destructive than an apathetic electorate that
chooses not to vote.

i
t’s 8 o’clock on Wednesday night. Millions of American homes
are tuned in to the most popular TV show on the air. For 16
weeks, the contestants have been jockeying for position and it
is fnally down to two. Trying to break into this business used to be
a grueling ordeal characterized by endless hours spent honing your
craft. Now an audition process vets contestants and determines who is
most qualifed for the top position. Tonight’s fnale will determine the
winner. Fingers are poised to speed dial all across America.
Te program’s website is noticeably slower tonight than it was this
afternoon. Te trafc has spiked as millions of people across the nation
express their opinions. Te competition has been grueling, but it has
also been more immediate and arguably fairer than in the past. When
J8
Mi c|oel Tu| | n J9
all the votes are tallied, the winner will be announced—and someone
will be elected the next American president.
In this scenario, our political process has been reduced to merely
another ofering in the crowded world of celebutainment, with our top
leaders chosen from afar by telephone calls and Internet voting. Let’s
call it politainment.
It is a vision with a certain appeal. Trading in the quadrennial dis-
play of ego and fundraising prowess in favor of a sixteen-week debate
series weeding out one competitor at a time would certainly have its sup-
porters. Imagine the possibilities of having weekly political debates on
proposed legislation, followed by 24 hours of Internet voting. True direct
democracy would be at our fngertips. But would that be a good thing?
When the Framers of our Constitution built our representative
democracy, they understood one thing: most people are not informed
on issues. In 1776, it was lack of access to education. Today it is due to
a combination of too much information and not enough curiosity.
In June of 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Ameri-
can Time Use Survey. It found that Americans between the ages of
15 and 55 spend only 6 to 20 minutes a day reading.
1
Tey spent less
than half an hour a day on educational activities, but 2.5 hours watch-
ing TV.
2
In an age of always-on communications and our insatiable
need for entertainment, we, as a society, are not greatly concerned with
studying the issues.
As practitioners of Internet campaigns march toward a Utopian
vision of direct democracy and virtual town halls, there must be a
corresponding efort to educate Americans beyond our current ninth-
grade civics class level. Without an informed electorate participating
1 American Time Use Survey, US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. July 19, 2007,
Accessed 3/18/2008 at Statistics http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t11.htm
2 American Time Use Survey, US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. July 19, 2007,
Accessed 3/18/2008 at Statistics http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t01.htm
+J PARtI CI PAtoRY DeMoCRACY DeMAnDs PARtI CI PAtI on n
directly, our politics of the future will never live up to their promise.
In January 2007, Gallup questioned Americans on their attitudes
toward Iraq. Under a “four alternatives” question, respondents were
asked if the US should a) withdraw immediately, b) set a timeline for
withdrawal, c) stay as long as needed or d) increase troop strength.
Only 12% favored an increase in troop strength. In the same survey,
asked of the same people, the surge option was described, and 36%
supported it.
3
Within the same survey, almost a quarter of respondents shifted
position based on variations in descriptions of policy ideas. Applying
that sort of variation to instant voting on policy decisions or elections
would subject the American political system to swings in opinion more
extreme than even our current partisan structure. An electorate so easily
swayed by simple arguments and disinclined to look for more informa-
tion, with easy access to voting on policy decisions or elections, is more
destructive than an apathetic electorate that chooses not to vote.
As another example, on February 27, 2003, the Associated Press
reported that 59% of the American people favored the invasion of Iraq.
4
War detractors would argue this was due to the Administration’s “mis-
leading” of the American people. One week later, however, the Gallup
News Service reported that number had remained largely unchanged
from ten years prior
5
:
“Our basic numbers on public support for invading Iraq have
stayed roughly the same for month after month … Te level of sup-
3 Public Opposes Troop Surge by 61% to 36% Margin, Gallup News Service, January 9, 2007. Accessed
3/21/08 at http://www.gallup.com/poll/26080/Public-Opposes-Troop-Surge-61-36-Margin.aspx
4 Poll suggests public support for invasion of Iraq would drop if Saddam destroys missiles. Associated
Press, February 27, 2003. Accessed 3/30/08 at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/
iraq/20030227-2009-iraq-poll.html
5 Iraq, Bush Approval, Celebrity Opinions on Iraq, The Economy, Religion and Politics, Gallup News
Service, January 9, 2007. Accessed 3/21/08 at http://www.gallup.com/poll/7927/Iraq-Bush-
Approval-Celebrity-Opinions-Iraq-Economy-Religion.aspx
Mi c|oel Tu| | n +1
port has changed a little here and there, but when all is said and done,
we are consistently fnding that between 55% to 60% of Americans
favor U.S. military action against Iraq to bring about a change in that
country’s leadership. Tat’s not far from what we found 10 years ago.”
Te narrative on Iraq that was cemented following the 1991
invasion of Kuwait held sway over the electorate for more than a
decade—creating an environment where making a case to go to war
against them was relatively easy. More informed and rigorous public
debate was not possible within the existing paradigm of politainment.
As a fnal example, the following text message from Twitter was
received as this was being written, “[J]ust voted in a run-of election
that I only became aware of when the ballot showed up in my mailbox.”
Te sender is politically engaged and active. Yet the message demon-
strates the difculty of staying informed of every political discussion,
debate and election.
None of this is to say that direct democracy is not a desirable goal.
But its implementation must be in tandem with a more informed
electorate. We must challenge ourselves to create a renewed personal
attention to matters of public concern.
Fortunately, while the Internet is reshaping the way we participate
in campaigns and interact with our government, it is also opening doors
to new educational opportunities. A Pew Internet and American Life
Project study following the 2004 election found dramatic increases in
the use of the Web to research candidates and issues—with more than
75 million Americans using the Web for information and news about
politics.
6
Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn
something about the presidential campaign from the Internet, almost
double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign
(13%). Compared with the 2000 campaign, far fewer Americans now
6 The Internet and Campaign 2004. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. March
6, 2005. Accessed 4/3/2008 at http://www.pewInternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2004_Campaign.pdf
+Z PARtI CI PAtoRY DeMoCRACY DeMAnDs PARtI CI PAtI on n
say they regularly learn about the campaign from local TV news (down
eight points), nightly network news (down 13 points) and daily news-
7
papers (down nine points).
With more Americans turning to the Internet for information,
the potential for a new era of citizen involvement exists. Te wealth
of information available, together with a diverse variety of opinion to
interpret and frame that information, creates a rich and fertile learning
environment. Te power of social networks to bring people together,
paired with the Internet, can create a modern political state that invites
civic participation. If the Internet is able to bring “We the People” back
to our political process, the concept of direct democracy may become
a reality.
About the Author
Michael Turk is Vice President of Industry Grassroots for the National
Cable & Telecommunications Association, where he is working to build
a robust grassroots activist base for the cable industry. Before
joining NCTA, Turk served as the eCampaign Director for the Republican
National Committee. Prior to his position at the Committee, Turk was the
eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney ‘04.
7 Social Networking and Online Videos Take Off: Internet’s Broader Role in Campaign 2008. The
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. January 11, 2008. Accessed 4/3/2008 at
http://pewInternet.org/pdfs/Pew_MediaSources_jan08.pdf
WInnInG tHe FUtURe In
tHe PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY AGe
lewt Circ|ic|

Governments today still metaphorically
operate with the quill pen, and in some instances, do so
almost literally.

t
he challenge posed by the editors of this anthology relates
directly to the focus of much of my eforts over the past sev-
eral years: How to migrate government from what I call “the
world that fails” (one of paper-based bureaucracies of process, check-
lists, regulations, self-preservation and punishment) to “the world
that works” (where entrepreneurs rapidly create adaptable new tech-
nologies, incentivize productivity and innovation with rewards and
encourages risk-taking ).
Te challenge is to replace the Founder’s “quill pen with a mouse”
and to imagine a government for the Information Age. It’s a useful
exercise because, in fact, governments today still metaphorically oper-
ate with the quill pen, and in some instances, do so almost literally.
Take for instance the recent admission by the Department of Com-
merce that after spending $1.3 billion they are going to drop the efort
+J
++ WI nnI nG tHe F UtURe I n tHe PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY AGe n
to develop hand-held computers for canvassers in the 2010 census.
Instead, they plan to revert to paper-and-pencil and hire over 600,000
temporary workers at a cost of approximately $13-15 billion ($37 per
person counted). Tis means that by 2010 the cost of the census will
have almost doubled since 2000, having already doubled since 1990.
Tis sort of cost explosion without any improvement in capacity
and capability (the antithesis of Moore’s Law) is a systemic challenge
that permeates all of our government bureaucracies. In nearly every
economic sector, we see products and services with increasing quality,
more choices, greater convenience, and decreased cost. Yet, in nearly
every part of government, at all levels, we see precisely the opposite:
lower quality, fewer choices, greater inconvenience and spiraling costs.
Clearly, this pattern is unsustainable if America is to continue to be
the leading power on the planet in the 21
st
century. So, indeed, imag-
ining how we would “reboot government” for the Information Age is
not just an exercise in speculative fction, it is the beginning of a plan
of action.
I want to suggest three principles that should guide us in using the
innovations of the Internet Age to migrate government from the world
that fails to the world that works.
First, our system has to harness the power of collective intelligence,
best described in James Surowiecki’s Te Wisdom of the Crowds. At
American Solutions we have developed a “Solutions Lab”—an Inter-
net-based, grassroots exchange and collaboration platform that allows
people to share ideas and then to work together to improve them in a
team-building environment using wiki technology. Our vision for the
Solutions Lab is to tap into the vast collective creativity of the American
people to provide innovative solutions to the challenges facing Amer-
ica, solutions government bureaucrats cannot deliver. Furthermore, we
see the Solutions Lab as a valuable resource for elected ofcials, who
will not only have the ability to acquire ideas, but also to gain instant
lewt Circ|i c| n +5
feedback on their ideas outside of the scope of the 24/7 news cycle.
We are also launching “Rate Your Government,” which will bring
the groundbreaking system of user ratings and feedback that made eBay
so successful to citizens and their government agencies. Obviously this
project will allow citizens to voice frustrations with government ser-
vices, but more importantly it can surface government systems that are
working so they can be emulated nationwide.
Second, for our government to truly harness the wisdom of the
crowds, it must be as transparent as possible. As Peter Drucker warned
thirty years ago in Te Age of Discontinuities, government is diferent
from the private sector. Because it is in the government’s nature to
encroach on freedom and because it has the ability to coerce, higher
standards of transparency and accountability are called for in govern-
ment than in the private sector. Te public really does have a right to
know about actions that, in a totally private company, would be legiti-
mately shielded from outside scrutiny.
In 1995, when I was sworn in as Speaker of the House, we set up
the Tomas system to publish all legislation online. We named the new
system of transparency after Tomas Jeferson because we knew this
innovation was one which the author of the Declaration of Indepen-
dence would approve.
In recent years, Congress has taken some decisive steps backward
from this commitment to transparency and accountability. Campaign
fnance, the rise of earmarks and secret holds on nominations are
just a few examples. Before the Information Age, it would have been
nearly impossible to track down who introduced which earmark, who
was funding which candidate and who was holding up the executive
branch from flling its positions. Yet today it is just as difcult, though
we proved with the Tomas system that it is possible for the public to
have access to all of this information. Te fact that they don’t should,
and will, become less and less acceptable.
+c WI nnI nG tHe F UtURe I n tHe PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY AGe n
Moreover, at American Solutions, we are launching a new project
called “513Connect.” 513Connect will be a collaborative, Internet-
based efort to identify all 513,000 elected ofcials currently serving in
the United States so that citizens can easily engage elected leaders.
Tird, in an age of such an explosion of new science and technology,
there needs to be a commitment on the part of elected ofcials to learn
continually. At American Solutions, we want to network all 513,000
elected ofcials into a common learning environment. To do so, we
are developing “Solutions Island,” a private, 3D Internet metaverse for
elected ofcials to share ideas and best practices. Solutions Island will
feature regular learning opportunities for elected ofcials to learn from
each other, as well as from leading innovators and entrepreneurs of the
private sector.
Imagine walking into a government ofce today and seeing a gas-
light, a quill pen, a bottle of ink for dipping the pen, a tall clerk’s desk,
and a stool. Te very image of the ofce would communicate how
out-of-date the ofce was. Sadly, that is the reality of today’s govern-
ment, minus the outward evidence of obsolescence. To fully realize the
Founders’ vision of a republic that respects the creator-endowed rights
of all its citizens, this has to change. By focusing on using informa-
tion technology to harness the collective intelligence of the American
people to solve problems, maximizing this opportunity for Americans
by committing to as transparent a government as possible, and insist-
ing on a commitment from our elected ofcials to continually learn
from the world that works, we will achieve a more modern government
that delivers more choices of greater quality at greater convenience at
lower cost. While we can’t be sure of what the Founders would have
thought of our 21
st
-century democracy, we know that their vision for
a democratic republic has survived. Today, we should harness existing
technologies to further strengthen our democracy and ensure that it
will endure.
lewt Circ|i c| n +/
About the Author
Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
from 1995 to 1999 and was a member of Congress for 20 years,
representing the state of Georgia. During his tenure, Gingrich was
known as the chief architect of the Republican Contract with America
and a key player in the Republican Party’s regaining control of
Congress after 40 years. Gingrich is the CEO of The Gingrich Group,
an Atlanta-based communications and management-consulting firm, a
distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution,
General Chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future (www.
americansolutions.com), and a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise
Institute in Washington, DC.
PARtICIPAtIon As sUstAInABLe
CooPeRAtIon In PURsUI t
oF PUBLIC GoALs
Yuc|oi Ber|le|

Large-scale collaboration, among widely-dispersed
populations, is manageable, sustainable, and effective.

t
he networked information economy changes a set of physi-
cal facts and enables a cultural trend, which could make an
appreciable diference in the basic architecture of participa-
tion in contemporary democracies. Te physical capital necessary for
efective production and communication of information, knowledge,
and culture is widely distributed in the population. Processors, stor-
age, communications capacity, as well as audio and video sensors,
are now in the hands of everyone with a computer or mobile phone.
Tis means that the practical limitations on large-scale collaboration
among geographically and socially dispersed people have been dra-
matically reduced.
Domains of action that require the acquisition of information; its
organization and analysis; its production into knowledge structures
+8
Yuc|oi Ber|l e| n +9
and structures of meaning; and the capacity to tell stories about how
things are and how they might become no longer depend on access
to signifcant material capital resources. Individuals can act socially in
ways that traditionally had local efects with little economic or politi-
cal salience, but now can have signifcant efects in both social and
economic-political domains. Tese technical and social facts have
given rise to a cultural trend of greater engagement in individual and
collective social action aimed to achieve results in the world without
going through the traditional structures of efective action, power,
and authority that typifed industrial society. Tis is how we got free
or open-source software, which practically anyone who uses e-mail,
browses websites, writes blogs or edits wikis uses without even know-
ing it, because it is what runs major portions of these services. Tis is
how we got Wikipedia. Tis is how we got YouTube, MySpace and
Facebook.
Two critical points emerge out of the experience of the networked
information economy. First, people can, with relatively moderate and
manageable levels of efort, come together to act efectively on prob-
lems that they could not tackle in the past. Second, people can and do
work cooperatively together, needing neither markets nor hierarchies,
governmental or otherwise, to organize them. Large-scale collabora-
tion, among widely-dispersed populations, is manageable, sustainable,
and efective.
Tis is a new and important realization. It can be, and in many
instances already is being, applied to problems of democratic gov-
ernance: from the construction of the public sphere, through the
harnessing of cooperative models for implementing government over-
sight on an ongoing basis, to harnessing peer production to defne
problems and solutions for public action.
Te networked public sphere. Te mass-mediated public sphere
used to concentrate the production of stories about who we are, what
5J PARtICIPAtIon As sUstAInABLe CooPeRAtIon In PURsUIt oF PUBLIC GoALs n
challenges face us, and how we might overcome them. Te public at large
was reduced to passivity in this model of production; we were no more
than “eyeballs.” Te networked public sphere is comprised of e-mails
and e-mail lists, blogs ranging from individual thoughts to professional
and semi-professional new voices like Instapundit or Talking Points
Memo, to vast collaboration platforms like DailyKos with thousands of
contributors, or fash campaigns that re-purpose other platforms, like
the Burma campaign on Facebook. A dozen or more years of experi-
ence with the networked public sphere has taught us a lot about how it
can operate. It is not, it turns out, the republic of yeoman authors that
some hoped it would be. But neither is it the trackless cacophony of
antagonistic echo chambers that others predicted. Instead, we have seen
a public sphere where millions, rather than hundreds or thousands, can
participate in setting the agenda, fltering what is important, and telling
our common stories. Not everyone; but a large and signifcant change
from where we were a mere decade ago.
Te most visible successes of the networked public sphere have
been in the domain of playing watchdog. Older stories from the past
half decade are well known: the critique of Diebold voting machines;
the CBS/Dan Rather report on George Bush’s military record; the
debates that led to Trent Lott’s resignation. More recently, Josh Mar-
shall at Talking Points Memo uncovered the U.S. Attorney purge that
resulted in Alberto Gonzales’s resignation. A collaboration initiated
by Porkbusters, and ultimately encompassing blogs on both sides
of the American political blogosphere, mobilized readers to investi-
gate the identity of a senator who secretly blocked legislation that
required more transparency in government spending, an investigation
which successfully identifed the culprit and forced removal of the
block. Recently, we have begun to see organizations like the Sunlight
Foundation provide better tools for collaborative production of the
watchdog function. Tis foundation funds projects that take govern-
Yuc|oi Ber|l e| n 51
ment data and collate and render it in platforms that allow citizens to
collaborate on investigating and identifying problems about which
they particularly care.
Both the rise of networked debate and the rise of a peer-produced
watchdog function characterize a vastly diferent role and level of
mobilization for citizens than was typical as recently as a decade ago.
Te social distance between any citizen and someone who can speak
and be heard by a substantial community has shrunk. Instead of six
degrees of separation, it is now no more than one or two. As we walk
around with video cameras in our pockets (our mobile phones), we
can capture images and sounds and expect to be seen and heard, as we
never could before. As these capabilities increase, we are already seeing,
and will likely continue to see, a shift in attitude—from passive accep-
tance of forces greater than ourselves, to a sense that what we see, care
about, and say could become the subject of a broader community of
concern and action. And this attitudinal change is the linchpin to the
possibility of a change in practice.
New forms of engaged collaboration. Te next phase in the inte-
gration of large-scale cooperation into democracy will come when we
begin to use platforms for collecting, fltering, and refning propos-
als for action and active contributions. It is simplest to imagine this
occurring at the level of local government. People living their day-to-
day lives encounter a multitude of obstacles and overcome them using
diverse solutions. Some problems cannot be solved systematically.
Some can, but require attention and efort unavailable to local govern-
ments. Developing systems that allow people to report problems, ofer
solutions, vet them, compare solutions across municipalities, and pro-
pose action could overcome the limited resources at the local level. On
the free-software model, everyone is a beta tester of their own physical
environment, and all bugs can be fxed in that environment if enough
people look at the problem. Taking this approach to the national level,
5Z PARtICIPAtIon As sUstAInABLe CooPeRAtIon In PURsUIt oF PUBLIC GoALs n
there is no reason that federal agencies cannot implement similar
systems. We now have the Patent and Trademark Ofce experiment-
ing with the Peer-to-Patent system, which gives patent applicants
fast-track treatment if they submit their patent application to com-
munity peer review, which in turn advises the patent examiners on
whether the patent is indeed novel and nonobvious. (Please see Beth
Simone Noveck’s essay beginning on page 192 to learn more about
the Peer-to-Patent system.) Tere is no reason the Federal Commu-
nications Commission could not implement a similar platform for
its decisions, such as in the area of wireless communications regula-
tion, or why states and the federal government cannot create efective
platforms for teachers to participate in the development of teaching
materials, or to connect schools to volunteers to help with reading,
math, and history.
Implementing such systems is complicated. Tere are risks of
cacophony, strategic gaming, and incompetence. And yet these were
once objections to the plausibility of Wikipedia or free software. We
have found ways to avoid both malevolence and incompetence in
large-scale collaborations, without re-introducing a hierarchy that dis-
empowers most citizens. And that is what we must do in designing
systems for citizen participation in the ongoing process of managing
our collective lives.
While the implementation may be far from simple, the basic prin-
ciple is. Te widespread distribution of physical capital necessary to
produce our information environment has triggered a set of new cul-
tural practices oriented around efective, active social cooperation on
a wide range of activities, including the provision of important public
goods. Tis new culture is not yet universal, but is growing rapidly as
the number of people who have edited a Wikipedia article, uploaded
a video to YouTube, or commented or tagged a post increases. Tis
cultural shift in self-perception, from passive couch potato to active
Yuc|oi Ber|l e| n 5J
participant in collaborative practices for making one’s own informa-
tion universe, opens the opportunity for a more robust, sustainable
level of involvement by citizens in the governance of their society.
It allows us to move from the minimal implementation of universal
participation as the formal right of sufrage, to constructing platforms
that will actually engage people in efective, sustainable eforts aimed
toward identifying our diferences and commonalities, and acting
together to further our common good.
About the Author
Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal
Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for
Internet and Society. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School,
he was Joseph M. Field ‘55 Professor of Law at Yale. He is the author of
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and
Freedom (Yale Press 2006).
BY tHe PeoPLe,
FoR tHe PeoPLe
/rJ|ew Rosiej

Our corrupt system of distant, unaccountable
representative democracy is going to get an overhaul,
whether the representatives like it or not.

e
ver since the creation of our imperfect union, it has sufered
under conditions that our forefathers had hoped would never
occur in the democratic system they devised. Instead of a gov-
ernment that would serve the people and empower them, more often
than not our government has become a bureaucratic maze, with insti-
tutional deafness, and laziness coupled with corruption and deference
to special interests to the point where people feel so disempowered
that only half of eligible citizens even bother to vote. Where our coun-
try’s founders idealistically thought all citizens would welcome and
take advantage of the right to vote, they would be shocked to learn
most voters view participation in civic life as abstract and irrelevant to
their lives, livelihoods, or future prospects. Well, because the Internet
empowers communication between people and information in power-
ful new ways the ideal of full participation may still be realized.
5+
/rJ|ew Rosiej n 55
Forgive this oversimplifcation, but as they saw it, our forefathers
believed that “the people” were too busy plowing the felds, raising
families, and settling the country in the “pursuit of happiness” to be
burdened with the worries of running the state and protecting it from
its enemies.
So in keeping with this view, they designed a “representative” gov-
ernment “for and by the people,” whereby representatives would be
elected to do all the necessary worrying and business of governing.
Tey believed that by giving “the people” the right to vote and elect
these representative leaders they were creating a democratic society. A
society such as this would by defnition hold elected ofcials account-
able for their performance and throw them out of ofce if they failed
to perform the people’s will.
At the time, the assumption regarding the preoccupations of citi-
zens wasn’t so far of the mark. Not only was it true that most citizens
were busy plowing felds in an efort to survive, these same citizens
had very little time to educate themselves regarding the processes of
governing or the issues facing society and the country, such as land dis-
tribution, international trade, war, displaced and violent Indians, and
disputes among the states. Even though “citizens” were given a right to
vote, they had little idea of how to exercise this right in an organized
way. Let’s face it: “the people” had little experience and knowledge so
they participated in this new democracy on the fy.
As time went on, elected representatives learned how to use the
system they were elected to run to largely keep themselves in power.
Tey used their positions to enrich themselves and their friends, fght
of challengers (think gerrymandering of districts), and pass laws that
allowed them to preserve and consolidate their control over this bas-
tardized form of democracy. Pretty soon, people with real problems
learned that they couldn’t get their problems solved by voting in new
people to replace the old, failed ones. So they began to form organized
n 5c BY tHe PeoPL e, FoR tHe PeoPL e
groups such as political parties, labor unions, trade associations, and
not-for-profts to force their representatives to listen to them, in large
part because of the size of their memberships. Tese groups raised
money for their elected ofcials, denounced their leaders’ enemies, and
attacked anyone who had opposing views until they got their way.
Ultimately, over time, these various groups’ eforts created even
more imbalance within the system. Tose with the time and money
won out over the masses, and their success has created many of the
afictions facing our democracy today. To wit: Organized minorities
are more powerful than disorganized majorities. As an example, one
need look no further than Florida where Cubans have been making
sure with great success that the embargo on their former homeland
remains intact until their economic interests (mostly property they
own in Miami) are not lost when the embargo is lifted and a great
sucking sound is heard across the Caribbean as capitalism foods their
former island, leaving Miami to play second fddle to a rejuvenated
Havana. As further proof, did you know that the Dade county elec-
tion commission that suspended the vote counting during the Bush vs.
Gore 2000 election was dominated by Cubans intent on restoring an
anti-Castro Republican administration?
Now the Internet is marching its way through society, creating a new
economy of abundance and an exponential explosion in the amount of
information available to the human race. Te ability to aggregate and
share knowledge has become democratized and commonplace, and the
“wisdom of crowds” isn’t a fanciful notion but an opportunity for the
“will of the people” to be put into efect either by surviving institutions
and leaders or by the people acting in their place.
Tis doesn’t mean that we are all going to become one assembled
mass in some new virtual Coliseum, thumbing up or down ideas and
feeding losers to the lions. Rather, it means that we’ll have new and
expansive ways to share the best information about anything that’s
/rJ|ew Rosiej n 5/
important and involve citizen experts in deliberations and decision-mak-
ing. An early example is Politicopia.com where citizens can participate
in an open wiki that crafts legislation for the State of Utah.
So what happens to our forefathers’ idea of representative democ-
racy in this brave new world? Do we really need representatives if
we have morphed from panoply of organized minorities to one big
organized majority? One need look no farther than Wikipedia.com
or Congresspedia.com to see examples of how collected organized
knowledge can produce a resource that improves people’s lives that also
continues to evolve as an ongoing human asset. Every day there are
new self-organizing groups producing and sharing their knowledge,
skills, and time, building better and better information systems which
will solve problems and improve the world.
Te author Clay Shirky uses the phrase “cognitive surplus” to
mean the free brain time the industrialized world has generated for
people. For instance, he estimates that Wikipedia has leveraged about
100 million total human hours. Furthering his point, he estimates
that Americans spend 200 billion total hours a year passively watching
TV and never engaging in a productive activity; in other words our
untapped surplus brainpower is sitting on the couch watching Ameri-
can Idol. All that TV watching equals the time it would take to create
2000 Wikipedias. Imagine if just one percent of that cognitive time
was harnessed, humans could have an additional 20 resources equal to
the value of Wikipedia. Well, a small but discernible percentage of the
population is deciding to shut of the television and take advantage of
the Internet Age to embrace the read/write Web and participate.
Our corrupt system of distant, unaccountable representative democ-
racy is going to get an overhaul, whether the representatives like it or
not. Indeed, organizations like the Sunlight Foundation are publishing
government information and data in easily searchable and open data-
bases, creating more transparency and illuminating the inner workings
n 58 BY tHe PeoPL e, FoR tHe PeoPL e
of government in ways never imagined possible. Other sites like out-
side.in ofer citizens the ability to contribute local neighborhood
information often with real-time news, opinions, and conversations
about everything happening around them faster than any government
agency, city council, or community board could ever hope. And this
is just the beginning. Wait till the next generation of citizens—those
for whom sharing information collectively is a natural pursuit—start
worrying about why government doesn’t work for them. Tey will not
wait for government to act like our parents did and our forefathers
hoped; they’ll just go do whatever needs to get done, themselves.
Abraham Lincoln was more prescient than he realized when he
wrote in the Gettysburg Address, “government of the people, by the
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
About the Author
Andrew Rasiej is the Founder of Personal Democracy Forum , an annual
conference and community website about the intersection of politics and
technology. He is also the co-founder of techPresident, an award-winning
group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using
the web, and how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign.
Rasiej is the founder of MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading
Schools and Education), an educational non-profit organization started
in 1997 focused on providing technology support to public schools. Rasiej
also maintains the position of senior technology adviser for the Sunlight
Foundation, a Washington D.C. based organization that focuses on using
technology to expose corruption in Congress and facilitates citizen en-
gagement and oversight.
tHe MeRCIFUL DeAtH oF tHe FReeDoM
oF InFoRMAtIon ACt AnD tHe BIRtH
oF tRUe GoVeRnMent tRAnsPARenCY:
A sHoRt HIstoRY
Eller Mille|

In its fourth decade FOIA faced off and lost to
the secrecy obsessed administration of President George
W. Bush.

l
ooking back, maybe it was inevitable. Perhaps the well-inten-
tioned yet fatally compromised Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) was doomed from the start, well before it died this year,
in 2015. And yet, while FOIA was dying, true government openness
was emerging to take its place.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the passage of a Freedom of Informa-
tion law requiring government to provide information to citizens upon
request was championed by newspaper editors and other journalists,
and by a California congressman by the name of John Moss. (Brief his-
toric and ironic aside: A young Republican congressman from Illinois
named Donald Rumsfeld was a champion of government openness,
59
n cJ DeAtH oF tHe FReeDoM oF InFoRMAtIon ACt/BIRtH oF GoVeRnMent tRAnsPARenCY
and signed on as a leading co-sponsor of Moss’ bill. Less than 10 years
later, as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staf, Rumsfeld convinced his
boss to veto FOIA amendments meant to strengthen the law.) In 1966,
with trepidation on the part of the press-wary Lyndon Johnson but
great fanfare from others, FOIA was born.
8
FOIA was meant to be “democracy’s X-ray,” as Anthony D. Romero,
executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in 2007,
allowing journalists and other citizens to ferret out waste, fraud, abuse
and corruption. As early as 1991, FOIA was being criticized as an oxy-
moron and was fading into obsolescence.
9
FOIA had some victories.
NASA was found to have covered up damning details of the 1986 Chal-
lenger disaster; historian David Garrow used FOIA to uncover records
of the FBI’s surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Associated Press
discovered that researchers at the National Institutes of Health were
collecting royalties from drug companies for tests they conducted on
unwitting patients; and the world learned of the torture of detainees
at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities after 9/11 —all as a
result of FOIA.
Despite these and other high-profle successes, government infor-
mation was never easily or willingly released. Federal agencies failed to
answer most requests, and took years to answer others. An executive order
issued by the Reagan-Bush Administration in 1982 instructed the federal
government to classify documents whenever in doubt, and to reclassify
already released material. FOIA was doomed. Te FOIA Advocate
10
, a
publication of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, reported
in 2007 that:
8 http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB194/index.html
9 “FOIA IS AN OXYMORON,” Downloaded at Project Censored: The News That Did Not
Make the News, http://www.projectcensored.org/static/1991/1991-story7.htm, downloaded on
April 4, 2008.
10 http://www.nfoic.org/advocate/advocate_090707.html
Ell er Mill e| n c1
• Two of every fve FOIA requests fled in 2006 were not
processed
• Te number of exemptions cited to support the withhold-
ing of information had increased 83% since 1998
• Te number of FOIA denials increased 10% in 2006
• Te cost of processing FOIA requests had gone up 40%
since 1998, even though agencies were processing 20%
fewer requests
• Most people were waiting much longer for FOIA
information
In its fourth decade FOIA faced of and lost to the secrecy obsessed
administration of President George W. Bush.
11
Bush used executive
privilege, hyper classifcation under the aegis of national security,
and stonewalling to further secrecy. Te administration tightened the
government’s grasp on information like a boa constrictor sufocating
a rabbit. For instance, the 2007 study found that the Bush Adminis-
tration’s Justice Department granted only 4% of the FOIA requests it
received in 2006, a 70% drop from the previous administration. Vice
President Dick Cheney even argued that he was not part of the execu-
tive branch, and thus was not covered by the act.
Bush signed the Open Government Act of 2007, the frst reform
of FOIA in over a decade.
12
It included the signifcant provision of
establishing a FOI ombudsman to provide independent oversight and
settle disputes over FOIA requests. However, Bush “neutered” the pro-
vision by shifting the funding for the ofce from the National Archives
to the Department of Justice, where it died.
While FOIA was dying, other eforts within the Congress and
elsewhere were laying the groundwork for true government transpar-
ency. In 2008, Jef Jarvis, a blogger, journalist and journalism school
11 http://www.bushsecrecy.org/
12 http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/so_much_for_the_new_foia_laws
n cZ DeAtH oF tHe FReeDoM oF InFoRMAtIon ACt/BIRtH oF GoVeRnMent tRAnsPARenCY
professor, wrote that the act be turned inside-out. “Why should we be
asking for information about and from our government?” he wrote.
“Te government should have to ask to keep things from us…Govern-
ment information—every act of government on our behalf—should
be free by default.”
13
Digital technology and web-based tools allow
business transactions to be digitally captured, stored, and opened to
search and analysis, he argued. Tis was not possible when the infor-
mation was stored on paper in fle cabinets.
Congress began to see the potential of these new online tools. Te
Coburn-Obama Act of 2006 was the frst of a handful of laws passed
over the next fve years, exposing the workings of Congress to the light of
day. Tis law established USAspending.gov, a website that allows citizens
to research federal government spending.
14
Te success of the website
led to the formation of the Transparency Caucus Advisory Committee
in 2009 that pushed more reforms on Capitol Hill and into law. Tis era
later became known as the “Government Transparency Revolution.”
In 2009, Congress passed the Government Transparency Act requir-
ing lobbyists to register and disclose all legislative contacts, all legislation
and regulation discussed within 24 hours. Te Act also required lobby-
ists to disclose any relationship to a current member of Congress, staf
member, or executive branch employee.
Later that year, Congress passed the Government for All Act that
became the gold standard for government transparency of personal and
fnancial relationships. Te law required that all public reports be fled
electronically and shared within 24 hours of their fling. It forced the
Senate to follow the House’s lead and make Personal Financial Dis-
closure reports available online. It also required Senators to fle, and
make public within 24 hours, campaign fnance reports. It increased
the fling frequency, requiring monthly reports. Personal Financial Dis-
13 http://www.davosconversation.org/?p=3422
14 http://www.usaspending.gov/
Ell er Mill e| n cJ
closure reports were amended to require disclosure of the afliations
of Members (and their spouses and their adult children) with political
action committees, “Leadership” PACs, and any 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4)
organizations. Other mandated disclosures included the employment
of immediate family members and their economic relationships with
for proft and not-for-proft entities.
In 2010, Congress passed the Information for Everyoe Act that
ended the practice of secret legislation once and for all. Specifcally, the
act required that all non-emergency legislation be posted online, in its
fnal form, at least 72 hours before a vote. Te act also required disclo-
sure of the purpose and identifcation of the benefciaries of legislative
earmarks 72 hours before a vote on them.
Te Information for Everyone Act opened up all congressional
information to the public in free, easy-to-use online formats. Tis
included Congressional Research Service reports, Legislative Infor-
mation System documents, and all other non-classifed research and
information available to members of Congress and their staf.
Tese cascading reforms whetted the appetite of the public for
open and transparent government. Suddenly, citizens were participat-
ing directly in the writing of legislation and regulations. Te federal
government stopped fearing transparency and embraced openness.
Ultimately, FOIA’s demise was necessary to allow transparency and
information to fow freely.
About the Author
Ellen Miller is the co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight
Foundation. She previously served as deputy director of Campaign
for America’s Future. She is the founder of two prominent Washington-
based organizations in the field of money and politics—the Center for
Responsive Politics and Public Campaign.
tHe VoID
We MUst FILL
Ric|o|J C. |o| wuuJ

. . .we must make a fundamental shift from simply
finding new ways of aggregating information to generating
true public knowledge rooted in a fundamentally different
notion of what it means ‘to know’ a community.

i
am writing this essay at a time when our society continues to
fragment and re-confgure itself, and when people feel more and
more disconnected from one another and their leaders. Te very
groups that once connected us to one another, such as newspapers,
broadcast news and robust civic and religious institutions, hold little
relevance nowadays. We are drifting away from one another with too
few opportunities to pull us together. Te void is great and I fear it is
expanding.
In most communities across the nation the right conditions and
capacity necessary to support widespread change simply do not exist.
Go to any community and people will talk about this lack of civic
foundation. Tey will tell you about their community’s fragmented
eforts, its negative norms for public discourse, the lack of trust they
c+
Ri c|o| J C. |o| wuuJ n c5
have in leaders, and the dearth of catalytic organizations working for
the common good, not just for their own good.
Some believe that the Internet can be a panacea, enabling us to
re-knit our communities. Many people with noble intentions have
launched new and ever more sophisticated social networking sites,
such as Facebook and Change.org. I believe these sites will emerge as
new seedbeds of democracy, where people can forge new relationships
and trust. But the Internet has also proven to be the perfect tool for
enabling society’s relentless push to create consumers out of citizens,
helping build a world where individuals are free agents, able to create
their own communities, aggregate their own news, amplify their own
voices—and go their own ways.
How can public life and politics work if there is not an expressed
intent to see and hear one another, especially those who are diferent
from us? How can we create shared realities and discover ways to act
together? Indeed, how will we collectively address the pressing issues
of our times?
I believe the Internet may yet be one of our best bets for rebuild-
ing the civic foundation of our communities. It can enable us to build
new “community knowledge hubs” that will help re-engage people and
allow them to forge pathways into public life. But to seize this oppor-
tunity will require that we embed in our sites and spaces an intentional
and decidedly public orientation.
First, our eforts must focus on creating “public knowledge.”
When people talk about new online community hubs, they often
start by reciting exhaustive lists of information they want to gather
and post. Te result sounds like a description of your junk drawer, a
stufed catchall for everything and representing essentially nothing.
In still other areas we see single-issue groups serve up highly specifc,
expert-driven information on particular issues, and countless advo-
cacy groups whose sole purpose is to advance their own cause and to
cc tHe VoI D We MUst FI L L n
rally supporters and donors. Further, while Facebook and other social
networks connect us to friends and colleagues, the content usually
revolves around the personal, and still encourages us to see and hear
from only those we choose.
Replicating or aggregating these ideas, tools, or approaches alone
will not produce new and useful knowledge for communities. Te prob-
lem has never been a shortage of information online. Instead, we must
make a fundamental shift from simply fnding new ways of aggregating
information to generating true public knowledge rooted in a funda-
mentally diferent notion of what it means “to know” a community.
Based on over 20 years of research, Te Harwood Institute for Pub-
lic Innovation created a framework called the “7 Public Knowledge Keys”
to encompass seven factors that, when taken together, help people see
a broader and deeper picture of their communities and the people who
live there. Tese knowledge keys include:
• Issues of Concern—the issues, tensions and values people
are wrestling with
• Aspirations—the aspirations people hold for their
community and future
• Sense of Place—including its history and evolution
• Sources—the sources of knowledge and engagement
people trust most
• People—the things people hold valuable to themselves
and the community, and the language and norms that
shape their lives and interactions
• Civic Places—the places where people get together and
engage (ofine and online)
• Stereotypes—the stereotypes or preconceived notions one
must watch out for
Of course, wikis hold much promise for generating content, even
knowledge. But to generate public knowledge is something else, requir-
Ri c|o| J C. |o| wuuJ n c/
ing us to actively engage people from across a community, because that
is the only way to bring the “7 Public Knowledge Keys” alive. What’s
more, such engagement must be an ongoing efort, since communi-
ties, issues, and people will forever change. Te very process required to
create this knowledge breaks us out of the relentless segmentation that
drives so much of society. Te essence of public knowledge is its cur-
rency and credibility.
Second, in many communities, scores of good groups do good work
in small niches; but very few groups actually span boundaries. Online
hubs must intentionally span these boundaries. We desperately need
groups that bring people together across dividing lines, incubate new
ideas, and spin them of. We need a mirror held up to our eforts so we
can see and hear one another and our shared realities. Tis boundary
spanning function sits at the heart of my notion of community knowl-
edge hubs. Without these boundary spanners, the void in communities
will grow and our connections will fray even further.
Some may argue that many online sites already span boundaries
with blogrolls, RSS feeds, recommendation flters, rating tools, and
so on. Such functions make the web what it is—robust, vibrant, alive,
teeming with activity. And yet I believe that community knowledge
hubs must serve a diferent purpose. Tey must turn from simply
aggregating, recommending, and sharing content, and focus on the
relationships between and among diferent facets and sources of public
knowledge. By spanning traditional boundaries, people can see and
make connections on issues and ideas that are often intentionally kept
separate. On an issue like public schools, we fnd many groups advo-
cating for their own “solution” based on their specifc frame of the
problem (charter schools, parental involvement, teacher performance
and pay), when individuals in their daily lives actually experience the
issue in a way that connects and cuts across these artifcial boundaries.
We must swiftly move away from hyper-segmentation, which,
c8 tHe VoI D We MUst FI L L n
while valuable in connecting and accelerating like-mindedness, cre-
ates needless and harmful divisions in public life. Bringing disparate
pieces of public knowledge together gives people the chance to see and
understand the rich diversity within public life and politics. And it is
from this understanding that people gain a sense of their own capacity
to step forward and engage.
Tird, it is important to understand how change occurs in com-
munities. In the 1990s, when I worked with newspapers to help them
better connect with their communities it was clear that they saw their
role as the destination site for all things community. But people in com-
munities told us they viewed newspapers as only one of many sources
for learning about the community and forming their own judgments
about key concerns and issues. What newspapers often missed was that
people were piecing together their lives over time, and that commu-
nity awareness and change emanated from a host of factors, of which
newspapers were only one component. What they lacked was a sense
of humility about their place in the community and how they could
best fulfll their role.
It is essential that those creating community knowledge hubs avoid
this mistake. At a recent meeting with a community foundation and
thought leaders on these issues, I was struck by the extent to which,
like newspapers, they believed that change was to begin and end with
them. Creating a community knowledge hub, they assumed, meant
they had full responsibility for driving out all change associated with it.
When they talked about pursuing community knowledge hubs, they
often envisioned some single, large civic efort that they would identify,
direct, own and manage! Faced with such a daunting prospect, many of
the leaders were fearful of undertaking any such efort.
Most change in communities occurs through small pockets of
activity that emerge and take root over time. Tese pockets result from
Ri c|o| J C. |o| wuuJ n c9
individuals, small groups, or an organization seeing an opportunity
for change. Seldom are such pockets orchestrated through a top-down
strategic plan; instead, they happen when people and groups in com-
munities start to engage and interact, and when they create a sense of
what I call authentic hope. In this way, community knowledge hubs can
play a crucial catalytic role—helping to foster the conditions for people
to tap their own potential to join together to forge a common future.
Te Internet holds enormous potential to help rebuild the civic
foundation of communities. My hope is that people will band together
and build these new community knowledge hubs, enabling them to
help re-knit their communities. It is a vitally important task. But these
community knowledge hubs will only spark the change we need if they
have a decidedly public orientation that says that we must be able to
see and hear one another. Tis is the void we must fll.
About the Author
Richard C. Harwood is founder and president of The Harwood Institute
for Public Innovation, a non-profit catalytic organization dedicated
to helping people imagine and act for the public good. For nearly two
decades, Harwood has led the charge to redeem hope in our politics
and public life, discovering how to create change in the face of negative
conditions.
sMARtMoBBInG
DeMoCRACY
|uwo|J R|eirculJ

In the next few years, peer-to-peer, self-organized,
citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will
either demonstrate real political influence, be successfully
contained by those whose power they threaten, or recede as
a Utopian myth of days gone by.

i
t has taken over 10 years of talk about “new media” for a critical
mass to understand that every computer desktop, and now every
pocket, is a worldwide printing press, broadcasting station, place
of assembly, and organizing tool—and to learn how to use that infra-
structure to afect change.
Previous technologies allowed users only to communicate one-
to-one (telephones) or few-to-many (broadcast and print media).
Mobile and deskbound media such as blogs, listserves and social net-
working sites allow for many-to-many communication. Tis provides
opportunities and problems for political activists in three key areas:
the gathering and disseminating of alternative and more democratic
news; the creation of virtual public spheres where citizens debate the
/J
|uwo| J R|eircul J n /1
issues that concern democratic societies; and the organizing of collec-
tive political action.
The New News
Blogs and moblogs, such as the international network of Independent
Media Centers, South Korea’s infuential OhMyNews and MoveOn.
org’s Misleader.org are signs of what San Jose Mercury-News columnist
Dan Gillmor calls an emerging “we journalism.” Each of these sites ofers
up-to-the-minute news alerts, provided by a combination of citizen-
reporters and trained staf. While the owners and administrators of
such sites range widely—from passionate individuals to collectives to
upstart non-profts—these blogs are markedly more democratic than
their corporate-run, top-down brethren.
Internal and external forces, however, threaten to undermine “we
journalism” before its impact is fully realized.
Misinformation, disinformation, incredulity and magical thinking
are problems on the supply side of these new reporting modes. Aggrega-
tors of blog postings—which rank blog listings by popularity, similar to
Google’s page rank technology—already serve as a flter for this food
of amateur journalism. And reputation systems, flters and syndication
services also could develop into useful tools for assessing the veracity of
information sites. But political activists and those who sponsor progres-
sive projects also have a role: For “we journalism” to acquire long-term
credibility and lasting impact, we must fund, staf and promote media
literacy—teaching users to create and consume this new journalism.
Activists also have a role in turning back the corporate attacks that
seek to privatize the Internet by regulating content and limiting the
ability of amateurs to produce cultural works that compete with those
of media conglomerates.
Today, a small number of broadband Internet providers, such as
/Z sMARtMoBBI nG DeMoCRACY n
Comcast and Viacom, are pushing for regulations that would enable
them to pick and choose the content that travels over their part of the
network. Te courts also are coming to bear in this fght, as companies
work to extend copyright far beyond its original intent and establish
digital rights schemes that make it difcult to produce or distribute
digital content not authorized by the entertainment industry.
Te consolidation of media ownership into the hands of a small
number of individuals or cartels—who exchange political funding for
legislative and regulatory favors—is being fought by organizations
such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But activists who have not
been involved in technology or media issues need to join in this battle,
because communication media under dispute are profoundly political
tools. In coming decades, Internet-based media will exert more and
more infuence over what people know and believe, and over how they
can organize and assemble for collective action.
The Electronic Town Square
Network TV news and talk radio are hardly examples of the rea-
soned debate that philosopher Jürgen Habermas had in mind when
he described the public sphere as central to the life of a democracy.
Indeed, these examples substantiate the manipulation of public opin-
ion via popular media that Habermas warned about.
Online and many-to-many technologies can shift the locus of
the public sphere from a small number of powerful media owners to
entire populations. However, the value of Internet discourse in this
efort has not been proven, perhaps because the literacy around this
use of media has not had sufcient time to mature—the World Wide
Web is just over 10 years old, and has been gaining uninitiated users
each year.
Now, for better and worse, citizens are arguing with each other—
|uwo| J R|eircul J n /J
with varying degrees of civility—and sometimes marshaling evidence
to buttress logic in countless blogs, listservs, chat rooms and message
boards. Te quality and level of know-how and the willingness of a
signifcant portion of the population to adopt and self-enforce online
etiquette will determine whether reasoned online debate will fourish
or be drowned out by surlier forms of argument. Activists and journal-
ists must take a leading role in determining the success of this outcome
by wielding these technologies skillfully and purposively.
Organizing Collective Action
Only recently have political activists successfully used many-to-many
media to mobilize large-scale collective action such as street demonstra-
tions and protests, electoral fundraising, get-out-the-vote campaigns
and legislative lobbying. Technologies and methodologies are develop-
ing very rapidly at this point, as are the political moves that seek to
neutralize them.
In the United States, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has
built upon the success of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run, and
mobilized the self-organizing capabilities of supporters using social
networking tools to propel this underdog to front-runner status. If
Obama wins, 2008 will be the watershed political event for the Inter-
net that the Kennedy-Nixon debates were for television in 1960. In a
few years, MoveOn.org also has grown from a website protesting the
Clinton impeachment to an efective lobbying movement that infu-
ences legislation and elections.
Innovations are not confned to the United States. In South Korea,
the cyber-generation, seeing their favored candidate losing in exit polls,
used a website to organize a get-out-the-vote campaign involving
800,000 personal e-mails and uncounted SMS messages, all of which
ultimately turned the tide in the election’s fnal hours in favor of
/+ sMARtMoBBI nG DeMoCRACY n
President Roh. In the Philippines, a million citizens used SMS to orga-
nize street demonstrations that helped topple the Estrada regime.
Activists should concentrate their eforts on technology and its
capabilities for amplifying collective action. Te above examples are
only the beginning. Media capabilities are multiplying, the number
of people who use their mobile phones as Internet connections and
text-messaging media is growing explosively. And activists are only
beginning to experiment with ways to multiply their ability to organize
collective action.
Infuencing elections and legislation is the sine qua non of efective-
ness. In the next few years, peer-to-peer, self-organized, citizen-centric
movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real
political infuence, be successfully contained by those whose power they
threaten, or recede as a Utopian myth of days gone by. What we know
now, and what we do soon, will decide which of those scenarios unfolds.
Note: Tis essay frst appeared in In Tese Times in October 2003 and
has been updated for inclusion in this anthology.
About the Author
Howard Rheingold is a prolific author (Tools for Thought, The Virtual
Community, Smart Mobs). He is the founding editor of Hotwire, and has
taught about participatory media and community at the University of
California at Berkley and Stanford University.
WeAnInG CAMPAIGns
FRoM oLD MeDI A’ s teAt
B|oJ Teauletur

If the cost of media drives corruption, and the
cost media has been driven down, is a different result
possible?

c
ongressmen tell me that as soon as they are elected to ofce
they immediately set to work on their frst order of business,
raising money to get re-elected. Tey raise money mostly
from large donors and special interests, and become beholden to them
whether they like it or not. Tis is the primary source of corruption
in government.
Most of this money will be spent on TV ads. Tese ads will efec-
tively push their way unasked into voters’ homes. Every candidate has
a website, but that website only infuences the people who sought out
information on the candidate.
In the last decade we’ve had a true revolution in media. In par-
ticular, many new media are vastly less expensive to use than broadcast
media. If the cost of media drives corruption, and the cost of media has
been driven down, is a diferent result possible?
/5
/c WeAnI nG CAMPAI Gns FRoM oL D MeDI A’ s teAt n
I propose that we collect e-mail addresses from people when they
register to vote, just as we do street addresses. Tis release of infor-
mation could be voluntary, perhaps promoted as a voter’s civic duty.
E-mail addresses would not be made public the way other categories
of registration data are and voters would have the choice to opt in or
out of political mailings. Any registered candidate could request that
election ofcials do an e-mailing to all the voters in their district. You
might think of this option as political spam, but it will be conducted
with the consent of registered citizens, and managed by election of-
cials. Every candidate would get one free hit before voters can opt out,
but after that the candidates must carefully choose how much mail
they send so as to not annoy voters. Each e-mailing would also include
appropriate opt-out links and instructions.
Some candidates would send out a modest quantity to keep the
voter’s ear. Others might be less sparing. Some might reserve their mes-
sages for the weeks preceding the election. Tat’s up to the candidate,
and the voter. We might also consider some opt-out variations, such as
allowing each candidate one more shot two days before the election. It
can be assumed that most of the e-mail messages would try to be pithy
and to direct the voter to websites or web-videos for more information.
Some e-mail messages might be longer and wordier—it’s up to the
candidates to see what works.
Voters could even be given a range of e-mail options that would
allow them to control how much they want from each candidate. “Show
me all your ads,” one voter might say, while another might say, “You get
fve e-mails. Use them wisely.” Candidates could then send out an e-
mailing only to voters who have set their criteria at a certain threshold.
Te most important point here is that e-mail is super, super cheap.
A Secretary of State could run such a program with a tiny expendi-
ture. If this option reduces the candidates’ dependence on expensive
advertising even a little, it’s worth doing. Also, it is important to note
B| oJ Teaul etur n //
that as voters opt-out because they have made up their minds or don’t
want to participate in an election, the e-mails would correspondingly
end up largely in the inboxes of the undecided voters, just the folks the
candidates would love to reach.
It would not be unreasonable to assure some control over the con-
tent of the e-mails, if for no other reason than to ensure that impostors
don’t register as candidates simply to advertise used-car lots and the
like. And as there are so many elections at so many levels of govern-
ment (e.g., county legislators and sherifs, etc.), e-mail eforts may need
to be limited to the major races, say congressional and larger, that gen-
erally rely upon costly television advertising.
If old media is going to continue to be used, it doesn’t just have
to be for partisan purposes. Rather, every so often one of the TV ads
could announce, “You see candidates saying many things about them-
selves and their opponents here on TV. Before you vote, be sure to visit
the ofcial election site and see all sides. You owe it to yourself. You
owe it to democracy.”
We could also draw voters into the use of new media by reminding
them of diferent modes of learning about candidates and issues on the
ballot. A checkbox on the ballot might say, “Yes, I gave serious consid-
eration to the booklets or websites of several candidates.” Tis would
not be binding as it would appear on a secret ballot but it would make
you feel embarrassed if you weren’t able to check the box.
E-mail is certainly more “in your face” than a website, and it is
less intrusive than a robodialed phone call. However, there are more
new media capacities with which to experiment. For example, most
websites and search engines have a large amount of “spare inventory.”
Tis means that they have pages they display for which there are not
enough paid ads. Similar to the way that old broadcast media space was
often reserved for public service announcements, we could consider
encouraging major websites to donate such space for use by political
/8 WeAnI nG CAMPAI Gns FRoM oL D MeDI A’ s teAt n
campaigns. We could encourage these donations through tax deduc-
tions, or through a campaign of civic duty. Tis ad space is largely free
to provide; the only cost would be to broadcast media, which would
lose the previous windfalls from campaign advertising.
Te nation’s TV broadcasters are addicted to the teat of political
ad spending. Tey want that revenue and will lobby hard to protect it.
Perhaps we can recruit the websites to donate excess capacity before
they too are lost to the addiction of campaign dollars. Imagine if one
out of 50 election season YouTube videos started with a randomly
selected short political video ad? It might be annoying, but it might
also convince the electorate that the new method is much better than
the corruption-driving system it replaces.
In competitive elections, most voters focus on just two or three candi-
dates. Open, inexpensive systems of communications like those outlined
above might make people more aware of minority views. Some voters
might even think that it is making them disproportionately aware of these
views, as, in the current set-up, they usually don’t see them at all.
Te future holds the promise of an array of new media we have yet to
imagine. If we begin early, we may be able to shape these media to encour-
age inexpensive, open and broad political discourse without allowing
them to become captive to and of political campaigns and candidates.
About the Author
Brad Templeton founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s
first “dot-com”). He also created and publishes rec.humor.funny, and
its website, www.netfunny.com, the world’s longest running blog. He
is currently chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF),
the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation, and involved with the
Foresight Institute and BitTorrent, Inc.
tHe PoWeR
oF InCLUsIon
Mo|ie wilsur

True political participation is only achieved when
a person’s voice counts as much as his or her vote.

f
or the last 10 years, Te White House Project has looked closely
at how adding women to our nation’s leadership could transform
our democracy. Te Internet Age gives us a rich opportunity
not only to bring more women into leadership positions across this
country, but also to enhance and extend what they bring when they
serve. Here are a few examples of ways the Internet is broadening par-
ticipation for traditionally marginalized groups.
Instant Runoff Voting
Instant runof voting on the Internet is one way that women and other
outsider groups have a greater chance of winning elections. By allow-
ing voters to cast their vote for a number of candidates in priority
order, their preferred candidates have a better chance of winning when
a majority win is not attained for any one candidate. Tis would be
/9
8J tHe PoWeR oF I nCLUsI on n
particularly efective in local and county-wide races, which are the typ-
ical entry points into politics for outsiders, including women.
Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Legislation
One of the most important attributes women bring, as measured by
research institutions such as American University and the Center
for American Women and Politics, is engaging more people in the
process of formulating legislation and testing to see that proposed
bills and resolutions actually beneft those they are supposed to
serve. Te Internet ofers new ways of bringing that kind of inclu-
sion about. For example, if all voters in a district were given the
opportunity, via the Internet, to comment on proposed legislation,
the product would be more likely to improve. Tis has the dual
beneft of connecting more citizens to democracy and makes for a
richer civil society by ensuring that bills are more like to be consti-
tutionally sound.
Te inclusiveness of the Internet ofers the possibility of fostering a
stronger, more equitable democracy that could beneft both women and
men on many fronts. For example, there is the urgent matter of ensuring
that judges are able to weigh in on the constitutionality of bills—which
the Internet age now allows for, but which, in the past, has been difcult
to guarantee. In a session the White House Project held at Ohio State
University with several former and current judges, I was told that an
extraordinary amount of legislation had been passed by the legislature
and put in place that actually contradicted the state constitution.
Te same could be said when it comes to economic initiatives. Leg-
islation is often passed that actually ends up costing more money than
it saves, despite its being passed precisely because it was purported to
save state or district money. Transparency, and increased engagement
Mo|ie wilsur n 81
of a wide swath of citizens on these matters, will be the key to change.
And both are greatly facilitated by the spread of technology.
Public Debates Online via Blogging
Holding public hearings and debates on important issues via a form of
Internet blogging could also sharpen the debates on legislative propos-
als, and, again, bring women into the process. Women are less likely to
see themselves as experts on policy because they have too few examples
of women serving as leaders in their state and local governments. But
increasingly, women are fnding their voice by blogging and comment-
ing online about how our democracy functions. A lively online blogging
debate will include the voices of more women (especially young women,
who are high Internet users) and refne their thinking—as well as public
policy—through their input. Women are known to be “outside the box”
thinkers—so having their ideas at the forefront of political and legisla-
tive debate might bring the online community the quality of innovation
that women bring to every other table at which they serve.
True political participation is only achieved when a person’s voice
counts as much as his or her vote. Te Internet has proven to be an
immense avenue for inspiring a more robust, diverse, and spirited
political landscape, encouraging previous “outsiders” to lay claim to
the political process. As the connections between technology and poli-
tics continue to unfold, it is important that women take the lead in the
process of exploration. America’s political system may have been forged
by a small, elite group of men, but the Internet ofers an expansive and
fresh opportunity to create new entry points and forums towards the
creation of an entirely new type of politics.
“Multi multa sciunt et seipsos nesciunt.” (Many men know many
things, but know themselves not at all.)
8Z tHe PoWeR oF I nCLUsI on n
About the Author
Marie C. Wilson is founder and President of The White House Project,
co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day and author of
Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World
(Viking 2004).
In tHe BeGInnInG
tHeRe WeRe WIKIs
Jus|uo |e.]

While I was lecturing about communities and social
issues, my students were worrying about how to pay for expensive
calls to the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Pakistan.

t
wo years ago I showed up in an English as a Second Language
class in the Bronx to teach the students, most of whom were
from the Dominican Republic, how to blog. In my frst les-
son I handed out printouts describing how to set up an account on
a website called Blogger.com. I then launched into an idealistic rant
that began: “Social technology is a new, powerful way to organize and
be involved in your community. You can form groups at the click of
a mouse; you can write about social and political issues and connect
to other bloggers.”
I asked for questions.
“It is very expensive to call my family back home,” said Ivelisse, a
woman in her mid-40s. “Can this make it cheaper?”
“I call my mother every day,” said Andy, a man in his early 20s who
would soon become the savviest of the group. “Maybe this is easier?”
8J
8+ I n tHe BeGI nnI nG tHeRe WeRe WI KI s n
While I was lecturing about communities and social issues, my
students were worrying about how to pay for expensive calls to the
Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Pakistan. Tey wanted results,
not high-minded optimism.
We had wildly diferent notions of what constitutes “communica-
tions technology.” While I had been indoctrinated in the marvels of a
wiki world—Utopian ideas about technology-assisted self-organizing
and activism—my students understood social technology on a much
more personal level.
My students were not newcomers to new media. Several of my stu-
dents used the Spanish-language networking site MiGente.com, and
others used MySpace and Flickr. Tey all e-mailed religiously (it was
the cheapest way to stay in touch with their families), and many of
them were in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from their
constant text messaging. While some students accessed the Internet
online at school or at a library, perhaps half the class had a desktop
computer with Internet access at home. Te tools for broader civic
engagement were there, but not necessarily the interest.
Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny
After going through the process of setting up blogging accounts, I
explained hyperlinks. “Hyperlinks are the bread and butter of writing
online,” I said. “Tey connect you to the world, and the world to you.”
I asked the students to write blog posts about particular issues like
music, food, history, and immigration, and instructed them to link to
other bloggers who also wrote about these things. Linking turned out
to be an empowering act. Because the students immediately searched
for terms they knew—merengue being the frst hot topic—they discov-
ered that buried in the Web’s overwhelming morass of text, images,
and video were real people blogging every day about issues and topics
they were also interested in, like children and platanos.
Jus|uo |e.] n 85
Tat same spring, beginning in March 2006, hundreds of thousands
of immigrants and their supporters protested rising anti-immigrant
sentiment across the country. My students suddenly found themselves
in a position to comment on those events in the semi-public space of
their blogs. We were experiencing, on a microcosmic level, the birth
of the Web itself. Tey were discovering kindred spirits and linking to
them, and in the process creating something new: an online commu-
nity. Tese networked, connective acts comprised a small-scale model
of the actions and feelings that fueled the birth of the Web in the frst
place. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.
The Dream of Web-Induced Political Consciousness.
One day Andy complained that while he understood why it was impor-
tant that we learn about the Web, he didn’t see how this would make
it any easier to keep in touch with his family. Others agreed with him.
It was a profound moment for me. While I had been talking about
the signifcance of connecting to new people all over the world, many
of these students wanted to connect to specifc people in specifc places.
I could see that this and other anxieties were getting in the way of the
web-induced political consciousness I was trying so hard to impress
upon my students.
After that class, many students simply went through the motions.
On one of the last days of the semester I set up a camera outside
the leafy campus and interviewed about half the students, asking for
their response to the project. Most gave me bland responses like “It was
a fun project,” “You get to write about things that you fnd interesting,”
“It’s fun to connect to other people using the Web,” etc. I felt that very
few, if any, of them had been touched by the Web in the way I had
been hoping. I walked away that day depressed about the ability of the
web to help people outside of the elite world of the well-connected to
self-organize, to gain political consciousness, to do something.
8c I n tHe BeGI nnI nG tHeRe WeRe WI KI s n
Joining the Conversation
Te course was a very brief time to try to accomplish very big things.
It made me realize that even if we get more computers into our schools
and extend Internet access to all citizens, only part of the problem will
be solved. If we really want to think of the Web as an engine of political
change, we must pair the goal of universal accessibility with education
to ensure that citizens become web literate and that they learn about
the intrinsic social possibilities of the Internet.
As with other types of education, there are structural barriers to
making this happen. Education isn’t free. Travel is becoming increas-
ingly expensive. Working single mothers have little time to feed their
children, much less log onto Facebook and create activist groups. With
a few, superhuman exceptions, young men working two jobs are often
too tired to blog about community afairs or presidential politics.
When we talk about how online participation is changing our poli-
tics—and it really is—we all too often forget about those who are being
left behind. For most Americans, the Web is becoming as typical and
unremarkable as the analog phone. We need to ensure that this becomes
true for more and more people across income barriers so that politi-
cal consciousness—that special dream of mine—will follow. For me,
it won’t be adequate to use words like “revolution” or “people-powered
democracy” until my students can join the conversation.
About the Author
Joshua Levy is a writer and web strategist whose work explores the
intersections of technology, politics, and activism. He is Associate Editor
of techPresident and Personal Democracy Forum, and his analysis and
work at techPresident.com has been featured in the New York Times, the
Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Salon, NPR, ABC News, AOL Politics,
the CBC, Sky News, and XM Radio, among others.
sAVInG AMeRICA FRoM I ts
18tH CentURY PoLI tICAL sYsteM
Jor ||el orJ liccu Mele

The closest existing reform movements and
campaigns that touch on this subject relate to campaign
finance, the electoral college, run-off voting and the like, but
none of these issues take on the entirety of the dangerously
outdated culture of our political system.

w
e want to share with you what we believe is the most pressing
problem facing our country: the meltdown of our 18
th
-
century political system.
It is not easy to watch the American media culture (from progres-
sive to hard right) being totally sold on the idea of one president for
300 million people, as though the presidency is still ft to human scale.
Te only issue at hand seems to be which individual is best suited for
this task.
It is also difcult to observe the best political writers blaming Bush’s
White House for shredding the Constitution, when much of the cause
has been the inertia of political decay. Jeferson warned that this is what
would happen unless the Constitution was updated, totally rewritten,
8/
88 sAVI nG AMeRI CA FRoM I ts 18 tH CentURY PoLI tI CAL sYsteM n
every few decades. But the Constitution remains virtually unmodifed
from its inception—we’ve added only a handful of amendments.
And as the politics have stayed the same, everything else has raced
ahead. Science and technology are changing society with increasing
speed, and we are left with a primitive political system.
Looking around at the unfathomable numbers in the national debt
and defcit; at the way the federal government was physically unable
to respond to Hurricane Katrina; at its inability to change energy and
environmental policy, the only solution we see at this point is that the
political system itself must be radically updated. Otherwise we will
watch the state continue to fold in on itself, stripping rights and free-
doms, becoming more inept and more corrupt.
In 2006, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, Chair of the Budget
Committee, said: “It’s hard to understand what a trillion is. I don’t
know what it is.” He said that hours after shepherding a $2.8 tril-
lion budget through the Senate. It may not be fair to expect anyone
to understand what a trillion dollars is, or how to manage that kind
of money in a democratic fashion. Our political system forces 535
members of Congress and a president to navigate impossibly large
issues, often thousands of miles away from their 300 million constitu-
ents. Te inertia of this process is virtually unstoppable. Who is to say
that we have the right number of representatives? Or that they should
physically live in Washington DC to pass laws?
To us, the idea of a political savior in the guise of a presidential can-
didate or congressional majority sounds downright scary. But the writers
and journalists of our era (across the ideological spectrum) are still com-
pletely sold on it. Here and there, tucked away in transcripts and op-eds, are
wisps and backhanded references, mostly gloomy, to our dying republic.
Former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist
Peggy Noonan wrote an article hinting that “we’re at the end of some-
thing” in 2005. She continued:
Jor ||el orJ li ccu Mel e n 89
Let me focus for a minute on the presidency, another institution in
trouble. In the past I have been impatient with the idea that it’s impos-
sible now to be president, that it is impossible to run the government
of the United States successfully or even competently. I always thought
that was an excuse of losers. I’d seen a successful presidency up close.
It can be done. But since 9/11, in the four years after that catastrophe,
I have wondered if it hasn’t all gotten too big, too complicated, too
crucial, too many-fronted, too . . . impossible. . . It’s beyond, ‘Te
president is overwhelmed.’ Te presidency is overwhelmed. Te whole
government is.
Te longer the state remains unchanged, the harder it becomes
for it to enforce any laws other than those that protect itself. And
that means that at some point, well-meaning politicians start passing
laws and regulations that are meaningless. Tis is especially crucial
because it means that the federal instrument and state governments
are not equipped to adequately deal with gigantic issues like the envi-
ronment and energy reform. Tis phenomenon is already in action at
the state level: California has passed a series of emissions laws (which
is laudable), but the state is unable to enforce them in any meaning-
ful way.
Tis is the real political crisis we face: a political system that is inef-
fectual, disconnected from the people, and feeding on itself to survive.
We need the thinkers and leaders of our time to come out and “fess
up” that our political culture has become unmanageable—crazy, in
fact. Even with the best people in ofce holding the best of ideals, our
political system dooms them. Te system needs to be updated, becom-
ing more distributed and vastly more democratic.
We need to talk about our collapsing political system. It is the only
way we will fnd a solution. We need a public discourse, started by our
leaders, to support and encourage emerging democratic eforts across
the country. Americans are looking for political fgures in Washington
9J sAVI nG AMeRI CA FRoM I ts 18 tH CentURY PoLI tI CAL sYsteM n
to afrm their beliefs about the dire state of our political culture—and
to encourage them to re-imagine the Republic.
For a public fgure of our day to embark on this path is to be
regarded by the rest of the political class as at best a bufoon and at
worst a threat. What makes it all the more embarrassing to go down
this road is that the political class will expect a solution, when the only
way to come up with a solution is to begin a national discussion.
Te closest existing reform movements and campaigns that touch
on this subject relate to campaign fnance, the electoral college, run-
of voting and the like, but none of these issues take on the entirety of
the dangerously outdated culture of our political system. Tese reform
eforts may even strengthen the fundamental architecture of our politi-
cal system as they set the imaginative boundaries for what constitutes
political reform.
It is worth wondering why there is not much political argument
out there that goes after the fundamental precepts of our political
culture—such as the suggestion that 300 million people sharing one
president is itself a big problem. Looking around at the state of things,
one would have guessed there would be a lot more demand for an
examination of the fundamental mechanics of the system.
Instead, what is going on right now is that a large portion of the
politically active element in society is expressing itself through the pres-
idential format. Ten thousand people go to a Barack Obama speech,
one of many rallies he has held with an audience that size. Te explana-
tion available in the media for the huge attendance is that people are
inspired by Obama’s appeal to “hope.” And the general explanation for
the interest in the presidential race is that there is no sitting incumbent,
an unpopular war, and a defective president.
Te truth is, of course, that 10,000 people are going to see Obama
because seeing a presidential candidate speak for an hour is one of the
few socially sanctioned ways to express your political concerns in this
Jor ||el orJ li ccu Mel e n 91
country (sending checks to candidates is another). Tat is the way that
these 10,000 people “knew” how to practice their politics. Never mind
that it is deeply inefcient to try to squeeze the issues facing 300 mil-
lion citizens into the bodies of a handful of presidential candidates in
a two-year discussion before one of them has any real power. Tis is
our political culture.
Until something is done to challenge the political culture, we will
keep seeing citizens who want to change things using a tired vehicle,
like a presidential candidate, or retreating with disafection from the
political process.
A good way to start a challenge to the existing political culture is
by having a series of conversations. We could have public fgures serve
as ambassadors for various political and social viewpoints. Tey would
communicate their perspective in their own ways to their audiences.
Countless democratic eforts across the country would be emboldened
when some of the voices in the national media and Washington con-
frm the discomfort with the state of the American political system. It
would give Americans a resolve to try a diferent kind of politics where
they live, in their communities.
We believe that it’s not too late to save the republic because we
believe in the American mind. We believe that the American people
can craft and invent a new political culture, with the institutions and
systems to match, that take advantage of all of the technological and
social advances of the last three centuries.
About the Authors
Jan Frel is a senior editor of AlterNet.org. He lives in California.
Nicco Mele is a co-founder of EchoDitto and currently lives in Medford,
Massachusetts with his wife and their dog and cat.
sMALL “d” DeMoCRACY
Susor C|owíu|J

We should not discount the power of minor, visible,
short-lived actions of Americans to make our lives more
significant and to change democratic institutions.

w
e Americans are just trying to get by. Abstract ideas about
democracy and the notion of civic engagement aren’t as
interesting and sticky as we professors might like. We’re a
busy people.
Every once in a while, though, Americans rise to the democratic
occasion on their own, without needing a how-to guide to democratic
ideals. Tey serve proudly on a jury, they wait patiently in line to vote,
or they go to a neighborhood meeting and listen, arms folded. We feel,
I think, a solemn impulse that this is the right thing to do. We wear a
button, work on a campaign—why?
Here, I think, is why, and it points to what the Internet can facili-
tate. A signifcant life is one in which ideals are somehow linked to
courage, will, or action. When we act in accordance with democratic
ideals of participation or representation, we make our lives more sig-
9Z
Susor C| owíu| J n 9J
nifcant, and we feel this uprush of solemnity and citizenship. We exist,
we have liberty, and if enough of us are interested in a particular person
or issue we can exert change.
Tis may be too simple, but if I had the power to redesign our
form of government I would make it far easier for ideals to be joined
to action, and I would use the Internet to do it. Attention is the most
valuable currency we have these days, and the great beneft (and, often,
burden) of online communication is that it makes it possible to divide
our attention into slender slices. We can read about politics, catch up
on sports scores, fnd a news story, and talk to friends on Facebook
almost simultaneously. If it were possible to pay attention every once in
a while, between elections, to what our representatives or agency heads
were about to do in an area of interest to us—and register our reaction
to that proposed action—that would be useful.
Tis is a modest goal. Americans want to feel that our lives have
been made more signifcant through participation in governance. Vot-
ing in elections is important, but it is not enough, and it need not be
the ceiling for participation. With a little experimentation, we could be
doing much more for ourselves.
For example: localities could generate radar-screens of issues coming
before the city council or the mayor. With the weather report (some-
thing everyone seems to be interested in) on a local page could come a
small radar visualization, with pulsing dots showing what matters were
likely to have an efect on your neighborhood. If you were interested,
you could click through and do a short amount of reading—perhaps
just Twitter-length—about what was about to happen. And then act in
some efective way (such as sharing the information with others, writ-
ing about it, or showing up at the meeting), with feedback showing
how your action had been assessed/aggregated by others.
Easier communication with legislators or agency-actors could
help facilitate that uprush of active citizenship. Tat uprush will be
9+ sMAL L d DeMoCRACY n
strengthened when we can see the aggregated response of our neighbors
and the resulting government response. Identifying public advocacy
opportunities, such as chances to testify, would help—again, with feed-
back. Tese very simple and relatively minor actions can change lives
and our institutions of government in powerful, nonlinear, and surpris-
ing ways. Te opportunity to see results, to know that others are joining
with you, is possible online.
Each essay like this has just one idea, and here is the idea of this
one: We should not discount the power of minor, visible, short-lived
actions of Americans to make our lives more signifcant and to change
democratic institutions. Indeed, the change forced by these individual
actions may be unpredictable and enormous, and that is as it should
be. We should do whatever we can to make it easier for Americans to
choose to spend some of their precious attention on democratic mat-
ters without having to devote their lives to deliberation. Te Internet
makes these kinds of visible interventions possible.
About the Author
Susan Crawford is currently a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law
School, teaching Internet law and communications law. Last term (fall
2007), she was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law
School, and starting on July 1, 2008 she will join the faculty at Michigan.
She is a member of the board of directors of ICANN and is the founder
of OneWebDay, a global Earth Day for the Internet that takes place each
Sept. 22.
PRoFessIonAL PoLI tICI Ans
BeWARe!
/o|ur Swo| t /

By the power of exponents, just five levels of
councils, each consisting of only fifty people, is enough to
cover over three hundred million people.

t
he government of a republic, James Madison wrote in Federalist
No.39 (Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles,
1788), must “be derived from the great body of the society, not
from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise
a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a del-
egation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and
claim for their government the honorable title of republic.”
Looking at our government today—a House of professional poli-
ticians, a Senate flled with multimillionaires, a string of presidential
family dynasties—it seems hard to maintain that our ofcials are in
fact “derived from the great body of the society” and not “a favored
class” merely posing as representatives of the people.
Unless politics is a tradition in your family, your odds of getting
95
9c PRoFessI onAL PoLI tI CI Ans BeWARe! n
elected to federal ofce are slim. And unless you’re a white male lawyer,
you rarely get to vote for someone like yourself in a national race. Nor,
in reality, do we have an opportunity to choose policy positions: no
major candidates support important proposals that most voters agree
with, like single-payer health care.
Instead, national elections have been boiled down to simple binary
choices, which advertising men and public relations teams reduce to
pure emotions: Fear. (A bear prowls through the woods.) Hope. (Te
sun rises over a hill.) Vote Smith. Or maybe Jones.
Nor does the major media elevate the level of debate. Instead of
substantive discussions about policy proposals and their efects, they
spend their time on horse-race coverage (who’s raised the most money?
who’s polling well in Ohio?) and petty scandals (how much did that
haircut cost? was someone somewhere ofended by that remark?)
Te result after all this dumbing down? In 2004, voters who said
they chose a presidential candidate based on the candidate’s agendas,
ideas, platforms, or goals comprised a whopping 10% of the electorate.
So it’s not too surprising when political scientists fnd that voters’ deci-
sions can be explained by such random factors as whether they like red
or blue, whether the economy is good or bad, or whether the current
party has been in ofce for long or not.
Aside from the occasional telephone poll, the opinions of “the
great body of the society” have been edited out of the picture. Way
back in Federalist No. 10 (Te Utility of the Union as a Safeguard
Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued), 1787), Madi-
son put his fnger on the reason. “However small the republic may be,”
he noted, “the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in
order to guard against the cabals of a few.” But similarly, “however large
it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard
against the confusion of a multitude.”
Te result is that the population grows while the number of rep-
• • •
/o|ur Swo| t / n 9/
resentatives stays fxed, leaving each politician to represent more and
more people. Te frst Congress had a House of 65 members repre-
senting 40,000 voters and three million citizens (they had a whopping
1.3% voter turnout back then). Tat’s a representative for around every
600 voters or 46,000 citizens (the size of the average baseball stadium).
A baseball stadium may be a bit of an unruly mob, but it’s not unimag-
inably large.
Today, by contrast, we have 435 representatives and 300 million
citizens—one for roughly every 700,000 citizens. Tere isn’t a stadium
in the world big enough to hold that many people. It’s a number more
akin to a television audience (it’s about how many people tune in to
watch Keith Olbermann each night).
Which is exactly what the modern constituency has become: the
TV audience following along at home. Even if you wanted to, you can’t
have a real conversation with a TV audience. It is too big to convey a
sense of what each individual is thinking. Instead of a group to repre-
sent, it’s a mob to be managed.
I agree with Madison that there is roughly a right size for a group of
representatives “on both sides of which inconveniences will be found
to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the
representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances
and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly
attached to these, and too little ft to comprehend and pursue great and
national objects.”
But what Madison missed is that there is no similar limit on the
number of such groups. To take a technological analogy, the Internet
is, at bottom, an enormous collection of wires. Yet nobody would ever
think of it this way. Instead, we group the wires into chips and the
98 PRoFessI onAL PoLI tI CI Ans Be WARe! n
chips into computers and the computers into networks and the net-
works into the Internet. And people only deal with things at each level:
when the computer breaks, we can’t identify which wire failed; we take
the whole thing into the shop.
One of the most compelling visions for rebooting democracy adopts
this system of abstraction for politics. Parpolity, developed by the political
scientist Stephen Shalom, would build a legislature out of a hierarchical
series of nested councils. Agreeing with Madison, he says each council
should be small enough that everyone can engage in face-to-face discus-
sion but large enough that there is a diversity of opinion and the number
of councils is minimized. He estimates the right size is 25 to 50 people.
So, to begin with, let us imagine a council of you and your 40 clos-
est neighbors—perhaps the other people in your apartment building
or on your block. You get together every so often to discuss the issues
that concern you and your neighborhood. And you may vote to set
policy for the area which the council covers.
But your council has another function: it selects one of its own
to send as a representative to the next council up. Tere the process
repeats itself: the representative from your block and its 40 closest
neighbors meet every so often to discuss the political issues that con-
cern the area. And, of course, your representative reports back to the
group, gets your recommendations on difcult questions, and takes
suggestions for issues to raise at the next area council meeting.
By the power of exponents, just fve levels of councils, each consist-
ing of only ffty people, is enough to cover over three hundred million
people. But—and this is the truly clever bit—at the area council the
whole process repeats itself. Just as each block council nominates a
representative to the area council, each area council nominates a repre-
sentative to the city council, and each city council to the state council,
each state council to the national council, and so on.
Shalom discusses a number of further details—provisions for vot-
• • •
/o|ur Swo| t / n 99
ing, recalls, and delegation—but it’s the idea of nesting that’s key. Under
such a system, there are only four representatives who stand between
you and the people setting national policy, each of whom is forced
to account to their constituents in regular, small face-to-face meet-
ings. Politicians in such a system could not be elected through empty
appeals to mass emotions. Instead, they would have to sit down, face-
to-face, with a council of their peers and persuade them that they are
best suited to represent their interests and positions.
Tere is something rather old-fashioned about this notion of sitting
down with one’s fellow citizens and rationally discussing the issues of
the day. But there is also something exciting and new about it. In the
same way that blogs have given everyone a chance to be a publisher,
Wikipedia lets everyone be an encyclopedia author, and YouTube lets
anyone be a television producer, Parpolity would let everyone be a
politician.
Te Internet has shown us that the pool of people with talent far
outnumbers the few with the background, connections, and wealth to
get to a place in society where they can practice their talents profession-
ally. (It also shows us that many people with those connections aren’t
particularly talented.)
Te democratic power of the Net means you don’t need connec-
tions to succeed. In a world where kids can be television stars just by
fnding a video camera and an Internet connection, citizens may begin
to wonder why getting into politics is so much harder.
For many years, politicians had a ready excuse: politics was a dif-
fcult job, which required carefully weighing and evaluating evidence
and making difcult decisions. Only a select few could be trusted to
perform it; the vast majority of the population was woefully under-
1JJ tHe etHI Cs oF oPenness n
qualifed.
And perhaps in the era of a cozy relationship between politicians
and the press, this illusion could be sustained. But as netroots activists
and blogs push our national conversation ever closer to the real world,
this excuse is becoming laughable. After all, these men and women of
supposedly sober judgment voted overwhelmingly for disasters like the
Iraq War. “No one could have ever predicted this,” TV’s talking heads
all insist. No one, that is, except the great body of society, whose insis-
tence that Iraq did not pose a threat and that an occupation would be
long and brutal went ignored.
New online tools for interaction and collaboration have let people
come together across space and time to build amazing things. As the
Internet breaks down the last justifcations for a professional class of
politicians, it also builds up the tools for replacing them. For the most
part, their eforts have so far been focused on education and entertain-
ment, but it’s only a matter of time before they turn to politics. And
when they do, professional politicians beware!
About the Author
Aaron Swartz is a hacker, writer, and activist. His latest project is
watchdog.net, a website that holds politicians accountable.
sIDeWALKs FoR
DeMoCRACY onLIne
Ste.er |. Clií t

The typical e-government experience is like
walking into a barren room with a small glass window, a singular
experience to the exclusion of other community members.

g
overnment websites don’t have sidewalks, newspaper racks,
public hearing rooms, hallways or grand assemblies. Tere are
no public forums or meeting places in the heart of representa-
tive democracy online.
Te question that this essay will ask and answer is not what can we
do to redesign democracy for the Internet Age, but, rather, why have
we decided to delete democracy from the most visited interface citizens
have with “their” government? And what are we going to do about it?
After almost two decades of “e-democracy,” we seem content with
simply accelerating online what’s already wrong with politics. We raise
money online to support more political television ads, we “democra-
tize” national partisan punditry through blogs aimed at infuencing
mass media agendas, and whip up outrage through e-advocacy cam-
paigns that fall into the electronic trash cans of Congress. Online news,
1J1
1JZ sI DeWAL Ks FoR DeMoCRACY onLI ne n
campaigns, forums, blogs and other online social networks may appear
public, but are ultimately privately controlled spaces where only the
owner has real freedom.
Representative democracy is based on geography, on people con-
necting with one another locally to react to and infuence government.
And yet, rarely does anything truly interactive happen online that
enables citizens to jointly solve problems or to get directly involved
in eforts to make their communities better. Democratic participation
online is having the efect of disconnecting us from our physical place
in the world, to our collective demise.
Te typical e-government experience is like walking into a barren
room with a small glass window, a singular experience to the exclusion
of other community members. Tere is no human face, just a one-
way process of paying your taxes, registering for services, browsing the
information that the government chooses to share, or leaving a private
complaint that is never publicly aired. You have no ability to speak with
a person next to you much less address your fellow citizen browsers as a
group. As I’ve said for years, it is ironic that the best government web-
sites are those that collect your taxes, while those that give you a say on
how your taxes are spent are the worst or simply do not exist.
Tat said, around the world and in my hometown, I’ve seen trans-
formative episodes where the online medium is used to build stronger
communities. I’ve given “e-democracy” speeches to governments (and
others) interested in using the Internet to improve democracy and
citizen participation across 27 countries. In 1994, I helped create the
world’s frst election information website, E-Democracy.Org. Trough
these experiences, I’ve been inspired by a small collection of “democ-
racy builders” who are toiling on the edge of e-politics or dodging the
grip of “services frst, democracy later” e-government projects. Te
generational challenge we face in designing democracy to survive (per-
haps even thrive) online is to identify the incremental contributions
Ste.er |. Cli í t n 1JJ
the Internet can make when democratic intent is applied to it and then
to make those tools, features, practices, and rights universally accessible
to all people in all cities, states, and countries.
Big Ideas for the Next Decade
We know the Internet can connect people with ideas like no medium
in history. It can raise voices, share experiences, distribute knowledge,
and engage people. Te challenge is building a local “anywhere, any
time” representative democracy, perhaps paradoxically, through glob-
ally shared models and tools.
Government needs the capacity to listen to and engage people
online to settle conficts among the loudest and most powerful voices in
society as well as to engage everyday people. We desperately need tools
and techniques that provide a counterbalance to the politics of divisive-
ness and vitriol. We need places for civility and decorum online as all of
our public life, particularly politics, substantially moves online.
I am an optimist at heart and every day I try to do something posi-
tive for democracy online. So, if I had a million dollars, make that, one
hundred million dollars, to invest in the future of democracy online
over the next decade, here is what I would do:
1. Make The Internet a Democracy Network by Nature
Because representative democracy is based on geography, content cre-
ated by citizens must be identifed by place instead of simply organized
by issue. Content, from a news story to an online comment to a pic-
ture or video, needs to automatically be assigned (or “tagged”) with a
geographic place. In addition, content bounded by a state or region or
identifed as global will be essential.
New content must be easily searched and aggregated for community-
level display. As neighbors gravitate to talk about local issues online, so
1J+ sI DeWAL Ks FoR DeMoCRACY onLI ne n
will our elected representatives tap our public pulse online. To cata-
lyze this idea, I’d work with large open source, user-generated content
producing systems such as Drupal, Plone, Joomla, MediaWiki and
WordPress. Within months, a new dynamic universe of content and
interactivity for us to navigate and connect to by place would exist.
2. Connecting Locally Based on Common Public Interests
In the past ffty years, as shopping malls have privatized the historic
public space of Main Street, we’ve lost something. Today’s commercial
online social networks do little more than “publicize” private life. Real
“public life,” be it local, national, or global, needs accessible and useful
public places online (be they legally “public” or functionally public with
restrictions on censorship or arbitrary control by the legal owner).
Local online news sites connect communities with shared local
news experiences. However, almost all online social networking experi-
ences that people have with their friends and family online are about
private life. We need to invest signifcantly in eforts that encourage
people to connect locally based on common interests and issues, not
just globally based on highly specialized interests. We don’t need to
build any more echo chambers.
3. Restore and Deepen Access to Representative Democracy
and Governance Through New Laws and Online Public Hearings
Let’s embrace the ideal of government “of, by and for” the people. Let’s
seize this Internet moment to build trust in our government through
public interactions tied to decision-making as well as through transpar-
ency and the active dissemination of information.
We can build “sidewalks,” or at least “limited public forums”
in legalese, on government websites by authorizing external links to
related resources so government websites are not dead-ends. Open
meeting and other laws must be changed to require the proactive use of
Ste.er |. Cli í t n 1J5
the Internet for information dissemination and notifcation. I’d fund
the creation of open source tools to support “online public hearings.”
Imagine starting with a standardized online “democratic pulse” (used
by all governments) of all public meetings with schedules, agendas,
minutes, handouts, and digital recordings. Ten add the ability to
share your own e-testimony for 48 hours after the in-person meeting.
People could then rate or comment on the testimony of others (with
civility and decorum requirements) to help us focus our scarce atten-
tion time on the most useful submissions.
Taking this a step further, if we really believe in a government
that is owned by the people, how can any public information remain
ofine? While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) continues to
have its place, I predict a fundamental shift: By default, all taxpayer-
funded government information from a memo by a township clerk to
the town board to ethics fling by Members of Congress, will be avail-
able online. Period. Tat’s it. Only legally narrowly defned private or
secret information, such as military and national security information,
will be ofine. Sound fanciful? Estonia already has such a document
register in operation. Perhaps a distrust of government power built over
50 years of communism has allowed them to leapfrog our democracy.
4. Restoring the Bonds of Community
When I was a child and my father had cancer, I remember neighbors
coming to our assistance in our time of need. Today, with modern life
keeping neighbors as strangers, we must use these new tools to break
down barriers to community. You deserve the right to easily e-mail
your immediate neighbors the morning after you’ve been burglarized
without having to go door-to-door to collect e-mail addresses. We
can balance safety and privacy with selective public disclosure of such
personal contact information with an intelligent “unlisted to most”
directory option that is not the all or nothing of today.
1Jc sI DeWAL Ks FoR DeMoCRACY onLI ne n
Tis is big “C” community and small “d” democracy. A collection of
better-connected blocks, tied to broader neighborhood and community-
wide online eforts will serve as the vibrant foundation we need for
accountable and efective representative democracy right up to the
Congress and president. You cannot force everyone to be neighborly,
but the bonds of community can be restored and nurtured despite dual
income families and the assault on time for community involvement.
I am helping build an online neighborhood forum that will soon
connect 10% of the households daily (in an area with 10,000 residents)
where I live in Minneapolis. Every neighborhood should have an online
space (see links to E-Democracy.Org’s Issues Forums and projects like
Vermont’s Front Porch Forum, and the academic i-Neighbors project
from E-Democracy.Org/nf ). We also need tools that allow people who
live within a block of one another to connect many-to-many in secure,
semi-public ways. Tis builds on the simple directory idea above and
extends it to support all sorts of exchanges, from babysitting referrals to
communicating as a group with city hall about potholes.
Small Actions We Can All Take Today
I have shared some big ideas that will help us make progress over the
long term. But what can each one of us do now, today, to restore our
democracy?
A. Join or create place-based forums or blogs for your neighbor-
hood or community.
Recruit 100 people, require the use of real names, and open up
your own local forum. Learn more at E-Democracy.Org/if. Be sure to
give people a choice to participate by e-mail or online.
B. Work with your elected ofcials to introduce legislation requir-
ing all public meetings to be announced on the Internet.
Ste.er |. Cli í t n 1J/
Updating open meeting laws to frst require announcements, then
agendas, handouts, digital recording, is a good starting point. Learn
more at DoWire.Org.
C. Tag the content you produce with geographic terms or “geo
tag” if you are technically inclined.
Add geographic tags to the content you share at every opportunity,
whether you simply tag your blog post “Minnesota” so it shows up on
WordPress.com or tag a video uploaded to YouTube. Learn more from
our E-Democracy.Org/voices experiment.
We Have The Power And Obligation To
Redesign Democracy
Te democratic potential of this new medium has hit the grinder of
partisan politics around the world. Too often in politics, the primary
engine of innovation is the quest for media attention and power rather
than real openness or a desire for democratic deliberation and engage-
ment. No matter who wins in this 2008 “e-election,” the new president
will likely and immediately turn of the interactivity that helped to get
them elected. Hopefully I am wrong and we will see White House 2.0
alongside Community 2.0.
About the Author
Steven L. Clift is a Founder and Board Chair of E-Democracy.Org and an
Ashoka Fellow. He is also editor of DoWire.Org—the Democracies Online
Newswire.
PRI VACY In tHe InteRnet AGe:
tIMe to Go?
Clerr |o|lor Re]rulJs

But here’s the real reason I think it’s going
to be hard to protect privacy, I’m not sure how much
people do care.

i
f I were in charge, how would I save privacy in the Internet Age?
I’m not sure I would. Instead, I might opt for transparency.
Privacy may be overrated. At least, we should probably hope
so. For most of human history, there wasn’t much privacy, you lived in
a tribe or a small village, and everybody pretty much knew each other’s
business. Even as late as the 19
th
century, apartment buildings were
frowned upon because they made it hard for busybodies (then seen
as virtuous defenders of community norms, not nosy annoyances) to
monitor people’s comings, goings, and guests.
What we think of as privacy, in which most of our doings are our
business and not easily discoverable by the general public, is a pretty
recent development. Unfortunately, it may turn out to have been a
short-lived artifact of a particular stage in technology. Before the Inter-
net Age, gathering information on people was hard and organizing it
1J8
Cl err |o|l or Re]rul Js n 1J9
even harder, as other economic developments made escaping scrutiny
from the village elders easier. Police and intelligence agencies could stay
on top of things with regard to selected individuals, but the burden of
keeping up with the populace at large was sufciently high that there
wasn’t much danger of widespread surveillance.
Tings are diferent now. Te same technological revolution that
has empowered individuals in other ways has also empowered states,
businesses, and, yes, individuals to pry into other people’s lives by mak-
ing it easier and cheaper to collect and collate information. Cameras
are ubiquitous in stores, on highways, in public squares and private
buildings. Purchase, credit, and fnancial records are digital and easily
indexed.
Of the changes, easy indexing is probably the biggest threat. Courts
generally hold that things you do in public, with third parties, aren’t
private. When you dial a phone number, you’re telling the phone com-
pany—a third party—the number, so it’s not private. When you shop
in a store, it’s not private. When you drive down a highway, it’s not
private. But traditionally, people weren’t able to put all those diferent
bits of information together. Now, with computerization, that’s child’s
play (sometimes literally so) and the product of all those isolated bits of
information, each perhaps innocuous in itself, may be far more reveal-
ing than you imagine.
At present, there’s no real protection against this sort of privacy
threat (it’s not legally defned as a privacy threat at all). Many people
believe that there should be some sort of legal protection, but current
statutes don’t take the necessary overarching approach. Various bits
of the problem get addressed. For example, a special statute protect-
ing video rental records was passed when an alternative newsweekly
published a list of the movies Robert Bork rented shortly after being
nominated to the Supreme Court. But there’s no big-picture treatment.
In fact, there’s not much agreement on what that kind of treatment
11J PRI VACY I n tHe I nteRnet AGe: tI Me to Go? n
should look like, beyond a general sense that too much access to peo-
ple’s information is kind of creepy.
If I were going to change the law to protect privacy, I’d want to
replace these scattered statutes with an overarching set of rules that
apply consistently in all sorts of settings—to your video records, your
medical records, your credit records, your Internet-surfng records, or
store-camera footage of you shopping for birth control pills or hemor-
rhoid cream. Just thinking about how to come up with those rules is
tiring, but in theory, at least, we could develop guidelines for returning
a modicum of privacy to individuals, so long as others follow the rules.
How likely is that, though?
David Brin, in his book, Te Transparent Society, argues that privacy
is a lost cause, given the tremendous technological boost to privacy
invasions. He recommends that we substitute transparency—making
sure that people can see what the authorities are doing and who is look-
ing into their records—as a check on misbehavior. I think that this is
a terrifc idea, and have made similar arguments myself, but I wonder
how well it will work. My own county government has been roiled
by scandal because its members ignored the state’s open-meetings
law, something that’s hardly rocket science. Tey did so, presumably,
because they didn’t want the citizens to know what they were doing.
Regardless of the law, this is likely to be the position of authorities in
general: “Privacy for us big shots, transparency for the rest of you.”
I don’t think that’s an insuperable problem, if people care. But
here’s the real reason I think it’s going to be hard to protect privacy,
I’m not sure how much people do care. In our celebrity culture, indi-
viduals work hard to get television airtime to talk about their personal
lives in ways that Americans a generation ago would have found star-
tling, and that Americans a few more generations ago would have
considered grounds for a duel, or a horsewhipping on the outskirts
of town. Teens (and fat old people) post nude pictures on Flickr, a
Cl err |o|l or Re]rul Js n 111
photo-sharing website, by the millions. And shoppers happily hand
over their personal information at the grocery store in exchange for a
modest discount on peas and frozen yogurt. People’s desire for privacy
feeds on shame, and while people a few decades ago were ashamed
of things like going to the bathroom or having a period, such things
seem absurd as grounds for shame now. And with sharply reduced
shame comes sharply reduced concerns about privacy.
My frst item on privacy protection, then, before any laws or regu-
lations are passed, would be an efort to get the public to care more
about privacy, and to understand how information about them, even
seemingly unimportant information, might be abused. What people
care about in this regard matters, because, ultimately, the public will
get as much privacy as it demands. And not one bit more.
About the Author
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of
Law at the University of Tennessee, and the publisher of InstaPundit.com.
CAn soCI AL netWoRK sI tes
enABLe PoLI tICAL ACtIon?
Joro| |u]J

Technology’s majestic luster makes it easy to
fool people into believing that its structure determines
practice.

s
ocial network sites (SNSes) like MySpace and Facebook have
reorganized the Web. Activists have fantasized about ordinary
citizens using SNSes for political action and speaking truth to
power. Yet these daydreams are shattered through even a cursory look
at actual practices. To date, the passion and interest for sharing politi-
cal and policy information far and wide through SNSes—particularly
by and for young people—doesn’t match the capability of the SNSes.
It is this lack of motivation that we need to understand and address to
improve our democracy and our government.
People participate in public life for many reasons: identity devel-
opment, status negotiation, community maintenance, and, yes, civic
engagement. Typical SNS participants are more invested in adding
glitter to pages and SuperPoking their “friends” than engaging in any
11Z
Joro| |u]J n 11J
form of civic-minded collective action. How did this happen, and is
this outcome predetermined?
Technology’s majestic luster makes it easy to fool people into
believing that its structure determines practice. Te conclusions seem
obvious—video games will make us violent, the Internet will make us
more informed, and social network sites will make us politically acti-
vated. Unfortunately, techno-determinist doctrine does not hold up to
interrogation. Technologies are shaped by society and refect society’s
values back at us, albeit a bit refracted.
If we accept that technologies mirror and magnify everyday culture,
what do social network sites say about society? While we may wish that
they shine a positive light on us, the most insidious practices on SNSes
highlight how status-obsessed and narcissistic we are as a society. We
may wish to blame the technology for creating self-absorbed people,
but more likely, egoists love social network sites because of their desire
to exhibit themselves for the purposes of mass validation. By demoniz-
ing the technology, we fail to fully grasp the not-so-subtle message that
society values beauty, exhibitionism, and self-aggrandizement. Social
network sites provide opportunities for ordinary people to showcase
themselves as pseudo-celebrities. While these performances may not
be “real,” anyone can self-construct how to put their best foot forward,
they are certainly less scripted than reality TV. It may not be possible
for participants to get as much mindshare as Paris Hilton, but social
network sites certainly provide a platform for attention-seeking people
to do their thing.
While such a critique surely evokes profles of women in pro-
vocative poses, the most active egoists on social network sites are
musicians, politicians, marketers, and other populations who desper-
ately want attention. By and large, when politicians and activists talk
about using MySpace and Facebook, they aren’t talking about using
11+ CAn soCI AL net WoRK sI tes enABL e PoLI tI CAL ACtI on? n
it the way most people do; they are talking about leveraging it as a
spamming device.
Most people are simply logging in to hang out with the friends that
they already know. Te warnings about stranger danger have worked;
most people are not looking to meet new people, but to gather with
friends when physical co-presence is impossible or impractical. For
active participants on SNSes, particularly young people, networked
publics substitute for physical publics that have become inaccessible,
untenable, heavily regulated, or downright oppressive. If you can’t grab
a beer at a pub with friends or hang out in a public setting without
being banned or shooed away for loitering, where else can you gather
with friends? Online, of course.
A key aspect of SNSes is scale. Telephones allow people to com-
municate over long distances. Activists know that the bullhorn of the
Web lets them reach many more people, even in the context of a sup-
posed shared space. Te Internet not only collapses space and time,
but beyond bandwidth, there is no additional structural cost between
communicating with ten people and broadcasting to millions.
Infnite scaling may be structurally possible online, but the atten-
tion economy—the tax on people’s time and attention—regulates what
actually scales. Just because someone wants to reach millions does not
mean that they can efectively do so. Content may be public, but the
public may not be interested in your content. Likewise, just because a
private message is intended for ten people does not guarantee that it
will stay just with those people if there is broader interest. Public and
private are only guidelines online because there are no digital walls that
can truly keep what is desired in and what is not out.
Tis possibility of scaling is what tickles the fancy of most political
dreamers, who see the Internet as the ultimate democratizing tech-
nology. However, people pay attention to what interests them. Not
surprisingly, ofine or online, gossiping is far more common and inter-
Joro| |u]J n 115
esting to people than voting. While the Internet makes it much easier for
activated people to seek out information and networks of like-minded
others, what gains traction online is the least common denominator.
Embarrassing videos and body fuid jokes fare much better than serious
critiques of power. Gossip about Hollywood celebrities is alluring; the
war in Iraq is depressing.
Over the last decade, the dominant networked publics have shifted
from being topically organized to being structured around personal
networks. Most users no longer seek out chat rooms or bulletin boards
to discuss particular topics with strangers. Instead, they are hanging
out online with people that they already know. SNSes are explicitly
designed to be about “me and my friends.” Structurally, a social network
site is the quintessential personal network tool. People are exposed to
the things that their friends choose to share. If that content is valued,
it is spread further through friend networks. Lack of shared interest
results in a lack of spreadability.
Social network sites create cavernous echo chambers as people
reiterate what their friends posted. Given the typical friend overlap
in most networks, many within those networks hear the same thing
over and over until they believe it to be true. It was the echo chambers
of the blogosphere in 2004 that convinced mass media that Howard
Dean had more traction in the U.S. presidential campaign than he did.
Echo chambers are problematic because they give the impression that
activists have spread a message further than they have.
Just as politically engaged people know one another, alienated and
uninterested people mainly know people like themselves. Bridging the
structural holes that divide these groups is just as challenging online as
ofine, if not more so. Ofine, you know if a door has been slammed
in your face; online, it is impossible to determine the response that the
invisible audience is having to your message.
Rather than fantasizing about how social network sites will be a
11c CAn soCI AL net WoRK sI tes enABL e PoLI tI CAL ACtI on? n
cultural and democratic panacea, perhaps we need to focus on the
causes of alienation and disillusionment that stop people from partici-
pating in communal and civic life. If we can fgure out how to activate
unmotivated groups, perhaps we can convince them to leverage their
own networks and convince others to participate. Te infrastructure
is available for people to spread information, but the motivation is not
there to either share or receive it. Tat’s the problem we need to solve,
and we’ll know when we’re successful from the messages that will be
written on Facebook and MySpace.
About the Author
danah boyd is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley’s
School of Information and a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman
Center for Internet and Society. Her research focuses on youth
engagement in networked publics like MySpace and Facebook.
In sKYPeooGLetUBeAPeDI A
We tRUst
Mo| tir Keo|rs

We need to move away from the idea that democratic
conversation and debate are the karaoke of the political
elite, wherein words and issues are sung without passion or
connection, but simply by rote and mainly for show.

m
ost normal people don’t want to be politicians.
Tey might like to solve a problem or two, but they
are not going to make a life of it. We should design our
government to accommodate the wisdom of our crowd and lower the
barriers and disincentives to participation. We should design a system
where Web 2.0 meets governmental management that provides new
leadership, protects the privacy of citizens, enables them to participate,
and provides easy-to-use and free tools to scale local participation.
If I was in charge of reshaping our democratic system, the frst
thing I would do is make it more ad hoc. People should not have to be
involved in the process for years on end to make a diference in poli-
tics and governance. I would encourage fewer leadership positions and
11/
118 I n sKYPeooGL etUBeAPeDI A We tRUst n
design support staf, committees and ofces to be fexible enough to
support the leaders of the moment.
I would focus on providing stability through redundancy rather
than through perfection. Our governmental system is designed to
identify one right leader at a time, one person who will stay in power
for years at a time, solving our problems for us. People have moments
of greatness; they are just not great most of the time. We are living in
a time that allows for large networks of people to work together to
solve problems, where we can all lead when our gifts and expertise are
needed most.
Government should mimic what is going on in the non-proft and
advocacy worlds. New leaders and new activities are springing up to
address specifc concerns but then dissipating again. We saw this with
the groundswell of support for Amber Alerts and the movement for a
Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. Te more we remove barriers to entry
into the political leadership process the more innovation and experi-
mentation we will see.
Contrary to much of the current debate, I am not advocating a
more participatory democracy focusing on referenda and constant live
voting. I am calling for rolling admissions throughout more of the
committees, administration, agencies, stafs in government and Con-
gress. I am not suggesting term limits either, but rather a dedicated
focus on changing the barriers to entry and participation in civic life.
Ironically, in today’s culture, the frst step to increasing participation
may be reclaiming the right to refuse it.
Te original Constitutional Framers may not have believed that
everyone was capable of leading government, but history has proven
them wrong. Te fact that we can download more information in a day
than Tomas Jeferson had access to in a lifetime changes the equation
of who can lead and how we should think about the paths to lead-
ership. We need to shrug of our cultured system of elitism and the
Mo| tir Keo| rs n 119
protected bureaucracies that politicians have created to keep power in
the hands of the few. No one leader, bureaucrat or ofce staf can see
and understand all the complexity America is forced to address. We
should create much more churn and transition of our leadership.
Te barriers to participation are considerable, and worsened by the
aggregation and scouring of our private data by public and commer-
cial interests. Our data storage Big Brother can now store and mine a
lifetime of comments, facts, deliberations, photos, purchases, votes or
lack of votes. Anyone can buy data on the credit scores, contributions,
magazine subscriptions and social networks of friends or foes. People
refuse to join and engage in eforts online because they are afraid they
cannot get of lists. Barriers to exit have become barriers to entry.
Te frst step to opening the gates to a new generation of participants
and leaders is to establish a DO-NOT-DATA-MINE-MY-FAMILY list.
Te government should establish a right to privacy, a right to reinvent
oneself, a right to change opinions, even a right to disappear from the
grid of data storage. People should have the right to see all of the data
stored on him or her or accessed about them by any public, political or
civic engagement institution. Te public should have a right to examine
the data held about them and opt out of any database at any time.
Processes that require registering and leaving comments are fne,
but all comments should not be able to be associated with a particu-
lar person and searched forever. Te public should be able to prevent
institutions they are at odds with from tracking any information on
them or their families. For instance, military families should be able to
oppose a war then delete their electronic history of opposition in the
future.
We need to move away from the idea that democratic conversation
and debate are the karaoke of the political elite, wherein words and
issues are sung without passion or connection, but simply by rote and
mainly for show. Once we have reinvigorated the capacity of everyday
1ZJ tHe etHI Cs oF oPenness n
and everywhere Americans to step in and out of public participation,
we should then focus on the core issues of civic participation at the
local level. Scores of tools and services aimed at increasing participa-
tion exist and can be provided easily and without cost. We should
ofer free conference calling and technical support for civic gatherings.
We should redesign the notion of the town hall to ft the schedules
of people who don’t want to choose between family, babysitters, costs
and participation in civic life. If you’ve ever gone to a government
meeting you would see in attendance retirees, students, those with
the means to take time from their work and those whose work it is to
infuence government decision makers. Tat leaves out a huge swath
of working people with no real voice in governance. We need to move
away from the idea that democratic conversation and debate are the
karaoke of the political elite, wherein words and issues are sung with-
out passion or connection, but simply by rote and mainly for show.
We’ll be serious about public participation when we have kiosks ask-
ing for feedback and input on government decisions and public policy
located in malls, airports, hotels, and libraries —as ubiquitous as lot-
tery ticket venders.
We should create new ways to participate in public hearings via
tools such as Skype, chat and e-mail, and allow people to express
themselves with text, voice or art. Te public should have the oppor-
tunity to create daily briefngs on key public events on wikis and blogs.
We should encourage creative participation in the very management
process of every agency (think YouTube debates meet functioning
government).
Te true power of democracy is its passion and connection with the
citizenry. We should seek to recapture these feelings in our discourse
and leadership. If we are able to reduce barriers to participation, open
new pathways to leadership and support the eforts of real people who
Mo| tir Keo| rs n 1Z1
want to wrestle with difcult public problems, we will create a redun-
dancy of leadership, a check and balance to a system (not to a leader)
and, ultimately, we will have an America that is even more exciting and
democratic than it has been in the last 200 years.
About the Author
Martin Kearns is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Green Media
Toolshed. Previously, Kearns founded the Georgia River Network, a
state-based conservation group solely dedicated to the conservation of
Georgia’s rivers. Kearns also served as Executive Director of the Georgia
River Network. Kearns has been a political fundraiser for candidates for
the US House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
GRAssRoots ACtI VIsM Is
MoRe tHAn A CAMPAIGn
Mu||o /o|ursMele

But the super-sized business of politics creates
a lapse in responsibility. Who’s minding the store while
everyone is out on the stump?

t
he cyclical, cash-rich environment of political campaigns is
fertile ground for consultants and vendors who are paid pre-
miums to hit the ground running with ads and talking points
that ft into the continuous news cycles. Even better for the profes-
sional class are the long campaigns, when budgets matter less than
the struggle to win every single day. Now more than ever, as has often
been said, politics is a multi-billion dollar “show business for ugly
people.”
But the super-sized business of politics creates a lapse in responsibil-
ity. Who’s minding the store while everyone is out on the stump?Endless
hunger for campaign news marginalizes the work of government and
creates headlines like this one from National Public Radio’s Website on
April 9, 2008: “Petraeus Hearing a Campaign Stop for Candidates.”
A signifcant Senate hearing on the future of the Iraq War, a matter of
1ZZ
Mu| | o /o|urs Mel e n 1ZJ
national urgency, was turned into a photo opportunity for the presi-
dential candidates.
Last year, MSNBC devoted 28% of its airtime to election cover-
age, while Fox News devoted 15% and CNN 12%. According to the
Project for Excellence in Journalism, about 2% of television news cov-
erage in March 2008 was dedicated to the Iraq war. Election coverage
is exciting, full of all of the possibilities of competition and change.
Governing, conversely, is a labyrinth of red tape that often reeks of
failures and false starts. We yearn to be hopeful but we have a country
to govern.
Governance is not sexy or popular work. But if citizens do not
focus on what happens in our national legislature, another four years
will fy by with few accomplishments. Digital technology makes cam-
paign obsession all the more appealing. Americans are consuming
more election news online than ever before. A recent study from the
Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that twice as many
Americans are reading political news online than in 2004.
15
But when our candidates morph into elected ofcials, when the
time for real governing arrives, they need to bring us voters and con-
stituents along with them.Today, advocacy groups such as Moveon.org
or the National Rife Association ask their members to e-mail elected
ofcials or send form letters to newspapers on their behalf. Tat’s it as
far as citizen participation in governance goes, even though it is one of
the ideals our nation was founded upon. Most elected ofcials want us
to stay out of their way once the election is over.
But who says governance is only for elected ofcials and non-prof-
its? Grassroots political engagement shouldn’t end on Election Day. A
candidate’s online support base is a valuable commodity that can be
used as a mighty civic tool, within the legal limits on fundraising and
15 Kohut, Andrew, “The Internet Gains in Politics,” Pew Internet and American Life Project,
http://pewInternet.org/PPF/r/234/report_display.asp, downloaded on April 21, 2008.
1Z+ GRAssRoots ACtI VI sM I s MoRe tHAn A CAMPAI Gn n
lobbying, when a candidate becomes an elected ofcial. Just as candi-
dates ask us to participate in an online phone bank to get out the vote
in a primary state, a Senator or Representative can ask us to phone bank
other citizens to support passage of health care reform in the Senate.
Te White House’s website has come a long way in eight years, as
have the web operations of the congressional and Senatorial Commit-
tees. I get e-mails from all of them. But they usually just ask me for
money, or tell me nasty things about the opposing side. Tey don’t
engage me civically. Te most engaging online efort from the White
House is the “Barney-Cam” video series about Bush’s Scottie dog!
Barack Obama could be the frst president to use the Internet as
a tool for real civic action, in addition to electioneering.
16
Obama’s
most signifcant legislative accomplishment as a U.S. Senator is the
Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, co-spon-
sored with John McCain. Te Act directs the White House Ofce of
Management and Budget to create a free, public website (www.USAs-
pending.gov) listing all recipients of federal grants, contracts, and
other payments. On his campaign website, Obama promises to use
digital technology to open up government to the public, and appoint
the frst White House Chief Technology Ofcer. If he wins, we must
hold him to this promise and more.
Tis time around, leaders cannot squander the energy of voters,
only to build it back up again as the next election approaches. In this
extended 2008 primary election season, the volume of political engage-
ment and media attention is remarkable. But if we are to achieve real
change in the “of-season,” such as health care reform, we will need our
citizens online and ready to act.
16 I am indebted to my friend and colleague Matt Wilson for this discussion.
Mu| | o /o|urs Mel e n 1Z5
About the Author
Morra Aarons-Mele is a blogger and political consultant who is also
a graduate student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at
Harvard University. In between classes, she covers politics as Political
Director for BlogHer.com, the largest site for women bloggers. Morra is
also a columnist for the HuffingtonPost.com and TechPresident.com.
CoRRUPtIon, teCHnoLoGY
AnD ConstI tUtIonAL DesIGn
Zeu|]| Teoc|uut

The Framers were right to be obsessed about
corruption, but could not have anticipated the ways in
which various technologies—including the extensive road
system, centralized media, and paid lobbying—would
undermine the anti-corruption precautions they included
in the Constitution.

Corruption and Technology 1.0
“If we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon
be at an end,” George Mason said, as the Constitutional Convention
got under way. His concern was echoed in many voices throughout the
summer of 1787, and discussed extensively in the public debates over
the Constitution’s ratifcation. Corruption was discussed more often in
the convention than factions, violence or instability. It was a topic on
almost a quarter of the days that the members convened. If liberty was
the warp of the political ideology of the era, corruption was the weft.
Reading the convention-era documents, the idea of corruption
1Zc
Zeu|]| Teoc|uut n 1Z/
inevitably seizes the reader with grotesque admiration for its force. Te
Founders wove their own stories and their histories around the corrup-
tion of the young country—certain it would happen, but nonetheless
obsessed with attempting to stop it from happening, trying to control
the inevitable venal forces that would overwhelm it.
Inasmuch as you can see the Constitution as creating a kind of tech-
nology, it was designed to provide structural encouragements to keep the
logic and language of society as a whole from becoming corrupt, repre-
senting a technical and moral response to what they saw as a technical
and moral problem. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No.
68, “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle
should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”
One of the most extensive and recurring discussions about cor-
ruption concerned the size of the various bodies. “Te larger the
number, the less the danger of their being corrupted,” Elbridge Gerry
argued about the representatives to the future Congress, and the other
delegates agreed. “Besides the restraint of integrity and honor, the dif-
fculty of acting in concert for purposes of corruption was a security
to the public. And if one or a few members only should be seduced,
the soundness of the remaining members would maintain the integrity
and fdelity of the body,” James Madison averred.
Many clauses were intended to limit corrupting perks and temp-
tations of ofce. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution requires an
accounting of the treasury, to ensure that money is not siphoned from
the national treasure. Te power of the purse being placed in the legis-
lature was also in part a response to fears of corruption. Te Founders
were concerned that an executive with the power of appropriation
would use it to cultivate dependencies, by giving out money to political
leaders who were loyal. Likewise, the No Confict clause in the Con-
stitution (Article 1, Section 6, Clause 2) prevents Congressmen from
holding civil ofce while serving as a legislator, or from being appointed
n 1Z8 CoRRUPtI on, teCHnoLoGY AnD ConstI tUtI onAL DesI Gn
to ofces that had been created—or in which the compensation was
increased—during their tenure. Te Founders were concerned that
members of Congress would use their position to enrich themselves
and their friends, and would see public ofce as a place for gaining civil
posts and preferences, rather than one of public duty.
Te Founders were also concerned that certain methods of select-
ing the president could lead to collusion and corruption, and went to
great lengths to create an election process that would withstand small-
group corruption. First, Hamilton successfully repulsed the proposal
that the president serve a limited number of years. A man’s ineligibil-
ity for reelection, he argued, would lead to plunder. Second, there
was extensive debate about who—and how many—should decide
the presidency. Madison worried that the election of the president, if
decided by a small number, would too easily facilitate corruption. To
guard against corruption, presidential elections had several key fea-
tures. First, legislators themselves could not be electors. Second, all
the elections would be done at the exact same time, making it dif-
cult, because of the long roads across the large country, to confdently
collude and identify the electors that needed corrupting. Te Framers
Morris and Wilson both discussed the importance of physical distance
as a protection against corruption. “It would be impossible also to cor-
rupt them,” Morris said, speaking of the fact that “the Electors would
vote at the same time throughout the U.S. and at so great a distance
from each other.”
Te chief corrupting forces were foreign governments, money, and
power—all of which, it was argued, would have signifcant coordina-
tion problems to overcome if power were distributed between branches,
and within the legislative branch, between classes. But the roads were
too bad, the distances too great, and the numbers too formidable to
allow for the concerted redirection of the minds of men to private gain,
and the interests of the state to private or foreign interests.
Zeu|]| Teoc|uut n 1Z9
Madison’s Byzantine argument in Federalist No. 63 sums up the
eforts of the Founders to create a constitution with such difuse power
that it would be resistant to corruption. Te Senate, he argued, “must
in the frst place corrupt itself; must next corrupt the State legislatures;
must then corrupt the House of Representatives; and must fnally cor-
rupt the people at large.” Terefore, “It is evident that the Senate must
be frst corrupted … Without corrupting the State legislatures, it can-
not prosecute the attempt, because the periodical change of members
would otherwise regenerate the whole body.” Moreover, the Senate
would inevitably defeat corruption in the House of Representatives,
“and without corrupting the people themselves, a succession of new
representatives would speedily restore all things to their pristine order.”
Tere are too many obstructions and sequential steps of intrigue to
be taken, in order to corrupt the federal body—or so the Founders
hoped.
Corruption and Technology 2.0
If the Founders brought their sensibilities—and in particular their
anti-corruption sensibilities—to the technologies of the contemporary
world, what might they think, and what additional protections might
they include within the Constitution to guard against the constant
threat of encroaching corruption?
Tere are many areas in which technologies have improved the
possibilities for self-government; other contributors to this volume
have shone a spotlight on those. But there are at least a few areas in
which technology, and the collective-action problem-solving powers
of the Internet, have increased the threat of corruption, and of govern-
ment being used to serve private, instead of public, ends. I will focus
on three that I think would have garnered the attention of the Found-
ers, and ought to grab our attention now.
n 1JJ CoRRUPtI on, teCHnoLoGY AnD ConstI tUtI onAL DesI Gn
Corporate Power in the Public Sphere
Te capacity of the Internet, combined with shipping containers and
cheap transportation, enables global corporations without national
allegiance, but with legal obligations to maximize wealth and cultural
habits, to concentrate unprecedented power and wealth. Te Founders
were concerned that foreign powers would co-opt democratic chan-
nels, and thus I think they would presumably treat any corporation
as fundamentally “foreign,” in that the institution does not allow for
patriotic obligations.
Te Founders would have created protections against concentrated
corporate power taking over the building blocks of democracy. Tey
would have limited all corporate political speech and corporate lobby-
ing, and constitutionally limited direct or indirect corporate funding
of campaigns.
Being very savvy, they would have gone even further, recognizing
that the mere existence of such concentrated private power threatens
to overshadow the exercise of public power. Te Constitution would
include express prohibitions against limited liability extending to cor-
porations that broke the nation’s laws, engaged in political action, or
exceeded a certain size. As the discussions at the Constitutional Con-
vention in Philadelphia reveal, there was an intense interest in the
relationship between the size of certain entities and self-government,
and that conversation would have extended to questions of the size of
corporate organizations.
Gerrymandering
Technology has made the great artistry of professional gerrymandering
easy. Political parties hire people to fgure out political borders that
destroy the democratic process. Tis means that our representatives
pick their voters before the voters get to pick them. Local politicians,
Zeu|]| Teoc|uut n 1J1
assured of their seats, become unresponsive to citizens, and most chal-
lengers fnd it efectively impossible to unseat them. Te Founders
worried about districts falling out of alignment with their actual popu-
lations, which is why the Constitution requires a census every ten years.
In their classic textbook, Te Law and Democracy: Legal Structure and
the Political Process, Pam Karlan, Richard Pildes, and Samuel Issacha-
rof call these new, technology-enabled districts, “designer districts.”
Tey write that “the ability to create designer districts increased as
more sophisticated programs were devised to include not only basic
demographic and voting data, but projections of household income,
magazine and cable television subscription patterns, car ownership and
other socio-economic data deemed useful over the ten-year lifespan
of a redistricting plan.” Te Founders would have attempted to limit
technologies’ capacity to directly undermine the democratic process
through self-serving political boundary drawing—perhaps by includ-
ing Constitutional requirements that nonpartisan commissions draw
district lines.
The Presidency
Te presidency was a reluctant compromise for many of the Founders,
and if they could see the form it has taken now, and the role presiden-
tial elections play in our democratic culture, they would probably not
include it, or they would include a far weaker version than currently
exists. Te design of the Constitution assumed that the electors would
play only the frst step in the choosing of the president—that each state
would support its own candidate—and that it would be up to Congress
to fnally select the nation’s leader. Te Founders went to great lengths
to ensure that no particular group would have too much sway over the
selection of the president, and attempted to limit the capacity of narrow
interests to coordinate the selection of the president.
n 1JZ CoRRUPtI on, teCHnoLoGY AnD ConstI tUtI onAL DesI Gn
However, decreasing geographic difculties, new technology and
concentrated money sway the selection of the now very powerful posi-
tion of the presidency. Tis combination has grotesquely distorted our
democratic process, putting far too much power in the least responsive
branch of the three representative parts of government.
In a second Founding, the executive would play a much more trivial
role, and likely be more parliamentarian than presidential. Te Consti-
tution would include clearer limitations on executive power, and the
campaign fnancing system would be completely public.
Te Framers were right to be obsessed about corruption, but could
not have anticipated the ways in which various technologies—including
the extensive road system, centralized media, and paid lobbying—would
undermine the anti-corruption precautions they included in the Con-
stitution. It is now relatively simple to coordinate eforts to sway the
House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive branch. Tere
are hundreds of lobbying frms who see their job as taking money and
efectively laundering it to overcome difcult collective action problems
for entities that want to privatize public government.
In the United States of America 2.0, the new threats would be
taken as seriously as the old, attempting to create even stronger coun-
terweights to what Hamilton called “the business of corruption.”
About the Author
Zephyr Teachout is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Duke University,
where she teaches Election Law. She is the former National Director
of the Sunlight Foundation, Director of Online Organizing for Howard
Dean’s Presidential Campaign, and is a frequent Visiting Researcher at
the Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia-Herzegovenia.
oUR VotInG Re-PUBLIC
Ju|r C. Buriío/

The threat of election privatization raises a
fundamental question: Who owns our vote?

t
he struggle for the right to vote has never stopped in the United
States. During our 200-plus-year history, we have traveled from
a time when only white male property owners could vote, to
the abolition of slavery and the passage of the 15
th
Amendment, and
the prohibition of discrimination in voting based on race. Te wom-
en’s sufrage movement in the early 20
th
century led to the enactment
of the 19
th
Amendment, prohibiting discrimination in voting based
on gender. Te civil rights movement ended the legalized system of
racial segregation and brought about the landmark Voting Rights Act
of 1965.
But the past few election cycles are evidence that our struggle for
equal voting rights continues. Certain legal barriers to voting continue
(i.e., laws prohibiting ex-felons from voting), and new barriers have
emerged that disproportionately target historically disenfranchised
communities (i.e., photo identifcation requirements to vote). But a
1JJ
1J+ oUR VotI nG Re- PUBLI C n
quieter threat has emerged that further undermines the integrity of our
electoral process.
Election privatization
Since the 2000 presidential election that was decided by the Supreme
Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, we have seen an alarming increase
in the infuence and control of private companies over our elections.
In a rush to respond to what happened in Florida, the United States
Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. HAVA
has provided more than three billion public dollars to states across the
country to upgrade their voting systems. As a result, a small handful
of private companies (including, but not limited to, Te Election Sys-
tems & Software Company, Diebold Election Systems, now known as
Premier Election Solutions, and Sequoia Voting Systems) have gained
enormous proft and infuence marketing their electronic voting sys-
tems to states and municipalities as the answer to the “hanging chad”
fasco in Florida.
Tere’s only one problem. Te electronic voting machines do not
work. Tey are unreliable and insecure, and pose a serious threat to
the integrity of our elections. A growing body of evidence, including
two separate studies commissioned by the California and Ohio Sec-
retaries of State, demonstrates that these machines are fundamentally
fawed for counting and recording our votes. As a result, some states
have shifted to a system of paper ballots with optical scan machines. In
addition, voters with disabilities are increasingly using non-tabulating
ballot marking devices that allow them to vote in an independent and
private manner. But more than thirty states still use electronic voting
machines. Tese machines have turned the election disaster of 2000
into something exponentially worse.
I saw frsthand the dangers of these machines as lead counsel for
Ju|r C. Buri í o/ n 1J5
a coalition of candidates and voters seeking a full and meaningful
recount of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Tere was no way
to conduct a recount in the Ohio jurisdictions that had used electronic
voting machines. Tere were no paper ballots from which to derive
voter intent. We were simply told to trust the machine as it reported
again its original tally.
Te threat of election privatization raises a fundamental question:
Who owns our vote? Te danger of electronic voting is best illustrated
by the 2006 congressional election in Sarasota County, Florida. In that
hotly contested race for Florida’s 13th congressional district, 400 votes
separated the declared winner, Republican candidate Vern Buchanan,
from the Democratic candidate, Christine Jennings. However, 18,000
votes were lost by the electronic voting machines. Jennings fled a law-
suit contesting the outcome of the election, and a group of Florida
voters fled a separate suit. [Voter Action, the organization for which I
work, helped to bring the voters’ case, with other public-interest orga-
nizations, and served as co-counsel in the litigation.] Jennings and the
voters independently sought the source code, other key software, and
the machines themselves in their investigation of the disappearance
of nearly twenty thousand votes. Te Election Systems & Software
Company, which had manufactured the electronic voting machines in
question, argued that neither Jennings nor the voters had a right to the
requested materials on the grounds that they constituted trade secrets.
Te Florida courts agreed, allowing the alleged proprietary rights of a
private company to trump election integrity and the right to vote. In
other words, the election was ultimately under private control.
Electronic vote counting is part of a broader trend in the outsourc-
ing of key election functions to private vendors. Many jurisdictions
have privatized electronic poll books and voter registration databases
to determine whether people are eligible to vote. In the Georgia presi-
dential primary on February 5, 2008, numerous voters reported that
1Jc oUR VotI nG Re- PUBLI C n
electronic poll books, made by Premier Election Solutions, were crash-
ing and inoperable, leading to long lines and citizens leaving polling
sites without casting ballots. In the New Mexico Democratic presiden-
tial caucus that same day, a fawed voter registration database prepared
for the state by the Elections Systems & Software Company led to
thousands of voters casting provisional ballots when their names did
not appear on the voting rolls. Voters in other states have reported
similar problems using these systems.
Seven Ways To Reclaim Public Control
of Our Elections
Te following list outlines changes that we can make to ensure that our
public elections are publicly controlled.
Voter-marked paper ballots. Voters must be guaranteed that
their votes will be properly counted. Tis can only be guaranteed via
voter-marked paper ballots which refect voter intent and which can,
therefore, be recounted or audited. Electronic voting machines, with
or without “paper trails,” should be banned, and the private companies
that have marketed this defective product across the country should be
held accountable. Paper ballots, marked either by hand or by a non-
tabulating ballot-marking device, will ensure that the vote-counting
process is controlled by the people and not by private corporations.
Mandatory audits of our elections. Anything of value should be
audited, and that includes our votes. We should not rely on candidates
to demand a recount to determine whether our votes are being properly
counted. Every jurisdiction in the United States should be required
to conduct rigorous audits after every election to guarantee that our
voting systems are transparent and verifable.
Public fnancing of our public elections. We ought to have a
system of public fnancing open to all qualifed candidates and their
Ju|r C. Buri í o/ n 1J/
voter-supporters, and the system ought to apply to all elections at
the federal, state, and local level. In Arizona and Maine, where such
systems are already in place for state elections, public support, not
private money, is what counts. As a result, voters will exercise greater
control over the electoral process.
Open-source voting systems. Even with voter-marked paper
ballots, citizens must know that their right to vote overrides any
alleged trade secret of a private corporation. When votes are counted
in secret by private companies, the integrity of the process sufers. All
voting systems in the United States should be required to adhere to
open-source standards.
Public oversight. Public control of our elections is dependent
upon an active, engaged citizenry monitoring the electoral process.
Grassroots networks across the country have already helped to expose
key voting-rights barriers that threaten the integrity of our elections.
With even greater sunlight, we can help ensure that our elections are
open, transparent, free and fair.
Election-day registration. Voters should be able to register and
vote on the same day. States that use this system experience a higher
voter turnout and avoid the barrier of voter registration. Te elections
industry relies on that barrier to market its privatized electronic poll
books and voter registration databases. Election-day registration helps
to restore public control of how we access the ballot.
Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has proposed an amendment to the
United States Constitution to guarantee the right to vote for all
citizens. One hundred and eight democratic nations in the world have
explicit language guaranteeing the right to vote in their constitutions.
Te United States, along with only ten other nations, does not. How
can this country claim to have an equal right to vote when the way
we administer our elections changes from state to state, from county
1J8 oUR VotI nG Re- PUBLI C n
to county, from locality to locality? In our ongoing struggle for
democracy, we must go to the foundation of our political system: the
US Constitution, the social contract between “We the People” and our
government. It is this, our supreme legal document, which establishes
the consent by which we agree to be governed. A constitutional
amendment guaranteeing the right to vote will provide a powerful
means to reclaim public control of our public elections.
At the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman
asked Benjamin Franklin, as he left Independence Hall, “Well,
Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin
responded,“A Republic, if you can keep it.” Today, the question is
not so much whether we can keep it but whether we can take it back.
History has shown that organized as a movement we have the power
to do so. As we fght to end voter suppression, we must also wage a
new fght for our time: the struggle to reclaim public control of our
public elections. Te power resides in each of us to take control of our
vote and our democracy.
About the Author
John Bonifaz is the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute and
the Legal Director of Voter Action, a national legal advocacy and public
education center dedicated to fighting for election integrity throughout
the United States.
CHeCKs AnD BAL AnCes
ReInVIGoRAteD
C|oic lewao||

The Internet provides tools and information
for journalists to aid them in their effective scrutiny of
governmental accountability.

a
democratic system incorporates a system of checks and bal-
ances to facilitate constant vigilance and scrutiny by the
citizenry. Otherwise, people in power will inevitably abuse
their power.
Tat’s the story of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic. Its
informal constitution and checks and balances were quite advanced for
its time. However, abuse of power led to an increasingly corrupt and
inefective government. For example, powerful politicians and lobby-
ists started wars for purposes of vanity, and to enrich themselves and
their allies, including defense contractors.
Te American Founders created a similar governmental structure
including a formal constitution with many checks and balances between
the branches of government and the government and its citizenry. Tey
knew this was necessary because corrupt politicians would fnd ways to
1J9
1+J CHeCKs AnD BAL AnCes ReI nVI GoRAteD n
abuse power, say via a compromised Department of Justice or judicial
branch, in the manner of the Roman Republic.
Te Founders also realized that a free press with journalists asking
tough questions was the only way to preserve checks and balances.
Good reporting with mass communications would provide the scru-
tiny required for good government.
Te Internet provides tools and information for journalists to aid
them in their efective scrutiny of governmental accountability. To
this end, the Sunlight Foundation funds the development of tools via
“transparency grants.” Two great examples of these grants are Congress-
pedia, an open, collaborative wiki about congressional representatives,
created in conjunction with the Center for Media and Democracy, and
Open Secrets, a database that tracks lobbyist payments to Congress
that is run by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Te Internet provides tools and information for journalists to aid
them in their efective scrutiny of governmental accountability. Tese tools
enable journalists, and citizen journalists like me, to help preserve Ameri-
can values in Congress. For instance, I was able to verify media reports
that a presidential candidate was dominated by special-interest lobbyists.
Sometimes, we need to uncover governmental corruption after the
fact, in order to understand where we’re going. Te investigative report-
ing done by the Center for Public Integrity, specifcally their database
on Defense Department contracts let in conjunction with the Iraq war,
conclusively proves deliberate deception in the run up to the Iraq war.
In ancient Rome, with no mass media, political gangs spread dis-
information via “whispering campaigns.” Te same occurs now via
loosely organized groups, such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in
the 2004 election. Investigative reporters now work together to expose
such gangs, known often as swiftboaters (in the generic sense), front
groups, or astroturf groups. To this end, Common Cause exposed
“Hands Of the Internet,” a front group for big telecommunications
C| oi c lewao| | n 1+1
frms masquerading as a grassroots organization. Te Center for Media
and Democracy runs SourceWatch, which exposes front groups in the
political space, such as “Freedom’s Watch.”
Finally, even the work of good investigative reporters and hon-
est politicians need fact checking. Te most notable group doing so
is FactCheck.org, which according to its website, “analyzes what is
said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates,
speeches, interviews, and news releases.”
Te Founders recognized the role in our democracy of the press
bringing government problems and issues to light. Te press is aided
in doing so with the Net and tools like those described above. Working
together with the public, they provide checks and balances of unprece-
dented efectiveness. Tis requires that almost all governmental records
be made available online. Although certain documents, particularly
those regarding (honest) matters of national security, will always be too
sensitive for publication.
We w ould all like to avoid the fate of the Roman Republic. To
that end, we need reporters asking tough questions. We also need help
exposing those who would deceive us for short-term proft and power.
Fortunate for us, this help is being delivered by people of goodwill
working together via the Net.
Disclaimers: Because of their good work, I’ve joined boards of Te
Sunlight Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, FactCheck.org’s
educational arm, and work with the Center for Media and Democracy
via Sunlight and also via Consumers Union.
About the Author
Craig Newmark is the founder and customer service representative of
craigslist, a non-commercial community bulletin board with classifieds
and discussion forums.
tHe “KILLeR APP” oF
PUBLIC PARtICIPAtIon
Mo|| Mu|u|]

Somewhere, sometime soon, the “killer app” will
emerge—the American Idol of citizenship, as it were.

p
eople all over the world are explicitly expressing their opinions
in public ways, particularly online. Some of those opinions
are prose, like blog entries and e-mails. Public opinion polls
conducted online at websites like CNN.com, traditional polls con-
ducted by telephone, and even text voting for American Idol gauge
the feelings of a random slice of the public. Tere are more formal
feedback mechanisms like eBay feedback or Amazon.com’s ratings-
with-comments. Tere are even “meta” sites providing opinions about
opinions, such as Amazon.com’s rating the relevancy of comments
and the discussions those comments spawn.
Online, you can rate products; lawyers, doctors, and other service
professionals; movies, songs, and other forms of entertainment, the
list goes on and on. Why can’t these mechanisms be applied to public
ofcials and the political process?
1+Z
Mo| | Mu| u|] n 1+J
Te answer is that this change is inevitable: Citizens of democra-
cies will use online tools to voice their opinions of what is going on in
their neighborhood, their nation, and the world.
In fact, the U.S. presidential campaign of 2006-2008 has demon-
strated a number of new tools for rank-and-fle citizens to engage with
the campaigns, such as:
• Joining Facebook groups, whether they be for a candidate
(e.g., One Million Strong for Barack) or against (e.g., One
Million Strong Against Hillary)
• Recording questions and uploading them to YouTube for
use in televised debates
• Using the website Eventful to ask a candidate to make a
local campaign stop as John Edwards did when he visited
Columbus, Kentucky based on the site’s “Demand and Be
Heard” promotion
• Twittering your thoughts on debates and election results
in real time
• Spreading a candidate’s message via a variety of online
media, such as Ron Paul’s advocates raising awareness of
their candidate through innumerable online outlets
Of course, most of these are strictly aimed at the presidential race.
However, the same concepts could be applied to other political cam-
paigns, or even ongoing policy discussions. Somebody, somewhere is
going to create the “killer app” that will allow citizens to become more
engaged with their governments. Tat “killer app” could easily become as
widespread as MySpace, Facebook, and the other social networks—not
in the least because it could be embedded within those social networks.
So, what should this “killer app” look like?
Will it refect citizens’ rights and responsibilities in a democracy?
Will it ofer citizens a rich set of ways to express their opinions, or
1++ tHe “KI L L eR APP” oF PUBLI C PARtI CI PAtI on n
will it be restricted like traditional Election Day voting systems? Will
it ofer the openness and transparency necessary for everybody to feel
comfortable that the results aren’t being rigged? Will it just be an idea
that, as much as anything else, is designed to make the application’s
founders (and their investors) rich, or increase the power of some exist-
ing entrenched authority?
I do not claim to have defnitive answers to these questions—after
all, I’m just one person. My aim is to raise the questions and ofer up
a candidate set of answers, to spark a debate, rather than “let the chips
fall as they may.”
If there is an overarching theme to what we need, it is trust in what
is, essentially, a complicated three-way relationship.
Citizens need to trust that their opinions will be counted and reported
fairly. Tey need to know that the collected opinions have a chance of
being seen by Te Powers Tat Be, can positively afect decision-making,
and that the process won’t be rigged to deny them their input.
Elected and appointed ofcials, and other authorities, need to trust
that the feedback is not only accurate, but documents both total opinion
and the opinions of those people directly afected by any given issue (e.g.,
citizens of Switzerland don’t get to vote in our presidential elections).
Finally, technology providers who ofer opinion-aggregating services
need to trust that if they scrupulously follow a proscribed industry-wide
code of conduct they will not be “thrown under the bus” for the results
their services report.
Somewhere, sometime soon, the “killer app” will emerge—the
American Idol of citizenship, as it were. Whether you agree with the
above principles or not, I hope you agree that we need some principles
established, and soon, lest somebody else determine the “rules of the
game” for the beneft of a few, not the many.
Here are nine principles that will help ensure all three facets of
trust described above:
Mo| | Mu| u|] n 1+5
1. Openness. Just as anyone can host a blog, run an e-mail server,
or put up a web application, anybody should be able to build tools and
participate in the aggregation of the resulting data. Conversely, if the
aggregation only happens on a single, proprietary site, trust is broken
due to lack of transparency. Everyone must be able to cast a vote on any
issue. Determining which votes are from people with “a horse in the
race” must be done after the fact, since screening beforehand could be
applied indiscriminately and shut down useful opinions.
2. Public. Not only must issues be publicly visible, but so must the
votes, in the same way that blog entries and comments are publicly vis-
ible. Tis is the key to supporting the frst principle. Because the votes
are public, anybody can build an aggregator to report results or verify
the reported results of others. However, if nobody can validate the vot-
ing, trust is broken (witness the hullabaloo over voting machine faws).
3. Standing. Some issues may be tied to a specifc locality, such
as whether or not a trafc light is needed at some town’s main inter-
section. Tere needs to be the means to determine if the voter has
standing on that issue (e.g., is a resident of the town) in order to cast
a vote. Tis will enable authorities to trust that the results accurately
refect their citizens’ input.
4. Nyms. Te third principle notwithstanding, people should be
able to vote anonymously, even though it may mean their standing
cannot be proven and hence their vote may “count less.” People should
also be able to vote under pseudonyms, with a “standing provider”
empowered to indicate if the pseudonym has standing for some com-
munity. And people should be able to make their votes public, tied
to their own identity, if they so choose, so as to use peer pressure to
encourage more participation. Citizens need to trust that their visibil-
ity is under their own control, not the control of some outside party.
5. Framing. Anybody should be able to raise an issue using a
group process to organize and synthesize related issues. If only pollsters,
1+c tHe “KI L L eR APP” oF PUBLI C PARtI CI PAtI on n
government ofcials, or other privileged people are allowed to raise issues,
trust is broken, since the framing of the question is a critical component
for evaluating the resulting public opinion (push polls, anyone?)
6. Structure. Countability is central to trust: the public needs to
see how their opinions can be counted, and authorities need to trust
they won’t get swamped with too much input that is too difcult to
digest. Diferent voting methods can be used according to the specifc
issue (e.g., multiple choice), and voters need to spell out their selection
in addition to any prose the voter wishes to provide.
7. Unencumbered. Tere must be no requirements of anyone pro-
viding issues, positions, or technology to the online opinion gathering
system. Tis will not be possible if the system requires licensing patents
or trademarks, or if the system requires technology providers to submit
to some form of evaluation before they can participate. Tese kinds of
requirements might serve to concentrate power into too few hands.
8. Unimpeded. Since the whole point of the exercise is for the citi-
zens to provide input to the government, there can be no government
interference in collection and reporting, lest the citizens lose trust in the
process over fears of censorship or manipulation of results.
9. Self-Policing. Since anyone can participate (principle #1) and
the government cannot interfere (principle #8), the system must pro-
vide culture, conventions, and community to help ensure that citizens
can easily participate. Rules that might prevent “trolls” from participat-
ing will weaken trust, as those rules could be applied to others—and
one person’s troll could be another person’s position advocate.
About the Author
Mark Murphy, a three-time entrepreneur, is the founder of CommonsWare,
a newly-launched technical book and software publisher. His blog,
covering CommonsWare and his public policy musings, can be found at
commonsguy.wordpress.com.
CI tI zen 2 0
lorc] E. Tote orJ Mo| ] C. wilsur

If we want our politicians and decision-makers to
be trustworthy and transparent, we must expect that citizens
interacting with them in the public sphere do so in an open
and transparent way.

t
he notion of redesigning U.S. democracy for the Internet Age
is an intriguing one, probably with endless possibilities. But
Americans use the term “democracy” to mean a variety of things.
Some mean the election process itself. Others mean the ways in which
our governmental system—with its three levels and three branches—
operates. And others focus on the role of the citizen (and the public at
large) in the process of engagement and self-government. All of these
components have been—and will continue to be—impacted by the
online world and the emergence of many-to-many communications.
We at the League of Women Voters believe that the most signif-
cant changes are those afecting the ways ordinary Americans perceive
and interact with both candidates and government ofcials and insti-
tutions. And we applaud these changes. We are already seeing that the
1+/
1+8 CI tI zen 2 0 n
expanding possibilities for user-generated content online are provid-
ing new and positive changes for our democratic system. Here at the
League we strive to empower citizens to “make democracy work” for
themselves and their communities. Te enhanced role of the Internet
in recent years has helped to do just that. In so doing, it has increased
the power—and expanded the responsibilities—of ordinary Ameri-
cans. Te potential is limitless.
Power to the People
As others have noted, the Internet expands the types of roles an indi-
vidual can play in politics and government. Historically, citizens have
been essentially observers in the civic sphere, making their views
known periodically through voting and petitioning. In order to play
that role, they were dependent on information provided by candidates,
or by a government body, and fltered through the media. Today, the
public can obtain information from many sources, including not only
the original sources (such as a candidate’s website) but also from their
peers and others whose judgment they trust. Getting information—
and opinions—from people whom they trust greatly increases citizens’
confdence in discussing and formulating views on complex public
policy subjects.
Even more signifcantly, individuals can now become players in the
process, in the sense of creating and distributing content themselves.
And increasingly, the views of individuals—shared on blogs or Face-
book pages—directly afect what is happening in the political sphere.
We have already seen this year how the ease and speed of transmis-
sion of new ideas, or challenges to ofcial statements, or the unveiling
of past indiscretions can produce instant reactions from candidates or
public ofcials. Relatedly, many more sources of government data and
information are available to those willing to “surf the Net.”
lorc] E. Tote orJ Mo| ] C. wilsur n 1+9
As a result of these trends, citizen expectations concerning their
“right to know” about candidates and government operations continue
to grow. Tis increases both the pressure for government transpar-
ency, and the ability of citizens to hold decision-makers accountable.
Although public fgures do not always welcome increased transparency
or accountability, many have realized the advantages of more and better
ways to gather public opinion and to expand the lines of communica-
tion. We are encouraged by these trends.
21st Century Worries
Americans’ role in the political life of the country has defnitely expanded,
with no end in sight. Now, instead of simply digesting the news provided
by a daily newspaper or news show, individuals can drive the news, inter-
act with one another, and actually infuence the decisions of campaigns
and government decision-makers in real time. All of this empowers citi-
zens in ways that are better for them and for the country as a whole.
As we embrace the tremendous potential for individual Americans
to play a bigger role in our democracy, however, we ought to con-
sider ways to guard against the potential downsides of the new online
world. Te fact that more information is available from more sources
increases the necessity for individuals to evaluate the credibility and
validity of information they want to use and share. Te recycling of
misinformation or “urban myths,” for instance, is not a step forward
in public discourse and decision-making. Relatedly, the growing “echo
chamber” efect needs to be minimized. When people only visit the
particular websites and blogs (or talk radio shows) whose views they
agree with, they will most likely become less informed than if they are
exposed to a more balanced perspective on issues and candidates. Tis
will lead to more polarized—and presumably more partisan—discus-
sions and decisions. Often the result of extreme polarization is gridlock.
15J CI tI zen 2 0 n
More information on the web, in and of itself, will not improve the
quantity or quality of public decisions.
Finally, accountability fows from openness. Te anonymity
allowed by the Internet may often be at odds with that. If we want our
politicians and decision-makers to be trustworthy and transparent, we
must expect that citizens interacting with them in the public sphere do
so in an open and transparent way. Tis is particularly important in an
era when news coverage often focuses on the personal lives and actions
of our leaders. Te instant access to information, no matter how dated
or what the source, can foster a “gotcha” environment that stifes sub-
stantive dialogue and sullies the civic space.
Old Wine in New Bottles
One fear that is often expressed about the evolving online world is that
it distances people; that people who once met and interacted face-to-
face now just sit at their computers. We at the League disagree. New
political technologies are helping people connect—across town and
across the world. Town hall meetings are not being replaced; they are
going online where no logistical constraints limit participation. Door-
to-door voter engagement has not ended. New tools, such as databases
connected to handheld tracking devices, are being deployed to knock
on doors that have often been overlooked. And this is the fnal chal-
lenge: to make sure that the new tools of democracy are not just used
by the elites or the special interests, but allow all Americans to be active
participants in the democratic life of the 21
st
century.
About the Authors
Nancy E. Tate is the Executive Director and Mary G. Wilson is the President
of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
tHe L Ast toP DoWn
CAMPAIGn
Jue T|iuui

The Clinton campaign failed to grasp “it’s the
network, stupid.”

i
t’s fnally here. At long last, after waiting, evangelizing, strate-
gizing, blogging and talking, networked politics came into its
own during the presidential election of 2008. More than indi-
vidual candidates losing, it was their old, creaky, top-down big-money
methods of organizing and winning campaigns that was shown to be
obsolete. We don’t have to wait to reboot American democracy; the
revolution was won, here, now, today.
First I want to make clear that none of what I write here is aimed at
some of the brilliant bottom-up thinkers in the Clinton campaign such
as Peter Daou. Te fact is that all the bottom-up thinking in the world
will not break through the oppressive culture of top-down campaign
management and a top-down candidate.
In 2008 we are seeing the strongest top-down campaign in the
modern history of the Democratic Party. Te Clinton campaign has
been challenged and put on its heels by the Obama campaign, only the
151
15Z tHe L Ast toP DoWn CAMPAI Gn n
second bottom-up presidential campaign in modern political history,
after the Dean campaign.
Te blunder that many will be talking about for a long, long time,
will be how did Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and the top of the Clin-
ton campaign miss the fact that politics had irrefutably and irreversibly
changed in 2004 and that the best path to the nomination and the Presi-
dency was to deploy a bottom-up strategy in 2008? I had high hopes for
Hillary Clinton. I really thought that she could be a transformational
candidate, capable of inspiring millions of Americans to engage in the
political process and change the country and our politics.
As early as 2006 I urged a Clinton confdant to enter the campaign
for president by announcing that her campaign would not accept money
from lobbyists or special interest PACS and that she would not accept
any contribution over $250 for her campaign. Challenge women to
help change the country, I said, say “I believe there are 5 million women
in America who are willing to give $100 to my campaign to change
our country and make it a better place for our children.” I would have
continued, “Every woman knows that we are not the status quo—we
are change.” Do the math, that would be half a billion dollars for her
campaign, much more than Obama has raised in this campaign. I have
no doubt that would have been a successful strategy.
Te Clinton campaign liked the idea but she was not going to
“unilaterally disarm against the Republicans.” Tey didn’t get it.
A month or two later, I was invited to explain bottom-up cam-
paigning to Clinton’s manager and a few others. After excitedly
explaining how Hillary could run a transformative campaign for
change that could engage fve million women and many of their sons,
husbands, and fathers that would change the country and our poli-
tics—a campaign that would raise more in small contributions than
any big donor campaign in history—I realized I was talking to a room
that saw me as an oddball wearing a tin foil hat (not the frst time this
Jue T|iuui n 15J
has happened to me) and was politely shown the door. Tey didn’t get
it either.
Tere were a few high-level stafers in the Clinton campaign,
Howard Wolfson and Jay Carson (Jay worked with me in the Dean
campaign), who got it and tried to get others in the campaign to ‘get
it,’ but the Clinton campaign was doomed to run a top-down cam-
paign of the past. It might be a strong campaign, but, even so, it would
be at great peril in the bottom-up environment of 2008.
Ten the fnal shoe dropped. I was on a panel in New York City
with Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist, and we were asked what the
impact of the Internet would be on the 2008 presidential campaign.
Penn answered the question frst, and to my amazement and horror,
responded that the Internet wouldn’t have any impact on the 2008
presidential election because too few Americans use it and all they did
was talk to each other!
Te top of the Clinton campaign had no fundamental understand-
ing that politics had changed since 2004. Tey did not understand that
the second bottom-up networked campaign would be in 2008, and it
would be explosively diferent from anything before it. Te Clinton
campaign failed to grasp “it’s the network, stupid.”
Barack Obama’s campaign raised more money from the bottom
up than any campaign in history—swamping the Clinton top-down
$2,300 maxed-out big donor fundraising efort.
But the diference between the campaigns is based on more than
money. Barack Obama’s entire delegate lead was due to his defeat of
Hillary Clinton in caucus states. Tese victories are directly related to
Obama’s ability to activate a decentralized network of supporters who
out-organized the Clinton campaign in state after state.
I was wrong about something, though. I really thought in the clos-
ing days of the campaign we would be watching the best top-down
campaign in history matched against the second networked bottom-up
15+ tHe L Ast toP DoWn CAMPAI Gn n
campaign in history. But in February, I heard something I never thought
I would hear. Hillary Clinton was on television asking people to help
her by going to www.hillaryclinton.com! Turns out the last top-down
campaign on the Democratic side was already dead. Now Clinton has
gone bottom-up, too. May the best bottom-up campaign win.
About the Author
Joe Trippi began his political career working on Edward M. Kennedy’s
presidential campaign in 1980. His work in presidential politics contin-
ued with the campaigns of Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt
and Howard Dean. Most recently, he was the Senior Advisor and Strate-
gist for John Edwards’ presidential campaign.
tAnGLeD sIGnALs
oF DeMoCRACY
Mico| |. Sií| ]

Why should your only choice when you vote
be to vote yes—or to stay home and abstain?

e
veryone agrees that our voting system needs an overhaul. But
while others in this collection of essays, and elsewhere, are
wrestling with what to do about electronic voting machines
that can’t be trusted, voter registration deadlines that depress par-
ticipation, unfair ballot access rules that discriminate in favor of the
two major parties, the disenfranchisement of millions of ex-felons,
and new photo-ID requirements that may disenfranchise many other
would-be voters, I want to focus on a diferent issue: whether our
voting system actually helps us signal what we want from our repre-
sentatives in a meaningful way.
In most of America today, elections are run on the “frst-past-the-
post” system. Tat is, whoever gets the most votes in a race wins—no
matter how many, or how few, people vote. In a few places, a run-of is
required if no one gets a simple majority on the frst round, which often
produces the odd result of a candidate who wins even though a majority
155
15c tAnGL eD sI GnAL s oF DeMoCRACY n
of voters didn’t vote for her on the frst round. Te only thing that voters
are asked to do is vote FOR someone. Tere’s about as much communi-
cative content in their choice as there is in reading an X in a box.
We’re using a voting system invented in the 18
th
century—before
there were railroads, telegraphs, cars, radio, TV, airplanes, let alone the
Internet. Maybe it’s time to try some experiments to open up our vot-
ing process? Here are fve modest proposals:
1. Put “None-of-the-Above” (NOTA) on the ballot.
States would have to require a special election (held according to the
existing rules for when an ofce becomes vacant) any time NOTA got
more votes than the candidates on a ballot, with new candidates nomi-
nated. When I frst wrote about this idea in an article for Te Nation
back in 1990, I was amazed to see it endorsed by voices as diverse as the
Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal editorial pages.
Te idea isn’t as crazy as it may seem. Why should your only
choice when you vote be to vote yes—or to stay home and abstain?
And if none of the candidates running for a particular ofce can get
more votes than “none-of-the-above,” maybe that will send a useful
message. After all, there’s a reason so many campaigns use negative
advertising against their opponents: it seems to work—and there’s
no penalty for going negative. But if NOTA were an option and
two candidates were savaging each other on the campaign trail, the
public would start voicing support for NOTA and pollsters would
notice. Te next idea follows this same theme.
2. Give voters the ability to vote ‘No’ to a candidate.
Today, if you want to signal your dissatisfaction with a particular can-
didate, you can only do so by voting ‘Yes’ for her opponent. (Staying
Mi co| |. Si í | ] n 15/
home doesn’t really have the same efect.) But why force people to
choose the lesser of two evils? I may have only one vote, but why not
let me cast it against someone, to reduce their total vote—and let the
candidate with the most net positive votes gain ofce?
I’m borrowing here directly from a 2001 article in Political Science
and Politics called “Let’s Take ‘No’ For An Answer,” by Daniel Fergu-
son, an MIT physicist, and Teodore Lowi, a long-time professor of
government at Cornell University and former president of the Ameri-
can Political Science Association. Tey call this approach “bipolar
voting” and argue that it would have the efect of establishing a kind
of quorum rule on who could win an election. If two candidates on
the ballot both ended up with a net negative vote (i.e., voters choosing
to vote ‘No’ more often than ‘Yes’ in both cases), the election could
be held again with a new slate of candidates. In efect, a more elegant
NOTA option.
Ferguson and Lowi argue that a “bipolar voting system elicits a
fundamentally new piece of information from the voter as a sort of
‘legitimeter’: It registers the relative measure of preference and also,
albeit roughly, the absolute level of confdence in the candidates, the
platforms, and the process.” (We could use something similar in the
blogosphere, so that a link to a post could contain a “positive” or “nega-
tive” association, as Kevin Marks, author of the weblog Epeus’ Epigone,
and others have suggested.)
Bipolar voting also has the virtue of balancing the most extreme
blocs of opinion and would, perhaps, lead to more widely supported
centrist candidates winning elections. Last year, we used a system
of visible bipolar voting to enable viewers to vote for or against the
best video questions submitted to the presidential candidates in our
“10Questions.com” project. As the voting unfolded over the weeks
we could clearly see how heavy votes in favor of one video would be
balanced the next day by heavy votes against it. In efect, videos that
158 tAnGL eD sI GnAL s oF DeMoCRACY n
had a strong political bias had more trouble gaining a net positive vote
total because they stirred up as much opposition as support, while
videos that rose to the top had a broader level of consensus across
the spectrum. And that idea of making results visible as the process
unfolds gets to my next point.
3. Release early voting results.
As more states allow voting by mail and provide absentee ballots for
practically any reason, and some even open polling locations weeks
before Election Day, more Americans are availing themselves of the
convenience of voting on their personal timetables. In some states,
like Tennessee, a majority of votes were cast early in the 2006 elec-
tions. But other than reporting generic information like the total
number of absentee ballots requested, or early votes cast, states are
doing nothing with this information, on the old-fashioned notion
that no one should know what anyone else has chosen to do until the
end of Election Day.
But imagine if, every night, state registrars posted running totals
of ballots that had already been cast, and even which voters had voted
(though not their personal votes). Instead of relying on unreliable poll-
sters, we’d all have a real-time snapshot of each race as it was coming to a
close. Campaigns would be able to focus their resources on people who
hadn’t yet voted, which would help boost turnout. And early results
might signal problems for a candidate and cause them to change their
positions accordingly. A fnal beneft of making early voting results
public—and on this notion I am indebted to Jonathan Soros—since
about two dozen states start mail-in or early voting well before the
Iowa and New Hampshire presidential contests, we just might start to
dissolve the disproportional power of those unrepresentative states over
the nomination process.
Mi co| |. Si í | ] n 159
4. Embrace instant-runoff voting, or ranked balloting.
Today’s system forces most races down to two viable candidates, since
most voters don’t want to risk “wasting” their votes on lesser contenders.
But with an instant runof, or ranked balloting, system, we can liberate
ourselves from that constrained set of options. Instead of only being
able to vote for one candidate, under these systems you would be able
to list your preferences in order. If your frst choice didn’t win a major-
ity on the frst, multi-candidate ballot, your vote would be instantly
transferred to your second choice. If no candidate won a majority in
that round, the process of transferring the votes of the weakest can-
didates to the voter’s next choice would be repeated, until a winner
emerged. (To use an elegant version of this system for your own group
decision-making, go to ChoiceRanker.com.)
Te beneft of this approach, which has been adopted in a few
places in America including San Francisco, opens races up to more
contenders and lets voters communicate more about their choices. And
that gets me to my last suggestion…
5. Ascribe a reason for votes.
All of the ideas I’ve mentioned in this article are struggling with the
same basic problem: how to tease the true meaning out of a voter’s
choice. And the answer is staring us in the face (or, at least, my face
ever since my friend Andrew Rasiej suggested it to me). Let voters add
a comment explaining their vote, and then let’s aggregate those com-
ments to build a richer picture of people’s voting decisions. In other
words, make the box where you put your vote a little bigger, so it can
contain a few sentences.
From a technological standpoint, this would be child’s play (assum-
ing the other issues with the security and reliability of electronic voting
1cJ tAnGL eD sI GnAL s oF DeMoCRACY n
were solved). But even if this was a matter of reading through written
comments on paper ballots, why do we deny ourselves the power to say
what our votes actually mean? It might seem like a complicated task
to collect, sift and report voters’ comments, but the Internal Revenue
Service manages to process more than a hundred million individual tax
returns, plus countless other forms. Surely we can make our voting sys-
tem as intelligent as our tax-collecting system.
When this country was founded, the right to vote was restricted
to white, male landowners, and even they couldn’t vote directly for
president or senators. Generations of Americans have struggled and
some have given their lives to expand that right to all citizens, and the
struggle isn’t over. But is the right to vote only about our ability to put
an X in a box? Or is it time to make our votes more meaningful, too?
About the Author
Micah L. Sifry is co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum,
a website and annual conference that covers the ways technology is
changing politics, and TechPresident.com, a new award-winning group
blog on how the American presidential candidates are using the Web
and how the Web is using them. In addition to organizing the annual
Personal Democracy Forum conference with his partner Andrew Rasiej,
he consults with political organizations, campaigns, non-profits and
media entities on how they can adapt to and thrive in a networked world.
He is currently a senior technology advisor to the Sunlight Foundation.
FInDInG YoUR
oBVIoUsMeteR
Mot t Stulle|

Did you know that members of Congress cannot
post YouTube videos on their official member websites
without breaking House and Senate rules?

i
have an “Obviousmeter.” Te Obviousmeter compares cultural
trends and existing power centers and asks, “Can a sixteen year
old do something our government can’t?” If the answer in any
particular area is yes, then that’s a place to fnd out where the future is
going to smack us in the ass.
I can’t predict the future of democracy in the digital age—no one
really can—but certain characteristics of what the future will look like
can be identifed right now. And one of them is that obvious and stu-
pid contradictions are ripe for attack.
For example: Did you know that members of Congress cannot post
YouTube videos on their ofcial member websites without breaking
House and Senate rules? Yup. I am friendly with a tech-savvy member
of Congress, or Congresscritter, as well as a whole bunch of stafers,
and it is simply infuriating to them that they can’t put up a YouTube
1c1
1cZ FI nDI nG YoUR oBVI oUsMeteR n
clip on their website to communicate with constituents. Tey can call
them. Tey can mail out tens of thousands of glossy and expensive
brochures discussing their recent legislative activities. Tey can even
run expensive TV ads through their political action committees. But
they cannot post a YouTube video on a web address that has .gov at
the end.
Te reasons are manifold. If you talk to the Franking Commission,
the body in Congress that governs member communication to the
outside world, they will give you a list of diferent reasons. It’s a SECU-
RITY risk! It’s a CORPORATE ENDORSEMENT of YouTube! It’s
an ethics VIOLATION! Or even the wonderful, “Just run it by us,
we’ll let you know if it’s a violation of the rules.” Tis bureaucracy-lov-
ing attitude is bipartisan, as is the contempt of their intransigence from
tech-savvy insiders.
Sixteen-year-olds can put up YouTube clips, as the whole world
knows. So the Obviousmeter is buzzing in the red. And while it seems
as though the problem here is the infexibility of a single bureaucratic
committee, when you pick at the onion of the problem a bit, fakes of
skin keep coming of. Tis problem, at its core, represents the complete
breakdown of the line between politics and government, between char-
ity and politics, and between democracy and a hundred-year tradition
of Walter Lippman-esque disinterested expertise.
Te Franking Commission exists because the Founders of the
country knew that communication was key to democracy. Tey cod-
ifed the ability to ‘frank,’ or mail for free, communications from a
member of Congress to their constituency so that the citizenry would
remain educated and vigilant. As communications systems became
more powerful, centralized, and expensive during the 20
th
century,
breaking down local community bonds and helping to eliminate pub-
lic spaces in the process, franking created an asymmetry of power that
favored elected ofcials over voters who were passive receivers of an
Mot t Stull e| n 1cJ
incumbent’s information. If you could frank for free, and your oppo-
nent couldn’t, you could raise money and your name recognition, and
essentially run an election with taxpayer resources using sophisticated
direct mail techniques.
In the 1970s, the Congressional Franking Commission began rem-
edying this asymmetry of power by imposing speech restrictions on
members. No fundraising. No electioneering. Let us see the mail you
send out. Nothing political. Tis made sense as a sort of stopgap mea-
sure, since the citizenry could not talk back en masse and had limited
public spaces in which to engage in conversation with the powerful
forces of televised mass communications. Mail cost money, and citizens
couldn’t just bill taxpayers; they were the taxpayers! So when the Inter-
net emerged in full force, the Franking Commission handled e-mail
like snail mail. Tat makes perfect sense; they both have ‘mail’ in the
name, right?
E-mail and the Web function both as information transmission
vehicles and as public spaces. Restricting e-mail or web communication
crippled the ability of Members of Congress to convene people on the
Web they way they do at town hall discussions, roundtables, district
meetings, ofces, etc. It stopped the political body designed to collabo-
rate from using the greatest set of collaborative tools ever devised. And it
also stopped a medium whose cost structure takes care of power imbal-
ances by making communicating with large groups of people essentially
free. While the Internet doesn’t guarantee a large audience, it is amaz-
ingly inexpensive to communicate with any size group. (For example,
there is no cost associated with those annoying joke e-mail forwards.)
Te asymmetry of power has been fipped in the Internet Age.
Citizens can communicate online to potentially millions of people at
no cost, but Members of Congress can’t. But this is real life, and regard-
less of the rules, members and stafers post videos on their sites, go
ofsite to join the conversation on blogs, do events in Second Life using
1c+ FI nDI nG YoUR oBVI oUsMeteR n
congressional resources, etc. But the fact that the rules are in place tells
us something very important about Congress, which is its antipathy to
public spaces. Rather than delve into the difcult questions of whether
an embedded YouTube clip of a government resource can be used on a
political website, the Franking Commission just says “No” to YouTube.
And the Obviousmeter goes of, and Members break the rules, and
Congress appears to be clueless.
But it’s not clueless; it is protecting a lie. Tis lie is the supposed
line between politics and government, a line that was always fction
but whose illusion could be maintained in a non-digital world. And
there are similar fake lines between charities and political advocacy
groups, government agencies and political parties, blogs and political
action committees, citizens with websites and journalists, and founda-
tions and corporations and governments. In David Weinberger’s book,
Everything is Miscellaneous, he points out that there are no clear divid-
ing lines between objects and institutions, and that this is particularly
true in regards to information.
As the George W. Bush administration dissolves into a puddle of
embarrassment, and the public begins to believe that change in gover-
nance and politics is possible, expect a massive increase of public spaces
connected to political power, and a lot more confusion around bright
border lines that, when put online, no longer seem particularly bright
or even line-like. And listen to your own Obviousmeter, because the
world is full of archaic Franking Commissions.
About the Author
Matt Stoller writes at the progressive strategy site OpenLeft.com and
is the President of the political action committee BlogPAC. He consults
for the Sunlight Foundation on open government, for Actblue, and for
Working Assets, a progressive phone company.
ConGRess ReLoADeD
Mot t|ew Bu| tur

Congress has always been a reactive body,
responding to what happened yesterday instead of
foreseeing tomorrow’s problems.

t
he House of Representatives should expand to make room for
a new at-large delegation: the Delegation for Future Interests
(DFI). Tese seats will be restricted to scientists and people
under the age of 35. Te representatives will be elected by a nation-
wide vote with no geographic apportionment (after all, the candidates
for these jobs will be familiar with the decreasing relevance of geog-
raphy). Te members of this delegation will have equal status with all
other members of the House, including voting rights and committee
membership.
Te DFI will bring something new to Congress: ample represen-
tation of future concerns. Congress has always been a reactive body,
responding to what happened yesterday instead of foreseeing tomor-
row’s problems. Its members are unfamiliar with new technologies and
the problems they present. It shows in the backgrounds. Of our 100
1c5
1cc ConGRess ReLoADeD n
senators, 56 are lawyers. Nineteen are lifelong politicians with little
other professional or research experience. Zero senators have science
doctorates; only four congressmen do. And according to the Congres-
sional Research Service, the current Congress might be the oldest ever:
only eight of 537 members are under the age of 35. We trust this body
to keep our democracy up-to-date. We shouldn’t.
Our population includes people much better suited than your aver-
age politician to keep democracy in touch with the future: scientists
engaged with emerging technologies that will defne how we commu-
nicate and work in the future, and the young people eager to embrace,
understand, and challenge these technologies. Just as seasoned lawyers
bring historical perspective to our legal code, scientists and young
people could bring foresight to important issues for the future of the
country. Just as our armed forces are run by military experts, and our
economy is regulated by economists, so should our science and tech-
nology policies be guided at the highest levels by those with expertise.
Creating the DFI is a low-tech response to an essay prompt that is
laden with high-tech overtones. Opportunities abound for web-based
citizen engagement platforms and crowdsourced, or collaboratively
tackled, to unearth government corruption. But no matter what widget
we create, and no matter how we customize the Constitution for today’s
Internet, three things will certainly happen in the next 100 years:
• Both the widget and the Constitutional changes will
become obsolete
• One or two more technological revolutions will pass us by
• Tose revolutions will pose new challenges to our democracy,
challenges that our generation will never foresee. Challenges
that will require their own essay contests.
In short, no Net-centric solution to our problems will last long.
Even if such a solution is an extraordinary success, the chances are
good that it will be short-lived: our understanding of the Internet
Mot t |ew Bu| tur n 1c/
undergoes a radical shift at least once every election cycle. High-tech
solutions may sound sophisticated, but they are ultimately limited by
their focus on the Internet. My DFI proposal may not make for the
most exciting reading, but it is adaptable beyond the current defnition
of the Internet. When today’s problems are long gone, the DFI will
still be relevant.
Tat is what we must seek when changing our democracy: stay-
ing power. Major changes to a democratic system take decades to root
themselves into the public consciousness. By then, the nation may
have forgotten what inspired the changes in the frst place. Our job is
to make sure that when that day comes, our changes are still relevant.
My solution may not be custom-built FOR the Internet, but it
is certainly inspired by it. Te Internet has taught me a lesson: when
challenged by a new technology, our democracy convulses for a few
years. (It hasn’t yet taught me what happens after that.) If given one
redesign opportunity, we should heed that lesson and try to solve the
root of the problem: a lack of foresight by our leaders. Technical solu-
tions can certainly help; that’s why I spend most days trying to hack
American politics. But the DFI will help us not only through today’s
challenges but tomorrow’s as well. Let’s reboot for the future, not just
for the Internet.
About the Author
Matthew Burton is formerly an intelligence analyst with the Department
of Defense. Burton left the government in 2005 to attend NYU’s Interactive
Telecommunications Program. He is now building a web application that
helps the Intelligence Community share information and collaborate.
He created and maintains two government transparency projects:
ReadableLaws.org and Speechology.org. He lives in New York.
BeYonD WARGAMes
0uuclos Rus||uí í

Our nation is both a functioning nation and a
model for a functioning nation.

w
henever democracy and computers show up in the same
sentence, I can’t help but fash back to some early Cold
War simulations conducted by RAND corporation. If we
bomb Moscow and then they bomb Phoenix, and so on.…. Basic
zero-sum game theory, applied through the paranoid schizophrenic
lens of Beautiful Mind mathematician John Nash, yielded the no-win
Doomsday scenario eventually satirized in the cyber-action fick War
Games.
Te underlying assumption of these early computer simulations
was that people and, by extrapolation, nations, behave with their own
strategic interests in mind. Humans—and nations—are presumed to
be fearful, self-interested, and hyper-rational. Te solution of these
kinds of prisoner’s dilemmas was Mutually Assured Destruction:
creating nuclear arsenals big enough to ensure that everyone dies if
anyone attacks.
1c8
0uuc Rus||uí í n 1c9
Even Nash has subsequently admitted that this way of applying
game theory was based on his own paranoid delusions. While the
math works out, the logic is hopelessly polar. In short, the paranoia
plus binary technology equals an insane, oversimplifed, and unstable
stand-of. Diferences and confict are exacerbated because the com-
petitive game is an underlying assumption. Tere’s no possibility
for reconciliation, compromise, or collaboration. It’s my computer
against yours.
To me, the most exciting thing about a networked computing era
is the opportunity to model new kinds of games. More than anything
else, computers are modeling systems. Tey let us model the function
of a typewriter, a spreadsheet, or a paste-up board, not to mention
all sorts of social and fantasy interactions. Te most advanced mod-
els right now are the ones we’re developing in forums, from MySpace
to Second Life, Facebook to World of Warcraft. Tese are the places
where people can experiment with alternative behaviors, life strategies,
alliances, and goal sets.
Because our computers are networked rather than isolated, we no
longer need to see the “other” team as on the opposite side of a discrete
boundary. Tey are part of the same system. As a result, scenarios for
cooperation more complex than “mutually assured destruction” begin
to emerge.
What I’d like to see as a result of computer networking is the possi-
bility for modeling new, as yet-to-be conceived, collaborative behaviors.
Play behavior has almost always been relegated to the Dionysian side
of the culture, while purpose remains with Apollo and the courts.
Both of these artifcially isolated aspects of society end up sufering
as a result: politics ends up unsexy (leading to the salacious behavior
of its repressed participants) and the arts end up unserious (leading to
the equally disastrous attempts to bolster its relevancy through cruel
entertainments like reality TV).
1/J BeYonD WARGAMes n
Gaming and government are actually one and the same. While we
have to actually govern using the Constitution, we can’t let it become
so set in stone that we lose the ability to game with it. Our nation is
both a functioning nation and a model for a functioning nation. Imag-
ine a discussion of urban planning conducted through a simulation
like SimCity. Or a model for local currency developed in a community
within Second Life. How about reconfguring the Electoral College
model based on a year of in-person collaborative processes practiced by
groups using Meetup.com? Or consider a bottom-up editorial process
for amending the Constitution itself, pairing traditional legislative pro-
cesses with the mass participation ofered by wikis and other collective
authorship tools. Or, fnally, how about engaging the next generation
of citizens in all of these collaborative online processes as a way of
instilling curiosity and civic practices that will surpass what currently
passes for debate in the chambers of Congress?
Networked gaming applied to the democratic process can restore
our ability to evolve our republic, bring our international relation-
ships beyond the presumption of mutual enmity, and —perhaps most
importantly —make participating in government fun and interesting.
About the Author
Douglas Rushkoff is the author of several seminal books on media and
society, including Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Open Source
Democracy, Coercion, and, most recently, Get Back in the Box: Innovation
from the Inside Out. He founded the Narrative Lab at NYU’s Interactive
Telecommunications Program.
tHe oBVIoUs AnsWeR:
onLIne VotInG
/llisur |. |ire

Historians will undoubtedly consider our current
era of voting machines the technological equivalent of the
8-track tape machine.

p
oll inspectors squinting helplessly at hanging chads was the
lasting image from the federal election of 2000. We were
shocked and frustrated by the fragility and archaic infrastruc-
ture of our election system. If only we could replace those dastardly
little squares of paper with something better, something modern, elec-
tronic and foolproof, then all would be well in America.
Two years later, an irony-free Republican Congress passed the
Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), a power grab by the federal
government to standardize election processes in over three thousand
municipalities across the country. HAVA provides funds to states to
transition from paper ballot systems to electronic ones, but doesn’t
mandate which machines states must use. Six years and over three bil-
lion dollars later, a hodgepodge of delicate, complicated, expensive, and
unreliable election machinery populates the countryside. Meanwhile,
1/1
1/Z tHe oBVI oUs AnsWeR: onLI ne VotI nG n
not a single cent of HAVA money, or any other government funding,
has gone into researching the electoral system of the future.
Seventy-six million Americans registered on the National Do Not
Call Registry fueled almost entirely by friend-to-friend e-mails. Over
seventy million blogs exist, according to the blog tracking site Tech-
norati. Joe Lieberman and Dan Rather sufered the wrath of some of
these bloggers—one survived, the other didn’t, but political and media
Goliaths have been put on red alert. YouTube videos were instrumen-
tal in sinking the incumbent senators Burns and Allen in the 2006
election and will surely be similarly infuential in 2008. MoveOn.org
boasted a membership of over three million in November 2006; at its
height in the mid 1970s, Common Cause had one-tenth the number
of members. As the ecosystem of political campaigns has changed radi-
cally, we have stubbornly, almost irrationally, refused to take advantage
of the revolutionary power of the Internet when it comes to voting.
Online voting is the obvious answer to our voting woes.
We replaced levers and punch cards with privately owned, pro-
prietary electronic machines that are shut tight to the public like
bank vaults. Some states, like Florida (why is it always Florida?), have
thrown out their electronic voting machines in favor of optical scan
machines. I spent Election Day last year in San Francisco, watching
as poll workers repeatedly pulled the ballots of individual voters out
of the scan machines, looked at their votes, and announced aloud to
the room, “Well, the problem is that you voted for Gavin Newsom in
column A, but didn’t also vote for a candidate in columns B or C.” (San
Francisco has a ranked ballot system, which is a great idea but needs
more educational outreach to be efective with voters.) Historians will
undoubtedly consider our current era of voting machines the techno-
logical equivalent of the 8-track tape machine.
But the machinery is only a part of our voting problem. Tere
is a quiet crisis in recruiting poll workers. Te Election Assistance
/llisur |. |ire n 1/J
Commission conducted a national survey in 2004 that revealed that
on average poll workers were 72 years old, and presumably older still
every day. Sixteen-hour days that ricochet between tense and tedious
for paltry pay are not great recruiting enticements. In Maryland in
2006, almost a third of the poll workers didn’t show up for work on
Election Day.
We have come to the point where almost any body will do in some
places to relieve our “Greatest Generation” poll anchors. California
and other states are recruiting high school and college students as poll
workers, for pay and course credit incentives. It is a telling sign of the
vulnerability of our system, and our poor planning for the future, that
the most visible aspect of our democracy totters on the reliability of
teens to help open polling places at dawn.
So why do we continue to hold onto an 18
th
-century voting pro-
cess in a 21
st
-century world?
According to Celent, LLC, a research frm specializing in bank-
ing, nearly forty percent of households did some banking online in
2006.
17
Bank of America alone has over 22 million online banking
customers worldwide, and their services includes using mobile devices
for banking.
18
According to Forrester Research, online retail sales in
the United States are projected to grow by about ffty percent and
exceed $300 billion annually.
19
If we can trust our personal and busi-
ness fnances to online systems, with nary a worry about security as
a result of institutions having worked hard to secure their systems,
surely we should be able to do the same with our votes.
Imagine how many more people would vote if they could do so
17 Kim, Jane, J., “Call It Online Banking 2.0,” Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2006, pg. B.1
18 Robel, Adam, “Internet Leaders Think Strategically,” Global Finance; Dec 2007; 21, 11; ABI/
INFORM Global pg. 46
19 Jonathan Birchall, “US online sales growth ‘to defy slowdown’,” Financial Times. London (UK):
Apr 8, 2008. pg. 20
1/+ tHe oBVI oUs AnsWeR: onLI ne VotI nG n
from their desktops, laptops, the palm of their hand, or at a kiosk in
the library or shopping mall. Also imagine how many more digital
natives, young people born to, with, and of new media, will participate
when the voting system is refective of their online, mobile lives. Vot-
ing is the entry point for community life for millions of people; we are
obliged to make it as simple and reliable as possible in the hope that it
will lead to further civic participation.
Te concerns about online voting are oft stated if misguided. Te
frst, of course, is security. Even though study after study fnds no sig-
nifcant amount of voter fraud today (see the voter fraud and integrity
work at Demos.org that systematically dismantles the myth that voter
fraud exists at any signifcant level), our outsized anxiety about elec-
tions being hijacked by nefarious vote stealers remains frmly intact.
Tis anxiety begins to spiral out of control when discussing online
voting—as if changing the voting system will create a huge, crowded
feld of election thieves. I will concede that this is a legitimate con-
cern, but not an intractable problem. If online banks can be audited,
so can online voting systems. Te Defense Department and private
corporations have sophisticated encryption systems that can be used
for voting systems—and they will need to be updated and adjusted
to stay ahead of the hackers, just as Bank of America does every day.
We can’t know all the answers today, but that doesn’t make the task
of transitioning to a new system impossible. If the criteria is that we
must know all the answers before creating a new voting system, no
such system will ever be created.
Te second concern cited against online voting is a potential
decrease in turnout and loss of civic capital generated by the gather-
ing of citizens locally to vote. Oregon’s voting-by-mail started in the
mid-1990s lays this concern to rest. In 2001, researchers reported
an increase in voting in Oregon after voting-by-mail was instituted,
/llisur |. |ire n 1/5
with no deleterious afect on civic feelings.
20
And millions of dollars
are saved every election since the cost of paying poll workers is gone.
Continuing to hire poll workers to staf elections is the equivalent of
rehiring bank tellers to replace ATM machines.
John Bonifaz argues in this book that voting systems must be open
and transparent, and that they must be wrested from the clutches of
for-proft companies more interested in quarterly profts than demo-
cratic participation. And online voting systems should be no diferent.
Neutral parties, as opposed to political parties, would be charged with
monitoring online voting systems for irregularities and auditing the
results. Te software code would be open-source. Translated from geek
speak, this means that the engine behind online voting will a collabora-
tive efort of a wide community of public-spirited individuals, yet still
managed by municipalities. All we need to do to get started is put Meg
Whitman of E-Bay and Eric Schmidt of Google in charge of a national
task force for online voting—that will ensure that the system will be
secure, easy-to-use and scalable.
Walk into a polling precinct anywhere in the country (except Ore-
gon!) on Election Day and you will inevitably see a system riddled with
human and technical mistakes and problems. Te end result is that we
citizens increasingly don’t trust or believe the results of elections. Elec-
tion systems have always been unreliable; what has changed is that now
we can see all of the problems instantly, nationwide, on YouTube. Te
very same technology that is shining a spotlight on the problems of the
system can be used to fx it.
It is human nature to think about all of the things that could go
wrong with a new system. But at some point we have to decide that
what we don’t know yet, what details we haven’t worked out today
20 Berinsky, Adam, Burns, Nancy, Traugott, Michael W., “Who Votes by Mail? A Dynamic Model
of the Individual-Level Consequences of Voting-by-Mail System,” Public Opinion Quarterly,
65:178-197 (2001)
1/c tHe oBVI oUs AnsWeR: onLI ne VotI nG n
but will tomorrow, are not sufcient reasons to sit and do nothing.
An online voting system built openly, honestly, and with great care is
surely preferable to watching faulty machines, long lines, and human
error erode our election system.
About the Author
Allison H. Fine is a senior editor of the Personal Democracy Forum and a
senior fellow at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action. She is the author
of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (Wiley, 2006)
and Social Citizens
(beta)
, a discussion paper commissioned by The Case
Foundation.
WHo neeDs
eLeCteD oFFICI ALs?
To|o |urt

When I’m in charge of redrafting democracy, I will
make sure that we create more ways to put citizens in charge
of the system. I will make it a mandate to create more turned
on, tuned in citizens and see where that leads us.

i
recently gave a presentation on how individuals around the world
were taking it upon themselves to improve government services
by using web tools and technology to transform their communi-
ties. Afterward, a very astute government ofcial walked up to me and
asked a question, “If all of these amazing collaborative tools exist and
all of these really tuned in, turned on people exist, why do we need
government at all, really? Why don’t people just truly self-organize?”
Now, I’ve never been one to defne myself as a no-government
type, having been raised in socialist-leaning Canada and attributing
much of my opportunities to that system, but I found myself quite
intrigued by her question. Over the past couple of years of talking to
government agencies about the wonders of Web 2.0, I have found that
1//
1/8 WHo neeDs eL eCteD oF FI CI AL s? n
it is a frustrating thing to be part of a large organization that has to
make the whole country happy at once. Large government organiza-
tions move slowly and are inefcient. Government agencies also cost
way more money to run than they produce in value in many cases
(mostly through the heavy administrative costs).
My questioner was raising a valid point: in this emerging 2.0 world
of collaboration, community and transparency, do we really need to
elect people to run stuf?
Could we actually create a TRUE democracy and run it all our-
selves? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that each one of us would
need to take turns arresting people or putting out fres. I just mean
that we can make good decisions ourselves without all the buttoned -
up politicians in the way. Why couldn’t we all be involved in our local,
regional and national governments without having to entrust someone
to make decisions on our behalf, but by actually making the decisions
for ourselves every day? Couldn’t we have an ongoing level of engage-
ment with which to make public decisions wisely?
Now, you may be thinking “Tat’s crazy! People don’t have time
to be deeply involved in the political process!” Of course they don’t,
particularly not with the current state of government. It’s way too
complicated. Bills are unwieldy and complex, with many people try-
ing to stuf their interests into one piece of policy. But let me propose
this: we need to run policy making more like we run startups. Simpler.
Small pieces loosely joined. We need to deal with real issues that afect
us now.
Let’s start with a group of citizens, we’ll call them Ombudsmen,
who are focused on long-term issues. Tey will pay attention to trends
and potential difculties in the same way that Wikipedia deals with
controversial topics using an iterative process of discussion and editing
until the community comes to a consensus.
And then there are the here and now issues. Well, I suggest that
To| o |urt n 1/9
we deal with them here and now. And if we screw up? Well, we’ll fx it.
We can be in a perpetual beta, people. It’s okay. We already don’t know
what we’re doing; we may as well make that transparent, too.
Imagine an issue arising on Twitter, a free networking and micro-
blogging site, wherein someone proposes a change to the legal driving
age:
sassygirl123: “With the number of video games teaching our chil-
dren to drive these days, why not drop the learners permit in
Utah to 14? #utah” (Te hashtag, #utah, alerts all Utah resi-
dents to the suggestion.)
concernedmom: “I’m not sure if I would equate video game driv-
ing with actual driving ability. I don’t think my 14-year-old
is ready. #utah”
Te debate goes back and forth until there are enough people gath-
ered around the subject. Someone sets up a survey and it is put to a
vote. Te vote is in favor of dropping the learners permit age to 14 in
Utah with 73% voting for and 26% voting against. Google records
the results and someone updates the Wikipedia entry. Craigslist sees a
jump in ‘Seeking Second Family Car’ ads.
When I’m in charge of redrafting democracy, I will make sure that
we create more ways to put citizens in charge of the system. I will make
it a mandate to create more turned on, tuned in citizens and see where
that leads us. I may be putting a little too much faith in our ability
to make sound decisions for our communities using Twitter, but the
point is that we can streamline our decision-making processes using
new Web 2.0 technology. We also need our governments to begin to
treat our personal data with the respect it deserves and move past their
proprietary habits, such as forcing people to fll out awful, repetitive
18J WHo neeDs eL eCteD oF FI CI AL s? n
forms that get lost in the system. We need to start using open systems
that allow users, in this case citizens, to manage and safeguard their
own information.
About the Author
Tara ‘missrogue’ Hunt understands how the participatory web is changing
all of our relationships: B2C, B2B and C2C. She co-founded Citizen
Agency in 2006 with the mission of teaching her clients how to work
more effectively with the communities they serve and how to embrace
and adjust to all of the changes in culture businesses are facing. Her
forthcoming book on social capital and online communities called The
Whuffie Factor is due out in November 2008 from Crown Publishing.
neW GADGets Do not
neW HUMAnI tY MAKe
/.e| ] Krouu orJ Terr]sur McCollo

Mice, click-wheels, keyboards, computers,
Internet(s), [. . . ]none of them change in any fundamental
way what the Framers were working with: human nature.

l
et it be understood that what the Framers of our Constitution
attempted to do was not create a document that would be stuck in
a particular time, begging to be replaced as the years passed it by
and technology and mores changed. Tey attempted to create chains,
manacles, bindings, and a gag on the great beast they had been taught
much of their lives to fear (often by experience): the state. By some
estimates, governments killed over 200,000,000 of their own people
in the 20
th
century, not even counting wars. Te Framers’ fears of
government power (which are our fears of government power) appear
to have been well founded. Te Constitution they created existed in
accord with the philosophy they expounded. Philosophy, unlike fads
and technology, refects things of eternal nature. Te Framers believed
that human nature was one of the eternal things about which they had
a ftting philosophy.
181
18Z neW GADGets Do not neW HUMAnI t Y MAKe n
What was the nature of man to those great men of 1787? Was he an
animal, incapable of being trusted, incapable of civilization, constantly
in need of supervision? Was he an automaton, ready for instructions
from some authority, ready to be a means to a master’s end, capable of
being perfected with the best of directions? No, man was none of these
things, at least not wholly. He was an animal to be sure, as could be seen
by his basest acts of barbarism on the individual scale of a criminal, and
on the collective scale of despotism and war. He could undoubtedly act
the part of a will-less, soulless, robot, and exist in slavish thrall to some
pretended authority on behalf of a prince. But certainly that was not the
totality of man. Man was something far grander in the Founders’ eyes.
Man was an individual created by the Author of the Universe, each one
a refection of the Divine. As the Creator was master of the Heavens,
each man was a master of the Earth. As all were equally creations and
refections of the Supreme Being, they were equal to one another, and
no one had more natural authority than the next. Tis state of existence,
where subordination and subjection were absent, this state of nature, as
it was referred to, was a state of perfectly realized liberty.
To clarify some concepts further, let us hear from some early Ameri-
cans. In 1775 Alexander Hamilton wrote, “Te sacred rights of mankind
are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. Tey
are written, as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature,
by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured
by mortal power.” Tomas Jeferson wrote the line “…all men are cre-
ated equal…” in the Declaration of Independence, but here’s what he
wrote in an earlier draft: “…all men are created equal and independent;
that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable,
among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness…”. Continuing with Jeferson, we learn: “Rightful liberty is
unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us
by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’
/.e| ] Krouu orJ Terr]sur McColl o n 18J
because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the
right of an individual.”
Putting these ideas together, we learn that all people are equal, that
from their equality inalienable rights are derived, and that all unob-
structed actions are rightful so long as they don’t transgress the rights
of any other individuals. Any individual’s inalienable rights (e.g., free-
doms of contract, property, association, thought, religious belief, etc.)
could not rightfully be infringed upon by any other individual.
Mice, click-wheels, keyboards, computers, Internet(s), higher
resolutions, light-speed communications, microprocessors, nano-
machines, optical fber roll-outs, satellites, space travel, wi-f, LCDs,
LEDs, OLEDS, HDTVs, etc., none of them change in any fundamen-
tal way what the Framers were working with: human nature. So let us
now turn to the present day, a time of the future relative to the Framers.
Man’s nature has not changed. Man can still act in a bestial manner as
an individual villain, and his beastly acts can and have been magnifed
exponentially with power over other men. No technology has changed
this fact. No new devices have made this less true today than it was in
the Framers’ time. On the contrary, the creation of atomic weapons in
the 20
th
century, and the potential for genetic weapons in the 21
st
, has
made this point only more profound.
Reality forced them to work with principles, just as it forces us to
do today. Our modern gadgets and trinkets cannot obviate self-evi-
dent truths. Man can still act as a subject, to be instructed as if he had
no will; to just follow orders, with all of the danger that that phrase
implies. Jeferson again: “Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent
and inalienable rights of man.”
Te answer to the question of what we might change if we were
redesigning American democracy for the modern day turns out to have
little to do with the ephemeral, unimportant, and frankly uninterest-
ing aspects of the manner in—and frequency with which—the mob
18+ neW GADGets Do not neW HUMAnI t Y MAKe n
votes, or the means by which we view and rate our elected representa-
tives. Tese changes merely placate people by giving them the illusion
of more choice. Technology is not the engine that drives freedom—it’s
a tool that can encourage or destroy it, and it does both. Freedom is
the engine that allows individuals to better their lives through such
things as technology.
20
What we would change has far more to do with the eternal, cru-
cial, and highly compelling issue of rights: unalienable, individual,
civil, constitutional, and human. In drafting the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights, realizing that, as Jeferson said, “Te natural progress
of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground,” the
Founders attempted to place strict bounds on the delegated powers of
government. In that sense, these documents were a failure. We want to
see even less opportunity for the majority to abuse the minority (the
individual being the smallest minority of all). We would grant even less
power to our servant, government. We demand even more restraints
on that beast known as the state. With those changes, almost none of
the legislation that does pass would pass. Tese United States, and the
rest of the world, would be far better of for it. Collectivism won the
th
century. Our hope is that individual liberty can win in the 21
st
.
About the Authors
Avery J. Knapp Jr., M.D., was the grassroots Meetup organizer for Ron
Paul’s campaign in NYC and is a radiology resident at Lenox Hill Hospital.
He can be reached at averyknapp@gmail.com.
Tennyson McCalla is a photographer and jack-of-all-trades who became
a volunteer for Ron Paul. He’s a young, radical, libertarian, and can be
reached at tennyson.mccalla@gmail.com.
DeLIBeRAtI Ve DeMoCRACY
In tHeoRY AnD PRACtICe
Koli]o |oalir

At the heart of America’s liberal democracy
are competitive elections, but this design choice does not
enhance collective intelligence and wisdom.

J
ohn Ralston Saul, in “Te Unconscious Civilization,” wrote
“Te most powerful force possessed by the individual citizen
is her own government. ... Government is the only organized
mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known
as the public good.” During the winter of 1997, ffteen Boston citi-
zens—from a homeless shelter resident to a high-tech business manager,
from a retired farmer to a recent inner-city high school graduate—
undertook an intensive study of telecommunications issues. Over two
weekends in February and March, they discussed background read-
ings and got introductory briefngs. Ten, on April 2nd and 3rd, they
heard ten hours of testimony from experts, computer specialists, gov-
ernment ofcials, business executives, educators, and interest-group
185
18c DeLI BeRAtI Ve DeMoCRACY I n tHeoRY AnD PRACtI Ce n
representatives. After interrogating the experts and deliberating late
into the night (with excellent facilitation), they came up with a con-
sensus statement recommending judicious but far-reaching policy
changes which they presented at a press conference at Tufts University,
covered by WCVB-TV/CNN and the Boston Globe, among other
news organizations. U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey, ranking
Democrat (and former Chair) of the House Telecommunications
Subcommittee, said, “Tis is a process that I hope will be repeated in
other parts of the country and on other issues.”
Tese ordinary citizens ended up knowing more about telecom-
munications than the average congressperson who votes on the issue.
Dick Sclove, a lead organizer of the event, says that their behavior con-
tradicted the assertion that government and business ofcials are the
only ones competent and caring enough to be involved in technological
decision-making. Tis lay panel assimilated a broad array of testimony,
which they integrated with their own very diverse life experiences to
reach a well-reasoned collective judgment grounded in the real needs
of everyday people. Tis proves that democratizing U.S. science and
technology decision-making is not only advisable, but also possible and
practical.
21
When the Framers of our Constitution met in Philadelphia in
1787, digital media, modern psychology, social psychology, and eco-
logical and systems science did not exist. Te deliberative democracy
approach outlined above and expanded upon in this essay inte-
grates the best of face-to-face social collaboration technologies with
information and communication technologies for wise governance
decisions. Using these kinds of processes and technologies we can
actually hear what my collaborator and network colleague Tom Atlee
21 “Ordinary Folks Make Good Policy,” Co-Intelligencer website, http://www.co-intelligence.org/S-
ordinaryfolksLOKA.html, downloaded April 18, 2008.
Koli ]o |oalir n 18/
calls the Voice of “We the People” expressing the public good.
22
At the heart of America’s liberal democracy are competitive elec-
tions, but this design choice does not enhance collective intelligence
and wisdom. It fragments communities and societies into reduction-
ist, adversarial “sides” and reduces complex spectra of possibilities to
oversimplifed “positions” that preclude creative alternatives. Te norm
is that citizens abdicate decision-making to elected ofcials, who are
in turn heavily infuenced by the special interests they must serve to
raise money to be re-elected. With few exceptions, existing processes of
democracy
• Do not provide much efective power to ordinary citizens
• Promote at least as much ignorance and distraction as
informed public dialogue
• Serve special interests better than the general welfare
• Impede breakthroughs that could creatively resolve
problems and conficts, and
• Undermine the emergence of inclusive community
wisdom
Voting developed as a process to support self-governance in Ameri-
can history, and at its inception in the 18
th
century it was new and
innovative. In the town halls of New England, citizens gathered together,
debated, and decided among themselves those who would hold leader-
ship positions in the community. Te method has not scaled to address
the wicked problems we as a country and world face. Wicked problems
are incomplete, contradictory and have changing requirements; and
solutions to them are often difcult to recognize because of their com-
plex interdependencies—solutions may reveal or create more wicked
22 How Can We Create an Authentic, Inclusive Voice of We the People from the Grassroots Up?
http://thataway.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=477 Initiated by Tom Atlee Modified by/com-
mented on by Kaliya Hamlin
188 DeLI BeRAtI Ve DeMoCRACY I n tHeoRY AnD PRACtI Ce n
problems.
23
Economic, environmental, social, and political issues are
wicked problems.
In Tom Atlee’s book, Te Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence
to Create a World that Works for All,
24
he highlights several working
examples of Citizen Deliberative Councils., including Citizen Jury,
Consensus Conference, and Wisdom Council.
25
Tese eforts have common characteristics that can be replicated in
other communities. Tey are, to some extent, ofcial, with an explicit
mandate from government agencies to address public issues or the gen-
eral concerns of the community. Tey generate a specifc product such
as fndings or recommendations to the larger community and elected
ofcials. Tey are real councils, meaning that they are in-person,
face-to-face assemblies. Council members are from a fair cross-sec-
tion of society, often randomly selected peer citizens. Tese bodies are
temporary, not meeting for more than a few weeks. Teir eforts are
deliberative and balanced, and often facilitated to help participants to
understand diverse points of view.
Tese processes were created before the Web existed, and as such
were labor intensive, expensive and difcult to scale.
26
But now we have
23 Wicked problems are defined here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem
24 Atlee, Tom, The Tao of Democracy: Using co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All, avail-
able here: http://www.collectivewisdominitiative.org/files_people/Atlee_Tom.htm
25 The reader can learn more about these efforts at the following websites: http://www.
collectivewisdominitiative.org/files_people/Atlee_Tom.htm, http://radio.weblogs.com/0120875/
stories/2003/03/23/citizenDeliberativeCouncils.html#13, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Citizens’_jury,http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-ConsensusConference1.html,
http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-wisdomcouncil.html
26 Scaling in the computing, network sense is the ability to to either handle growing amounts of
work in a graceful manner, or to be readily enlarged. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalability
In practical terms a website that can handle 2000 visitors a day may not work with 10,000 or
100,000 or a million visitors day. The democratic voting process that worked well in a New
England town of 1,000 people or a state of 10,000 citizens is not scaling well to a nation of three
hundred million
Koli ]o |oalir n 189
an emerging suite of online tools that can augment these processes and
reduce their costs. Te right combination of face-to-face deliberation
with online tools can be as revolutionary as the self-governance process
developed by the Framers in 1787.
Any neighborhood council, city council, region, state or even
national lawmakers can use these processes to tap the wisdom and deci-
sion-making potential of the people. Here’s how it could work:
Pick an Issue. Choose the topic from all the possible problems that
could be tackled. Issues can be surfaced online using popular participa-
tion websites such as Digg that allow users to rank issues or polling via
a network like Twitter.
Frame the Issue. Framing an issue for deliberation means describ-
ing the range of approaches to an issue and the arguments and evidence
for and against each approach. A wiki is the kind of tool that will allow
large groups of people (think Wikipedia) to work on understanding
and elucidating an issue together.
Select Deliberators. Tis step is key to the legitimacy of citizen
councils. Te selection of deliberators must represent the diversity of
the community and be resistant to outside pressures. Tis gives them
a legitimacy that is similar to, but more refned than, the selection of
juries, which also seeks to convene a cross-section of the community.
Database tools can be used to create unbiased and inclusive selections
of deliberators. Tese same kinds of tools can also be used to pool citi-
zens willing to participate in deliberative councils.
Collect Information and Expertise. Gathering information from
a range of experts and stakeholders about the pros and cons of diferent
approaches is the next step. Tis is an important factor in both collec-
tive intelligence (which learns from and integrates diverse views) and
legitimacy (the willingness of ordinary citizens and ofcials to respect
the outcomes of the process). We can fnd experts via the Web, draw in
their expert testimony via web video conferencing, and perhaps have
19J DeLI BeRAtI Ve DeMoCRACY I n tHeoRY AnD PRACtI Ce n
online forums where their knowledge is aggregated. Massive datasets of
expert information are now free and available about critical issues, such
as environmental toxins and the relationship between lobbying funds
and legislation in Congress. Tese can be compiled, presented and
widely shared with visualization tools, using methods beyond prose or
PowerPoint to present critical information and tell relevant stories.
Deliberation. Most citizen deliberative councils involve 12-24
deliberators meeting in concentrated dialogue over four to eight days
(distributed over one to ten weeks, depending on the method), led by
professional facilitators. Since this may not be feasible in all circum-
stances, we can use the distributed intelligence of the Web to augment
the in-person deliberations. Deliberations can happen both online and
face-to-face over time, thus reducing the time and cost. Diferent algo-
rithmic and semantic tools can be used to help deliberators see patterns
of agreement and understanding.
Decision-Making. It is important to fnd processes that produce
a deliberative Voice of “We the People” that the vast majority of the
population will recognize as legitimate. Online tools like Synanim.
com build consensus and shared statements using a multi-step online
process. Iteration can also happen using methods like Digg or Slash-
dot-style voting and community commentary.
Dissemination and Impact. It is critically important to the ulti-
mate success of citizen deliberative councils that their impact on public
awareness, public policy, and public programs be discussed and under-
stood. Online tools are critical to these assessments in a variety of ways.
Politicians and other ofcials should also sign pledges in support of
these eforts (this can be a campaign issue) that can be shared online.
Ongoing feedback can be integrated and continually shared with the
public using online phenomena like Facebook and organized networks
like MoveOn.org to share results and empower “We the People” to
ensure its Voice is heard.
Koli ]o |oalir n 191
Te approaches and processes discussed in this essay are not an
answer to our democratic woes and difculties. Te tools and advan-
tages of the Internet alone aren’t enough to augment existing democratic
processes and strengthen our country. Tis essay is intended as a call
to action and research to learn how best to scale new methods of citi-
zen consultation, leadership, and wisdom together with online tools.
I invite a more thorough exploration of how these steps can create a
deep well of ongoing, meaningful citizen participation in the critical
decisions of our government at all levels.
About the Author
Kaliya Young Hamlin designs and facilitates gatherings of professional
technical communities addressing large challenges. She is an expert in
the field of user-centric digital identity, blogging at unconference.net
and identitywoman.net. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada she has
lived her whole adult life in the United States and recently applied for
citizenship.
GoVeRnMent
BY tHe PeoPLe
Bet| Siaure lu.ec|

Ordinary citizens have more to offer than voting
or answering polls. People can work together to gather and
analyze information, and even make decisions. The official no
longer needs to be the sole decision-maker. This is a radical
idea, but one whose time has come.

o
ur representative institutions of democracy create “single
points of failure,” the concentration of power in the hands of
too few, whether legislators in Congress, bureaucrats in the
administrative agencies or cabinet ofcials in the executive branch.
Te insider-dealing and money-politics that have been the hallmark
of the Bush administration exacerbate mounting illegitimacy and dis-
trust of government. And with the complexity of our global economic
and environmental crises, the strain on our institutions becomes
increasingly manifest. Even in the absence of bad intentions and overt
corruption, our political professionals are not in possession of the best
information or expertise to make decisions in the public interest.
Bad decisions not only produce bad government; they lead to grave
19Z
Bet | Siaure lu.ec| n 19J
consequences for jobs, the economy, education, healthcare and every
issue of importance.
Te solution is not only to pass laws against dishonesty and cor-
ruption. It is not even greater transparency and “sunshine” —knowing
more about who takes an ofcial to lunch. Te answer to improving
the legitimacy of our democratic institutions is nothing short of a
fundamental overhaul of the practices of government to eliminate the
single points of failure. We need to redesign democracy as a system of
collaborative governance where more people are empowered to partici-
pate actively in making the decisions by which we order our collective
lives.
We can now use Internet technology to build a 21
st
-century govern-
ment that opens up many processes previously considered the realm of
governmental professionals. Tere is a competition for talent between
the public and private sector, but government need not lose this con-
test. Instead, we have the tools to extend the intelligence and improve
the competence of an institution if we can connect it to the expertise
of networks of people outside of government.
In the Peer-to-Patent project, the US Patent and Trademark Ofce
has already begun by opening the examination process to scientists—
not only to the examiners employed by the patent ofce, laboring
under a dearth of pertinent information—for help deciding whether
an invention deserves a patent. But this should be just the beginning.
We could enable local communities around the world to submit infor-
mation and photo-documentation to environmental authorities to
inform decision-making about clean air and water and create account-
ability and impetus for clean-up. We could appoint citizen juries to
“shadow” the work of every cabinet ofcial or agency head. We could
even empower local groups to spend money on our behalf —reporting
back on how they addressed specifc problems and thereby becoming
eligible for more funding. We have the tools that allow government to
19+ GoVeRnMent BY tHe PeoPL e n
solicit help from those with know-how, passion and enthusiasm.
Te notion that government knows best is a myth. Even in the
absence of bad intentions or personally corrupt motives, the bureaucrat
or politician in Washington simply lacks access to the right information
and useful ways of making sense of good science. In a survey of envi-
ronmental lawyers, for example, law professors J.B. Ruhl and James
Salzman found that only 8% of respondents thought that the EPA has
sufcient time to search for relevant science and only 6% believed that
agencies employ adequate analysis. No matter how civic-minded the
government ofcial, she is blind to many opportunities to pursue the
public good.
Ordinary citizens have more to ofer than voting or answering
polls. People can work together to gather and analyze information, and
even make decisions. Te ofcial no longer needs to be the sole deci-
sion-maker. Tis is a radical idea, but one whose time has come. In the
world before the Internet, it made sense to believe that accountability
in a democracy could only happen once every few years at the polling
booth, where individuals go to throw out unqualifed elected ofcials.
While we evolved new measures such as ballot motions and referenda,
these also only allow for a thumbs-up or down vote. Ordinary citizens
have more to ofer than voting or answering polls. People can work
together to gather and analyze information, and even make decisions.
Te ofcial no longer needs to be the sole decision-maker. Tis is a
radical idea, but one whose time has come.
Te idea of citizen participation is not new, of course. Proponents of
“deliberative democracy” have long argued for what they call the public
exchange of reason and advocated for public hearings and town halls
—and on-line versions of same —for citizens to talk about the business
of government. But those deliberative conversations do not connect
to action. Tey are generally one-of afairs, not tied to governmen-
tal practices of agenda-setting, policy-drafting and decision-making.
Bet | Siaure lu.ec| n 195
Efective government operations demand ongoing engagement —even
if only for a few minutes a day.
Politics is hard and complicated. Most observers think that people
are too busy to do the work of professionals in government. But such
naysaying misunderstands the issues. Te EPA doesn’t need 100,000
people to work on the issue of asbestos or mercury. Te congressman
doesn’t demand 10,000 citizens in a jury. While some issues attract a
huge number of people, obscure (yet important) decisions get made
every day in government that could be made better if we used technol-
ogy to open up participation and oversight to a few dozen experts and
enthusiasts, what blogger Andy Oram calls the micro-elite, the fve or
ten or hundred people who know best, and a percentage of whom will
want to contribute to solving community problems or clarifying com-
munity knowledge.
Some will counter that more active involvement in government by
private citizens self-selecting to participate will only increase the risk
of corruption. If we design the practices of 21
st
-century governance to
split up tasks into many smaller fact-gathering and decision-making
exercises, we’ll diversify against the risk of defection. It will also make
it easier for busy people to do the work of participation. And if we
design governmental decisions to be made in groups, group members
will keep each other honest and blow the whistle if corruption occurs.
In other words, if we start to think about governance as a much more
granular and limited set of practices, we can delegate greater power to
citizens to gather facts, spend money and make decisions.
Empowering people requires designing and building appropriate
technologies and also enacting the best legal and policy framework to
change the way government works. We should begin by:
• Employing “social networking” technology to create on-
line networks based on expertise and interest in particular
issues and decisions
19c GoVeRnMent BY tHe PeoPL e n
• Delegating government practices like fact gathering and
analysis to collaborative, on-line groups. Tis means
getting governmental authorities to communicate their
needs to citizens so that people understand what is being
asked of them and can supply information to government
in manageable and useful ways
• Mandating (through Executive Order) that every govern-
ment agency develop a 21
st
-century government plan to
engage citizens in its decision-making practices and report
to OMB and to Congress on its progress. Every agency
should undertake at least one pilot program each year
• Encouraging corporations, venture frms and
philanthropies to support 21
st
-century government
innovations by funding pilot projects for government
institutions and awarding prizes for success
• Amending the E-Government Act of 2001 that was enacted
to enhance access to government information by citizens
through the Internet. Funds should be appropriated to
institutionalize 21
st
-century government pilot programs
• Mandating (through legislation) that every congressperson
and agency head convene a citizen jury to whom she
regularly reports, and impose a duty to justify departures
from the group’s recommendations
• Mandating (through legislation) that the federal
government provide information in formats designed for
data retrieval and use, so that government information
can be easily analyzed, mashed-up, visualized and used by
those outside of government. Tis means ofering the data
in an open format that does not require special tools for
reading, and in a documented, predictable structure that
makes it easy to automate queries
Bet | Siaure lu.ec| n 19/
• Creating a cabinet-level Chief Technology Ofcer post
responsible for articulating and reporting to the nation a
vision for 21
st
-century government and its progress
Te most forward-looking companies know that innovation
comes not from the center but from the periphery, from customers and
employees, not from management. Tis same idea has yet to be applied
to government. If we start collaborating actively to govern ourselves,
we will both reduce corruption and strengthen democracy.
About the Author
Beth Simone Noveck is professor of law and director of the Institute
for Information Law & Policy at New York Law School and the McClatchy
Visiting Associate Professor at Stanford University, Department of
Communication. Professor Noveck is the founder of the Democracy
Design Workshop, an interdisciplinary “Do Tank” (http://dotank.nyls.edu)
dedicated to deepening democratic practice through the application of
both legal code and software code. She (and her students) blog at http://
cairns.typepad.com. Her book, Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make
Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful will
be released by Brookings Press in 2009.
seLF-oRGAnI zeD
seLF-GoVeRnMent
Scut t |eiíe|aor

We’ll make the refreshed self-government we need
by continuing to boldly self-organize.

s
elf-government is like vegetarian chicken. Which is it, self or
government? Vegetarian or chicken? Isn’t government a big
bureaucratic institution that serves me like a customer? Maybe
I use a national park once in a while, and the public works department
picks up my garbage, and every four years I might vote, but govern-
ing isn’t something I do. It’s something an institution does, right? You
can’t self-McDonald’s, you wouldn’t self-WalMart, or send a self-
FedEx —so what’s self-government?
Self-government may sound oxymoronic to many Americans
today, but it was a key concept for our Founders, who were desperately
trying to escape the rule of a monarchical, oppressive government.
As they self-organized America, the Founding Fathers used the word
“association” to refer to people coming together voluntarily for a com-
mon purpose. Most often, they meant loose associations formed for
political purposes, precursors of political parties that would develop
198
Scut t |ei íe| aor n 199
later. Te right to meet with whomever they chose, and say whatever
they wanted, was a fundamental building block of a free society for the
Founders.
In the early 19
th
century, these loose associations evolved. Citizens
were self-organizing into more organized associations. In Democracy in
America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Americans of all ages, all condi-
tions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. . . If men are to
remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must
grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions
is increased.”
Troughout the 20
th
century, associations, now more often known
as non-proft organizations, increased in number and professional
approach. Te modern non-proft sector now includes associations,
churches, unions, political action committees, and direct service and
advocacy organizations of every size, for every cause, in every corner of
the country. It would never have occurred to the Founders that profes-
sional organizations like Environmental Defense Fund or the National
Rife Association would take the place of individual citizens to advocate
for legislation or services. Large non-proft organizations that came of
age in the 20
th
century are generally organized hierarchically like cen-
tralized businesses. Tey became more institution-like as people were
becoming more distrustful of institutions.
Now we’re seeing people self-organize in new ways through the
Internet, creating new forms of decentralized associations and institu-
tions. Just as the Founders of our country could not have predicted
exactly how people would use the levers of democracy to advance the
country’s interests, neither could Internet pioneers predict the incred-
ible things people have done with their new platforms.
Te Internet pioneers didn’t think of every contingency in the
design; they just set a loose framework on top of which others could
lay their own ideas and tools. And, as we know, millions of people have
ZJJ seL F - oRGAnI zeD seL F - GoVeRnMent n
participated in an unprecedented worldwide explosion of innovation.
Human potential was unleashed, from Google to eBay to Wikipedia,
to the millions of blogs with very few readers but impassioned, empow-
ered authors.
I’m not going to pretend to be James Madison and ofer ways to
improve the structure and process of government. I am, however, the
founder of a technology platform, Meetup (www.meetup.com), that
helps people self-organize locally. Five million people have registered to
meet up with neighbors around an issue, a health condition, or some-
thing important to them. Today, over 100,000 Meetups (local group
meetings) happen monthly. I’ve come to understand that nothing will
have a more positive impact on our world than the power to self-orga-
nize easily. Te greatest opportunity for America to revive the spirit of
self-government is through citizen self-organization.
So I’m stumped by the question of how to redesign American
democracy. Citizens will feel—and will be—more powerful when
they design the new system themselves. NBC couldn’t make YouTube,
Barry Diller couldn’t make eBay, MTV couldn’t make Facebook, and
no traditional institution could have made Google. You can’t change a
culture from its original foundations. Tankfully, America was founded
on self-organization. We’ll make the refreshed self-government we need
by continuing to boldly self-organize.
About the Author
Scott Heiferman co-founded the global group-gathering website, Meetup.
com, in 2002. He also founded Fotolog.net in 2002, the leading photo
weblog platform, used by over a quarter million people, and viewed by
nearly 1 million people daily. In 1995 he created i-traffic, the first online
ad agency, a pioneer in search-keyword media placement, and now one
of the largest online media buyers, with offices in the U.S. and Europe.
tHe DIGI tAL WILL
oF tHe PeoPLe
|o|lu Jel Reol

Electronically publishing the collective wish
of the populace for each House bill would result in the ‘digital’
will of the people.

n
ever before in the history of the world has it been possible for
elected representatives to hear the voices of their constituents
simultaneously and instantaneously across great distances.
Te Internet enables this. Today, for the frst time in a modern nation,
citizens can be genuinely represented in the process of legislation.
But does your federal representative consult you before she casts
her vote on bills and resolutions? Does she ask your opinion on laws
that will afect you and the entire nation? For most of us, the answer
is “No.”
However, does your representative talk to some citizens, maybe
friends of his, as well as corporate lobbyists? We know he does. He is
busy talking to somebody, just not to us. So why does he consult with
those few and not with me or you? Te answer used to be that it was
a matter of logistics—it was impossible to solicit the opinion of each
ZJ1
ZJZ tHe DI GI tAL WI L L oF tHe PeoPL e n
constituent in every single district. But that’s not true anymore, not
since the advent of the Internet.
Today, U.S. representatives can easily ask constituents for their
opinions on every bill and resolution. Now they can know how their
districts want them to vote on every piece of law proposed. Electronically
publishing the collective wish of the populace for each House bill would
result in the “digital” will of the people.
Simply put, the digital will of the people is the measurement of our
sentiment—a simple Yea or Nay—regarding proposed legislation. Let
us use the Internet to render the will of the people visible, and let us
give ourselves a voice in our own politics. Here is how it would work.
Each congressional district would have its own web page at www.
house.gov. Citizens would be invited to register for representation with
their district, just as they are invited to register to vote now. When bills
are scheduled for a vote in the House, citizens would receive an e-mail
with a simple poll asking them to indicate their preference with a Yes
or No regarding any bills being proposed.
With an automatic tally of Yeas and Nays, each representative
would know what her constituents want her to do and say. Aggregating
the counts of all the districts across the country would create a national
fgure for each bill, allowing everyone frst to see the collective wish of
the people. Ten, later, we could compare it to the actual vote in the
House. For example:
Poll results for H.R. 103 Universal Health Care Act
the People: Yea (68% vs. 32%)
the House: Nay (49% vs. 51%)
To be efective, the digital will of the people would have to be of-
cial—it should be a governmental tool and bear the government’s
|o|l u Jel Reol n ZJJ
imprimatur. Government sponsorship and implementation of the tool
would ensure the best possible conditions for the integration of citizens
and their representatives. Te same tool managed by the people them-
selves would be inefective.
To be clear, We the People want a voice, not a vote. Representatives
need not heed the popular will once it does become visible; they would
retain what amounts to veto power over the will of the people. Te
digital will can improve representative democracy, not by making it
direct, but by requiring direct dialogue—a direct connection between
citizens and their representatives.
Of course, representative government is alive and well. However,
the entities being represented are corporations and not average citi-
zens. Corporations, through lobbyists, have our representatives’ ears.
Meanwhile, We the People are voiceless—what we feel, nobody hears.
Corporations are not the bad guys; they are merely gaming the system
as it exists.
Te opportunity to involve citizens in the process of legislation
has existed since the year 2000 when the Internet achieved widespread
reach. Tat the government has not seized or acted on the opportunity
in eight years should make us believe that it needs some prodding from
you and me, the people—We.
About the Author
Pablo del Real is the founder of Auroras Voice, a not-for-profit
organization devoted to vesting American citizens with legitimate
political power. The above essay is adapted from his book P-poll: Are You
Happy Now?
PoLI tICAL CoLL ABoRAtI Ve
PRoDUCtIon
Clo] S|i||]

It’s not yet clear whether experiments in
incorporation will do for group action what novel forms of
copyright have done for collaborative production, but it’s
worth a shot.

o
n a Monday morning in March of 2006, forty thousand students
in Southern California stunned teachers and administrators by
walking out of school to protest a proposed anti-immigrant
bill. Te students blocked trafc as they marched to City Hall, creating
a very visible and public display. Tey had been inspired by an adult
demonstration that had taken place two days prior, and had scrambled
to fnd a way to participate themselves. Armed with MySpace and text
messaging, the students were able to coordinate with one another rapidly
and efectively, not just person-to-person, but also in groups.
We all know and love these stories of collective political action
enabled by new tools. Mobile phones were essential in organizing pro-
testors and forcing the resignation of Filipino President Joseph Estrada
in 2001. And now, the Web is being used to organize the pro-Tibet
ZJ+
Cl o] S|i| |] n ZJ5
protests dogging the 2008 Olympic torch. Tese are great stories, and
they bode well for a reinvigoration of political protest worldwide.
However, they all share the same characteristic, one that is true of
many examples of collective action: they rely on stop energy. Te usual
stories of collective action have to do with short-term pressure brought
upon existing institutions to try to stop them from doing something.
Generally, the goal of the action is some sort of capitulation—someone
resigns from ofce, some proposed law is defeated, and so on. Tere
are comparatively few examples of groups using new digital tools to
start or sustain long-term political action. Tese groups wouldn’t be
working to elect politicians or to propose or oppose laws, but to solve
political problems directly, through the actions of their members.
Tis seems to be a particularly political failing; there are thousands
of examples of large-scale and long-term creativity in the sphere of
intellectual production. Tese eforts create value not just for the par-
ticipants, but also for the millions of users who access these kinds of
products for free.
What would it take to copy that collaborative pattern for politics?
How can we fnd ways to encourage the formation of groups with
explicitly political goals? One intriguing possibility is a legal structure
similar to that of Open Source software systems such as Linux, or to
those employed by open collaborative products like Wikipedia.
Te curious piece of legal jujitsu that makes Open Source soft-
ware possible is the licensing agreement. To qualify as Open Source,
a piece of software has to have a license guaranteeing that its recipe—
or source code—remains available to programmers, now and in the
future. Rather than restricting rights of users through copyright, an
Open Source license actually expands them.
Similarly, the Creative Commons project has created a set of
licenses that allow writers, photographers, and other content-creators to
ensure that their work remains available for republishing as well as for
ZJc PoLI tI CAL CoL L ABoRAtI Ve PRoDUCtI on n
other forms of re-use.
27
As Steve Weber points out in his brilliant book
Te Success of Open Source, these kinds of licensing schemes ensure par-
ticipants—of the past, present and future—that their work can never
be co-opted. Tis legal guarantee is critical both to bringing groups
together and to sustaining communal work. Te common thread is the
use of copyright law. While this social mechanism has traditionally been
designed to reserve and restrict rights, the models cited above employ
copyright law to guarantee and expand them.
Copyright provides a formal mechanism for deferring to the wishes
of creators. We don’t have any such tool for group efort outside of
intellectual production, but we could, because society also has a formal
mechanism for deferring to the decision-making power of groups. It’s
called incorporation, and it could be pressed into service to create a
new zone of expanded rights for collective action in the same way a
Creative Commons license expands rights of production and re-use.
Imagine going into your local bank with four or fve friends and
announcing that you want to open a joint account. You’d be laughed
out of the room. Te best you can do is to get one person to open the
account and add check-signing privileges, because the bank won’t rec-
ognize the group as a unit. Now imagine coming back a month later
and announcing that you and those same friends have incorporated—
given your relationship a legal and formal body—and you want an
account. No problem, just sign on the dotted line. Your group has
become legally recognizable.
What incorporation allows us to do is to grant legal personhood
to a group, so that group can raise and spend money, make decisions,
27 Creative Commons is a non-profit organization started by Lawrence Lessig, law professor at
Stanford University, devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to
legally build upon and share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as
Creative Commons licenses. These licenses, depending on the one chosen, restrict only certain
rights (or none) of the work instead of traditional copyright, which is more restrictive.
Cl o] S|i| |] n ZJ/
and enter into contracts. Incorporation so solidifes the existence of the
group that even if all the members change, the group is still regarded as
a legitimate unit. IBM still exists today, though not one of its founding
employees is alive.
Te problem, of course, is that incorporating is onerous, and,
because the CEO generally has enormous and disproportionate execu-
tive power, it generally ends up subverting group decision-making. Te
analogous bit of jujitsu would be to create a corporate form that allows
groups to come together easily and quickly in the ways now made
possible by our digital and social tools, while giving those groups the
legitimacy that incorporation provides, which includes the ability to
raise and spend money, to ofer and enter into contracts, and to adopt
binding forms of governance.
A constellation of recent experiments points to this model of group
action. Beth Noveck’s wonderful paper “A Democracy of Groups” lays
the groundwork for deference by the state in order to make group
action more productive. David Johnson, a colleague of Noveck’s at New
York Law School, has created a Virtual Company model in Vermont,
which allows the formation of corporations whose members know one
another mainly or solely online. In addition, their productive contri-
bution comes not in the form of invested capital, but in donated time
and attention. (In the Virtual Company, sweat equity is the principal
form of equity.) In the U.K., the Community Interest Corporation
allows for the creation of businesses with social goals so deeply embed-
ded in their charters that even future owners can’t reverse them.
It’s not yet clear whether experiments in incorporation will do
for group action what novel forms of copyright have done for col-
laborative production, but it’s worth a shot. As our society has become
increasingly connected, we’ve generated a huge, and largely unused,
participatory surplus of people who are ready to contribute to eforts
and causes larger than themselves. We are only now fguring out how
ZJ8 PoLI tI CAL CoL L ABoRAtI Ve PRoDUCtI on n
to tap that surplus, and while protests and pressure groups are a neces-
sary part of any political system, real political change will be generated
by groups that start or sustain long-term action. If I had to pick one
method of rebooting civic life, it would be by fnding new ways to
grant groups the legitimacy essential to pursuing long-term and con-
structive goals on their own.
About the Author
Clay Shirky is a writer, educator, and consultant on the social and
economic effects of Internet technologies. He is the author of Here
Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization (Penguin
Press, 2008). He is an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU) in
their graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, and consultant
to a variety of organizations on network technologies.
CoMMUnI tY InFoRMAtIon
CoMMons
|o|| ] C. Bu]te

We need a place to ground cyberspace. That will
require online community information spaces that act as
“e-commons,” a crucial balance to “e-commerce.

n
ew technologies have many positives. Tey can feed economic
growth and create a “global village.” Te spread of the Internet
undermines repressive governments. Web 2.0 technologies cre-
ate new opportunities for co-creation of content to inform and engage
millions of people.
Yet they also hold dangers. Materialistic values threaten human
values. Family life, community ties, and privacy are put at risk. Te
mass culture may well produce, as many have said, “more and more of
less and less.” For all the promise, we could end up more powerless.
We need a place to ground cyberspace. Tat will require online
community information spaces that act as “e-commons,” a crucial bal-
ance to “e-commerce.”
ZJ9
Z1J CoMMUnI t Y I nFoRMAtI on CoMMons n
A Vital Civic Legacy
Many people today feel powerless over larger cultural trends, including
the increasing prevalence and power of new technologies. But the civic
legacy of the freedom movement of the 1960s (that I participated in as
a young man as a feld secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference) provides models for overcoming this powerlessness. Te
movement’s central theme of civic agency—that ordinary people can be
architects of their lives, shapers of their communities, and collaborators
with others across diferences on common challenges—has re-emerged
in the 2008 election season. In fact, “We are the ones we’ve been wait-
ing for,” a central theme of Barack Obama’s campaign, comes directly
from the freedom movement. Bernice Johnson Reagon composed the
song in the early 1960s. It became a rallying cry of the movement, cap-
turing the spirit of citizenship and freedom schools that trained blacks
in skills of collective action such as how to chair a meeting, research an
issue, and negotiate with people of other views and interests.
Beyond a particular candidate’s message, I believe these words have
resurfaced because people once again feel a sense of urgency about
gaining control over their lives, communities, and the future of our
society and the world.
In 1954 the Supreme Court outlawed segregation, but it required
a broad movement that enlisted the talents and energies of citizens to
change a way of life. Tis involved returning to older concepts of the
citizen as a builder and co-creator of our communities, our culture,
and our democracy. In the process, people recalled that democracy
itself is best seen as a way of life, not simply a vote (either at the ballot
box or in the click of a mouse). Tese ideas had been eclipsed by con-
sumerism and the focus on private life in the 1950s. But when Martin
Luther King Jr. described the Civil Rights Movement in “Letter From
a Birmingham Jail” as “bringing the entire nation back to the great
|o| | ] C. Bu]te n Z11
wells of democracy that were dug deep by the Founding Fathers,” he
was helping the nation remember. Te movement sought not only to
“realize the promise of democracy” for African-Americans, but to make
democracy’s larger meaning come alive again.
King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsored hun-
dreds of “citizenship schools.” “What is a citizen?” was the question
posed in church basements and beauty parlors by leaders like Dorothy
Cotton and Septima Clark. As people struggled with the answers, they
came to see themselves as “frst-class citizens.” And that meant that
they would concentrate on community problems like sewers and roads
and dilapidated schools, as well as voting rights. “Nobody is going to
solve these problems for us,” Cotton would say. Government could be
a resource, but people had to take on civic responsibility.
The Continuing Challenge
Tough it did not end America’s racial divide, the movement made
huge progress in dismantling legal segregation. It also left us with a
vital legacy of civic agency to draw upon. Te 21
st
century version of
segregation is sometimes called the “digital divide”—the lack of access
of poor and minority populations to new technologies. But in fact,
in the U.S. and around the world, access is not the real question. Te
Digital Divide group (www.digittaldivide.org) has identifed far graver
problems internationally:
Yes, the poor are being given access and, chances are, in most
countries virtually every citizen will eventually have his or her
own wireless access device (or shared use of one in a village).
But such access could hurt them, not help them, by loosening
the bonds of tradition and enticing them with the allure of
modern pop culture. A recent World Bank report, noting the
Z1Z CoMMUnI t Y I nFoRMAtI on CoMMons n
spread of networks into the rural areas of Tailand, argues
that the quality of digital access being received by low income
Tais is one-way, entertainment-oriented, commercial and
technologically backward and may be accelerating the exodus of
untrained youth from rural areas into cities. Like poor nations
brutally exposed to market forces weighted against them, rural
youth entering the cities with Playstation2 images of Laura
Croft dancing in their heads, may not be well equipped for
the challenges that await them in cities such as Bangkok.
In the U.S. the Internet can also loosen the roots and relationships
of poor, minority, and working-class communities, as young people
(and others) enter the intoxicating and seductive world of cyberspace.
Tese are dangers faced by people in suburbs, as well. Many parents
feel that they have little control over what their children watch, the
music they listen to, or the friends they socialize with online. Growing
numbers express concern about the exchange of private information
on the Internet. As in agriculture, where we have come to recognize the
danger of mono-cultures, we face the danger of a mass media mono-
culture, as communications industries become more concentrated and
local cultures that are supported by local media are displaced.
What is to be done?
Past challenges facing our nation—the struggle to end racial segrega-
tion, the Great Depression, the struggle against fascism—required the
energy, talents and wisdom of the whole citizenry. Today, the tech-
nological revolution is an occasion and a challenge for a new citizen
movement.
Te concept of the commons has relevance once again. Historically,
the commons was a civic meeting ground rooted in the real life of com-
|o| | ] C. Bu]te n Z1J
munities. Te commons expressed the culture, traditions, histories and
common work of particular places. It was something people helped to
create; through the work of creating commons, people gained a sense of
stake, pride, and ownership. Te commons took many forms. Newspa-
pers, congregations, schools, libraries, locally owned businesses, union
hiring halls, settlement houses, community festivals, fairs, bands and
sports teams all could be seen as commons in which people partici-
pated, around which they gathered, and through which they developed
a collective public signature in the larger world.
As we shifted to an expert-dominated service society, many com-
mons lost the qualities of civic centers and their roots in places.
Libraries and schools began to serve “customers.” YMCAs shut down
community problem-solving projects and opened racquetball courts.
Health clinics in Minneapolis resembled those in Portland. Te loss
of the civic commons is a major reason for current widespread feelings
of powerlessness.
But powerful countertrends are emerging using new technologies.
Many libraries and schools and non-profts are reinventing themselves
as “civic centers,” using information technologies as vital resources.
Forms of citizen journalism, telling the news of community life, are
proliferating. Citizens are creating neighborhood web pages and online
conversations about public issues.
New federal, state, and local policies will be crucial to support
this work, which also requires new institutions to spread the informa-
tion commons approach. In 2001, I worked with a group including
Paul Resnick, Peter Levine, Lew Friedland, and Robert Wachbroit,
among others, to develop policy proposals for resources and technical
assistance that could spread new information commons. We also pro-
posed a “civic extension service” for the information age (http://www.
si.umich.edu/~presnick/papers/civicextension/index.html).
Community information commons are part of a new, larger civic
Z1+ CoMMUnI t Y I nFoRMAtI on CoMMons n
movement. Tis movement involves the growth of anchoring commu-
nity institutions of many kinds, through which people seek to control
their destinies. Two examples include the Project for Public Spaces in
New York City (www.pps.org) and Community-Wealth.Org (www.
community-wealth.org), both of which provide tools and support ser-
vices to strengthen local communities, what PPS calls “placemaking.”
Te civic movement is also generating new concepts and practices
such as citizenship through public work. Public work—productive,
sustained efort by people with diverse interests and views who develop
capacities for work across diferences on common civic challenges—is
distinguished from dominant defnitions of the citizen as voter, vol-
unteer, or aggrieved protestor. Public work emphasizes the citizen as
a strong civic agent, a co-producer of public goods and collaborator
with others in solving public problems (www.publicwork.org). It is
taking many forms, including an international youth civic movement
called Public Achievement (www.publicachievement.org, www.public-
achievement.com, www.paunite.org).
Both stronger public places and stronger citizens will be essential
for a fourishing democracy—and for reclaiming control over the tech-
nologies that are, after all, our human creations. Te digital world—if
we see it as a supplement and not as a replacement for face-to-face
interaction—has much to ofer in building such a democracy.
About the Author
Harry Boyte is founder and co-director of the Hubert H. Humphrey
Institute on Public Affair’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship. He is
also founder of Public Achievement, a theory-based practice of citizen
organizing to do public work for the common good, which is being used
in schools, universities and communities across the United States and in
more than a dozen countries.
tHe etHICs
oF oPenness
Jeí í Jo| .is

Today the default in our discussion of government
is negative: they are doing bad things badly, and we are the
watchdog who’ll catch the bastards in the act.

n
ow that we have the technological means to open up gov-
ernment and make every action transparent, we must insist
on a new ethic of openness. Te Internet Age gives us not
only new tools to change how our government operates and relates to
its citizens, but also new ethics. Now that we have the technological
means to open up government and make every action transparent,
we must insist on a new ethic of openness. We have the tools of con-
versation that can involve citizens in decisions as they are made, so
we should expect our politicians and bureaucrats to hear our ideas.
If society is becoming connected and more (not less) social online,
then so will politics as we use new tools to organize around our issues,
rather than just gathering beneath party banners. If we’re lucky, tech-
nology may give us a more human government. Here are my dreams.
Z15
Z1c tHe etHI Cs oF oPenness n
Abolish the Freedom of Information Act.
Turn it inside out. Why should we have to ask for information from
our government? Te government should need permission to keep
things from us. Every act of government on our behalf should be free by
default, with rare exceptions: the personal business of citizens, national
security, ongoing criminal investigations. See Ellen Miller’s call for
transparent and open government on page 59 in this anthology.. See
also Barack Obama’s technology policy, calling for standardization and
openness of government data, citizen involvement in decisions, and a
chief technology ofce to implement this.
Government officials and agencies should blog.
Openness should mean more than releasing ofcial documents. It
should mean engaging in conversations with citizens about the work
of government. A blog is a convenient tool to do that—and a more
efcient means of interaction than individual letters and phone calls.
Hillary Clinton has said she wants agencies to blog: “We should even
have a government blogging team where people in the agencies are
constantly telling all of you, the taxpayers, the citizens of America,
everything that’s going on so that you have up-to-the-minute infor-
mation about what your government is doing, so that you too can be
informed, and hold the government accountable.”
Webcast government.
Te government should put C-SPAN out of business by broadcasting
itself. Obama has said he wants to webcast agency meetings. We should
do the same with congressional meetings and, yes, court sessions,
including Supreme Court hearings. I also believe that radio stations
Jeí í Jo| .is n Z1/
and newspapers should get citizens to record and podcast local govern-
ment meetings. All of government’s deliberations should be public.
Tat doesn’t mean they’ll be watched, of course; these are sure to be
the lowest rated broadcasts since the invention of the cathode ray tube.
But that doesn’t matter. All it takes is for one reader of the blog Talking
Points Memo to watch one hearing and catch a newsworthy moment.
It would be good for government ofcials on the other side of the cam-
era to know that they are being watched. Te camera becomes the eye
of the people, always on: Big Brother, reversed.
Start a government IdeaStorm.
To get itself out of Dell hell (a reference to when the computer com-
pany ignored a blogstorm which I started around its bad service), Dell
started blogging and also created IdeaStorm, a platform that enables
customers to submit, vote on, and discuss suggestions. Now Starbucks
has used the same tool, from Salesforce.com, to solicit ideas from
customers at MyStarbucksIdea.com. One sees trends emerge in the
discussion: Starbucks could see that its greatest problem with custom-
ers was not the smell of its sandwiches but the length of its lines. One
also sees an incredible generosity from customers; they ofer thought-
ful advice about how companies can improve. Citizens would surely
do the same for government; after all, it is ours. So why not create
IdeaStorms for our government just as Downing Street in the UK has
opened up an ePetitions program?
Tere is another important aspect to this idea: turning the con-
versation about government to the positive. Today, the default in
our discussion of government is negative: they are doing bad things
badly, and we are the watchdogs who’ll catch the bastards in the act.
Too often, this is true. But it is destructive to concentrate only on the
negative; we must also shift to the constructive: positive conversations
Z18 tHe etHI Cs oF oPenness n
about positive action. Tis, one wishes, is what Obama’s theme of hope
is really about.
I am not in favor of turning to government-by-poll. Tough the
Internet has made me a populist, I do believe in the representative,
republican (small ‘r’) structure of our government with its flters, bal-
ances, and deliberative process. But I do think that given a chance
to participate in the process, citizens will. I hope technology helps us
move past the gift economy to a gift society.
Personal political pages.
I believe the Internet’s ethic of openness will spread across society. If
the press demands that government be transparent, then the press—
including individual journalists—must also be transparent. Likewise,
as citizens demand transparency, so will they become more transpar-
ent. Ethics are synchronous.
We are already seeing more personal transparency in society. In
Facebook, blogs and other social media, participants realize that they
need to reveal things about themselves to fnd others who share their
interests. One’s online identity is increasingly made up of the parts of
ourselves that we choose to create or make public, and other parts we
choose to keep hidden.
I envision citizens’ personal political pages where each of us may,
if we choose, reveal our stands, opinions, alliances, and allegiances,
and where we would manage our relationship with government, cam-
paigns, and movements. Paraphrasing Harvard blogger Doc Searls’
movement for VRM, vendor relationship management, call it PRM,
political relationship management. Here’s how I see it working. I post
my personal statement online: I am a centrist Democrat; I voted for
Hillary Clinton; I want to actively support such movements as pro-
tecting the First Amendment against FCC censorship and insuring a
Jeí í Jo| .is n Z19
national open broadband policy. On my page, I can explain and dis-
cuss any issues I choose. I already disclose many of those views on my
blog’s disclosures page. But on my personal political page, I also get to
manage my relationship with politicians: I say which candidates and
organizations and movements may approach me to ask for donations
or to volunteer. I can also invite opponents of my views to try to con-
vince me: send me a link to your best shot. I can change my views and
votes on the page. Te page could become a standard for disclosure of
conficts and biases for politicians and journalists as well.
Let’s imagine that millions of these pages can be searched and ana-
lyzed to get a constant snapshot of people’s views: Google as the polling
place that never closes. Tis puts us in control of public opinion and
takes it out of the hands of pollsters. It makes politics a constant pro-
cess, not an annual event.
So this becomes a platform for organizing citizens around shared
needs and beliefs. Reacting to this idea on my blog, TV industry analyst
Andrew Tyndall said in a comment that the left/right political pigeon-
hole “makes it so much more difcult to form coalitions with those at
radically diferent parts of the ideological spectrum…with born-again
Christians who are leading activists on HIV/AIDS or Darfur geno-
cide…with Wall Street free traders who want to liberalize immigration
with Mexico…. Personal Political Pages allow each of us to escape
from the conventional left-right authoritarian-libertarian divisions of
the political parties and the opinion pollsters. Tey allow us to align
ourselves on each issue discretely, forming ad hoc, opportunistic coali-
tions, not binding ones.”
Tat is what the Internet is really all about—not content, not
media, but connections among people. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder
of Facebook, said at the South by Southwest conference that as soon
as Facebook was translated into Spanish, it was being used to orga-
nize against the guerilla movement, Revolutionary Armed Forces of
ZZJ tHe etHI Cs oF oPenness n
Colombia or FARC. Facebook has been used to organize the Obama
movement. It could be used to organize any cause.
People replace television.
Te political strategist Joe Trippi believes that the power of the Internet
to help campaigns raise money from citizens—and to organize those
citizens into movements—is what will free our political system from
large donations and corporate contributions. Tat’s not happening
yet, witness record campaign spending this year and John McCain’s
eforts to run away from the campaign reform act that bears his name.
Television still matters, so big money that pays for television ads still
matters.
But let’s imagine that we’re in the future, when television’s reach
has shrunken to the point that is no longer an efcient means of getting
out a message. If you want to win an election, you will have to inspire
people to tell their friends, who will tell their friends. Te future of
campaigning—like the future of marketing—is not media but people
serving as advocates for candidates, campaigns and causes.
About the Author
Jeff Jarvis, who blogs at Buzzmachine.com, teaches at the City University
of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is writing a book, WWGD?
(What Would Google Do?), and is a columnist for the Guardian.
CReAtInG HUMAne
CoDeL AW
Cere Kuu

By using codelaw to carry out policy, government
shoves analog pegs into round holes, resulting in the same
loss of fidelity that occurs when music is ripped into digital
formats.

a
s a lawyer and techie at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
in the mid-2000s, I became aware of a computer system
called Beacon used by the MA Department of Transitional
Assistance (aka “welfare”) to distribute various benefts such as food
stamps to Massachusetts residents. Occasionally, our clients would
have their benefts reduced or cut of because of errors in Beacon pro-
gramming, and our advocates would fght not only to restore their
aid, but to fx the system.
What was happening in Massachusetts was happening around the
nation, and indeed our errors were relatively benign by comparison. In
Colorado, faulty software generated hundreds of thousands of incorrect
benefts calculations, and in New York the state’s benefts distribution
ZZ1
ZZZ CReAtI nG HUMAne CoDeL AW n
system was so egregiously broken that our colleagues there brought suit
in federal court and won sweeping changes.
Tese are some of the mundane but vitally important ways in
which software is becoming the mechanism whereby government exe-
cutes laws. It’s not hard to fnd other examples, from “deadbeat dad”
lists to terrorist “no fy lists” to the inner workings of voting machines,
tax calculators, and even Predator drones. (Professor Danielle Citron,
to whom I owe much of the following analysis, has documented many
more examples.) So perhaps Lawrence Lessig’s profound observation,
code is law, has a corollary: law is code. Tat is to say, if software is
increasingly the guise under which laws manifest in our daily lives, it
behooves a democratic society to begin treating that software as law.
Software that executes law (“codelaw”) presents a number of chal-
lenges to a democracy. Te simplest are bugs, coding errors that lead
to wrong results. Bugs present relatively easy cases: like potholes, if
you fnd them, you fx them. As with potholes, the reality may be
harder—a common excuse we heard was that the state just didn’t have
the money to hire someone to patch the software—but in principle
everyone agreed that these problems should be fxed.
Te larger democratic challenge arises when codelaw isn’t so much
wrong as it is not necessarily right: while it may not contradict the law,
neither is this particular implementation the only way to construe the
law. In short, the software assumes a particular interpretation of an
ambiguous law, and in so doing, it essentially makes law.
By using codelaw to carry out policy, government shoves analog
pegs into round holes, resulting in the same loss of fdelity that occurs
when music is ripped into digital formats. Te 20
th
-century adminis-
trative state in America relies on a particular cascade of power, carefully
tweaked to ensure democratic accountability: the elected legislature
passes law; an administrative agency, with public input, promulgates
rules to implement that legislation; and agency workers carry out the
Cere Kuu n ZZJ
rules. Te gradual replacement of agency workers with codelaw reveals
the cracks in this system. Because legislatures lack time and expertise to
tight-ft laws, they delegate specifcs to agencies for further rulemaking.
But rulemaking isn’t comprehensive either: nuanced decision-mak-
ing still resides in agency workers who interpret and apply the rules.
Codelaw takes discretion out of the hands of human beings.
Eliminating discretion can be good governance: people are notori-
ously susceptible to bias, corruption, and just plain meanness. Te real
problem for democracy is the gap between the round curves of human
laws and the sharp edges of computer code. Agencies have traditionally
promulgated rules expecting people to fll the gaps later. With codelaw,
the people who fll the gaps are not trained government employees, but
software developers, often with no substantive knowledge of the law
nor accountability to the general public.
So what can be done to ensure that increasingly automated codelaw
remains accountable to the people?
First, software should be fully open for inspection. Democracy
depends on laws and rules being accessible to the people; codelaw
should be no exception. But because only the best-resourced lobbyists
can bug-check machine code, mere transparency is not enough. Tere
must be meaningful participation.
Existing principles that cover traditional (legal) code ofer guidance
on handling codelaw. For example, most state and federal rulemaking
require a period of public “notice and comment,” during which con-
cerned citizens can ofer input. A publicly accessible quality assurance
cycle would create a parallel process for codelaw. So when Massachu-
setts prepares to release Beacon 2.0, it should enable people like my
colleagues at MLRI to submit tricky food stamp scenarios to test that
the software gets the right results.
In the long run, new forms of “semantic code” that’s both human-
readable and machine-executable may narrow the gap between fuzzy
ZZ+ CReAtI nG HUMAne CoDeL AW n
legislation and binary software. “Legalese” as a software language may
not deepen public confdence, but it would at least enable more preci-
sion for lawmakers.
Finally, we need a more nuanced understanding of the appropriate
role of codelaw. Deployed properly, software can ameliorate systemic
human failings such as sexism and susceptibility to scams. But con-
versely, we should also recognize the limits of software, and identify the
aspects of governance best entrusted to thinking and feeling human
beings. Codelaw may herald a terrifying dystopia where machines arbi-
trarily decide our fate. But it also invites us to imagine a world where
software augments our greatest capacity for just, compassionate, and
human governance.
About the Author
Gene Koo is a Fellow at the Berkman Center at Internet & Society,
where he researches a variety of topics from open education to moral
values embedded in video games. Prior to Berkman, he worked for
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, where he developed informational
websites for lawyers and the general public, and also helped launch the
Center for Legal Aid Education. He holds a J.D. and B.A. from Harvard.
DIGI tAL nAtI Ves As
seLF-ACtUALI zInG CI tI zens
w. |orce Berret t

But where some see crisis, others of us simply see
changing patterns of engagement, and opportunities that will
reshape the notion of citizenship in this new century.

c
itizenship styles have changed dramatically in recent years.
Young people in post-industrial democracies are less moti-
vated by a sense of civic duty than were earlier generations.
In particular, as noted by scholars, they are less interested in joining
formal groups or political parties, less inclined to seek information
via conventional news outlets, and more likely to avoid connecting to
government through activities such as voting.
28
Te famed sociologist
Robert Putnam and others describe these trends as nothing short of a
crisis in citizenship and civic engagement.
But where some see crisis, others of us simply see changing patterns of
28 Delli Carpini, M. X., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans Know About Politics and Why It
Matters. New Haven: Yale University Press, Zukin, C., Keeter, S., Andolina, M., Jenkins, K.,
& Delli Carpini, M. X. (2006). A new engagement? Political participation, civic life, and the
changing American citizen. New York: Oxford University Press.
ZZ5
ZZc DI GI tAL nAtI Ves As seL F - ACtUALI zI nG CI tI zens n
engagement, and opportunities that will reshape the notion of citizen-
ship in this new century. More than anything else, more than creating
new government structures or adding new agencies or changing how we
vote, our country desperately needs a change in our approach to engag-
ing young citizens in community and government life to reinvigorate
our democracy in the 21
st
century.
Learning to become an efective citizen does not happen automat-
ically, and isn’t enhanced in formal settings such as schools and youth
programs that are often not attuned to the unique communication
and social identity styles of young digital natives. Schools typically
emphasize individualistic, knowledge-heavy, spectator styles of citi-
zenship. Young “self-actualizing” citizens are connecting with peers
through loose social networks, frequently online, focusing on lifestyle
issues. Tey gravitate towards highly interactive modes, particularly
on gaming and social networking websites. But, these young citizens
are not solely focused on entertainment. Public-issue websites like
Taking IT Global, YouthNoise, and election campaigns that enable
social networking are also very popular. Te bottom line is that digital
natives largely do not participate in civic afairs out of a sense of duty
or obligation but a sense of personal fulfllment.
Te dramatic shift in citizenship styles can be cast in simple terms
as a contrast between old century Dutiful Citizens (DC) and new
century self-Actualizing Citizens (AC).
29
Dutiful Citizens have the fol-
lowing characteristics:
• Obligation to participate in government-centered
activities
• Voting is the core democratic act, supported by
surrounding knowledge and contact with government
• Mass media news informs about issues and government
29 Bennett, W. L. (2008). Changing citizenship in the digital age. In W. L. Bennett (Ed.), Civic Life
Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press).
w. |orce Berret t n ZZ/
• Joins civil society organizations and/or expresses interests
through political parties or interest groups that typically
employ one-way conventional communication to mobilize
supporters
Contrast this with the orientation of Actualizing Citizens:
• Diminished sense of government obligation—higher sense
of individual purpose
• Voting is less meaningful than other, more personally
defned acts such as consumerism, community
volunteering, or transnational activism
• Mistrust of media and politicians is reinforced by negative
mass media environment.
• Favors loose networks of community action—often
established or sustained through friendships and peer
relations and thin social ties maintained by interactive
information technologies
Given these stark, clearly visible diferences, why do public schools
continue to teach young people as if they are their grandparents—sit-
ting in their armchair, reading their afternoon paper, looking forward to
their lodge meeting that night? Tey do this, in part, because it is both
politically safe and easily testable. But perhaps the persistence of inef-
fective approaches to civics in public schools is simply a refection that
most school policy ofcers, curriculum developers, education research-
ers, and many older teachers are, themselves, Dutiful Citizens.
Schools should help students to develop their own public voices by
using various digital media, allowing students to fnd their own means
of engaging with and learning about issues, and forming peer-learning
communities. However, despite some glimmerings of a national school
civics reform movement, there is little immediate promise of school
reform that will introduce more balanced learning goals for Actualized
ZZ8 DI GI tAL nAtI Ves As seL F - ACtUALI zI nG CI tI zens n
Citizens. Te ideal learning environment would fnd ways to combine
the two styles. It would include identifying the individual preferences
for personal expression and peer-to- peer discovery of issues within rela-
tively open digital media spaces. It would also ofer learning paths for
issue resolution and public problem solving that included, among other
options, contact with appropriate government ofcials and processes.
We are unlikely to fnd more balanced approaches to civic learn-
ing in schools. Te integration of new civic styles in various learning
environments remains a formidable challenge. Many adults (teachers,
youth workers, scholars, policy makers) are unaware or unappreciative
of the civic identity shift that has occurred among many young people.
Similarly, many of the online communities developed by govern-
ments and youth experts fail to utilize the power of social networking
involving participatory media in relatively open, democratic contexts.
Too often when adult-run institutions such as schools, governments,
NGOs, or community organizations build digital media projects, they
impose limits on what young people can and “should” do. As a result,
the more sustainable projects often strike young people as inauthentic
and lacking credibility, and often fail.
30
At the same time, when young
people are left to their own devices, they may lack models for efective
communication, organizing, and democratic practice.
We need to create or identify existing, informal learning environ-
ments within which young people can learn civic skills and practice
citizenship. We should consider creative ways to link those informal
environments back to formal organizations such as schools, libraries,
and youth organizations so that they indirectly aid the civic missions
of those formal organizations.
Young people are creative and resilient. Tey are fnding new and
innovative ways to engage politically, often using online communities.
30 Coleman, S. (2008). Doing it for themselves: Management versus autonomy in youth e-citizen-
ship. In W. L. Bennett (Ed.), Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth.
w. |orce Berret t n ZZ9
For example, in fair trade and sweatshop campaigns, young people are
using their power as consumers to communicate directly with corpo-
rations. In these and other ways, many “netizens” are forming online
communities that Mimi Ito calls “networked publics.” Tese commu-
nities may have novel, and as yet, little, explored civic aspects. In a
fascinating example of democratic action by young people in an arena
of their own choosing, Earl and Schussman describe music fans peti-
tioning companies to give their favorite musicians greater exposure or
more creative freedom.
31
All of these eforts are in their infancy. Challenges abound. We
need to know what kinds of youth are attracted to what kinds of online
environments. We also need to better understand to what degree online
engagement networks reach youth who are at risk for democratic par-
ticipation, as opposed to simply reproducing the involvement of high
socio-economic status youth who participate actively in politics any-
way. And even the most promising youth-built projects often lack the
resources to make them sustainable and available to larger audiences.
Yet when government and foundations attempt to create platforms
for engagement, the eforts are generally well intentioned, but driven
largely by old-fashioned notions of citizenship and engagement that
often miss the mark.
Scholars and practitioners can forge more productive partnerships
with sponsors to create research-driven models for digital environments
that are more in tune with emerging civic styles. Tose environments
should ofer rich resources and peer training in the public communica-
tion, organizing, and advocacy skills to help young people develop more
efective voices and action.
32
And then, the adults should step back and
learn from what happens. Above all, the vitality of our democracy rests
31 Earl, J. & Schussman, A. (2008). Contesting cultural control: Youth culture and online petition-
ing. In W.L. Bennett (Ed.) Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth.
32 See the Civic Learning Online project: www.engagedyouth.org.
ZJJ DI GI tAL nAtI Ves As seL F - ACtUALI zI nG CI tI zens n
on reconciling changing youth civic styles with the more traditional
notions of citizen engagement that still characterize most schools, gov-
ernments, and public interest spheres.
About the Author
Lance Bennett is Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C.
Lawrence Professor of Communication at the University of Washington.
He is also the director of the Center for Communication & Civic
Engagement (engagedcitizen.org), and the Civic Learning Online project
(engagedyouth.org).
A MILLennI AL UPGRADe
FoR AMeRICAn DeMoCRACY
0o.iJ B. Sait|

The greatest influence of 21st century
technologies on the democratic process has taken place in
the hearts and minds of individuals, not on computer screens
or over the Web.

a
few years ago I was asked to defne the very large generation
of teens and twenty-somethings who had recently come of
age, my generation, known as the Millennials. I began with
the notion that our generation refuses to be defned, partially due to
our diversity and partially due to our arrogance and ignorance. At
the same time, I was asked to provide some insights into the shared
values and principles of the Internet. I began to see some similarities
between the Internet and my generation (perhaps this is why we are
often referred to as the Dot.com, Net and iGeneration).
Over the past couple of centuries, it seems as though the people
have abdicated power to our local, state, and federal decision making
bodies. Individuals have grown more and more powerless by allowing
ourselves to get pushed to the outside of the political process. We have
ZJ1
ZJZ A MI L L ennI AL UPGRADe FoR AMeRI CAn DeMoCRACY n
relied upon our elected ofcials to identify the problems they want to
fx. Tey have sold us on these issues, informed us about how they plan
to solve them, and then gone about doing all of this with very limited
input from us, the citizenry.
Te greatest infuence of 21
st
century technologies on the demo-
cratic process has taken place in the hearts and minds of individuals,
not on computer screens or over the Web. We often talk about how
new gadgets or emerging technology will change the way our govern-
ment interacts with our electorate, but trying to apply these innovations
directly to our current, arcane institutions misses the boat. Our Found-
ing Fathers created a system that rebufs change, particularly radical
and signifcant shifts. We must look for venues where new ways of
doing things can bear greater fruit—through individual and then insti-
tutional renewal. Te phenomenon of the Internet and the various
technologies related to it have changed the underlying values of indi-
viduals and society as a whole.
Te Center for Individual and Institutional Renewal focuses on
changing the way people think so as to change the way we act col-
lectively and infuence institutions. Tis methodology is based on the
premise that our institutions reject change, rarely lead, and mostly fol-
low the dominant culture. If this is an accurate assumption, then our
frst target for change should be the hearts and minds of citizens. We
must then change how they act, which will ultimately lead to an insti-
tutional response.
Changing the Way We Think
Te values of a world bogged down by television broadcasting, mass
media distribution, and mass production leave a lot to be desired by
Millennials. Traditional newspapers have nearly been run out of busi-
ness, television shows are trying, and failing, to keep pace by inserting
interactive themes and opportunities for viewer engagement, and our
0o.i J B. Sai t | n ZJJ
elected ofcials have found themselves in the basement in terms of
approval ratings and voter participation.
Contrary to broadcast media, the dominant values of the Inter-
net include (but are certainly not limited to): transparency, openness,
worthiness of varying views, collaboration, and horizontal commu-
nications. Again, I do not think it is a coincidence that these values
resonate with Millennials as both personal values and ones we hope to
see in our leaders. We value individual opinion and listen to our peers
at a much higher rate than older generations. We feel a greater sense
of self worth and empowerment as our thoughts, talents, and ideas are
published alongside those of older generations.
Te sheer size and networked structure of the Internet and its many-
to-many communications platform changes the dominant culture of
top-down, militaristic, hierarchical chains of command. Innate to this
structure are concepts such as the wisdom of the crowd, permanent inno-
vative processes, and respect for the notion that each individual holds a
part of the larger truth. Te Internet reinforces the Millennials’ view that
inclusion of all voices helps us fnd solutions to collective problems.
Changing the Way We Act
We crave instant gratifcation in all areas of our lives; celebrity culture
and materialism run rampant in our streets. Contrary to the opinion of
others, I understand that these personal choices refect the value of our
times for young people and the opportunity costs of participating in a
political system that is broken. As voter participation has sunk, we are
seeing increasing rates of social entrepreneurship. We are not apathetic;
we are simply making a decision as to where our time is more valuable
and needed.
Te Millennial Generation participates in community service at a
higher rate than any past generation, and this is mostly due to the instant
gratifcation and tangible results that come from these actions. Young
ZJ+ A MI L L ennI AL UPGRADe nFoR AMeRI CAn DeMoCRACY n
leaders are stepping forward and starting non-proft organizations and
creating socially conscious business ventures. Our time is best spent, we
believe, working directly on solving our community’s problems.
We have a nearly complete loss in faith in our political institutions.
Tere is a disconnect between our own needs and those of our elected
ofcials.
Changing Our Institutions
We need to upgrade our system of government to Democracy 2.0, a
term coined by Mobilize.org and its extended network. Democracy
2.0 empowers citizens to identify problems facing our nation, propose
solutions, and actively implement these solutions in our communities.
Tese citizen-led programs provide pilot projects for local governments
that will then be able to evaluate, and ultimately to institutionalize, the
best solutions for their communities.
Tis deliberative democracy format engages citizens in civic prob-
lem solving and social entrepreneurship. Tis process leads to a much
more informed and engaged citizenry where the citizen is part resource,
expert, shareholder, and a member of a community think tank.
One example of this process is the recent launch of TRAIN(TRans-
portation Assistance for INterns). Tis efort began when a group of
college students from around the country began discussing their dif-
fculties afording a summer internship. Some had interned previously
and had to go into debt to pay for simple things like transportation
to and from their jobs, while others were unable to take an internship
due to the costs associated with them. Even with programs that pro-
vide college credit for which you can receive student loans, there are
additional costs that make internships impractical and unafordable
for many students. Together, they decided to move their conversation
from complaining to action and formed TRAIN.
Te students began with a service learning approach and researched
0o.i J B. Sai t | n ZJ5
the best practices and lessons learned from cities around the country
and the world. Next, they took direct action and hosted TRAIN happy
hours. Using online social networks, they were quickly and easily able
to reach out to hundreds of supporters. Te happy hours served as a
public education opportunities as well as fundraisers. Te funds raised
during these events provide travel stipends to a limited number of stu-
dents. TRAIN also connects students with non-profts and government
agencies to fnd ways to support interns, and advocates with the public
transportation providers to reduce the cost to these individuals.
Using dialogue and deliberation techniques in combination with
new technology, we can explore the shared values, principles, and needs
of communities. Using interactive keypad voting and 21
st
-century town
hall meetings, we can achieve joint decision-making and policy recom-
mendations. Using wiki technology, online dialogues, and web forums,
we can further refne these ideas, include more voices in the process, and
create agreed-upon language to present to our decision-making bodies.
We can also use e-mail advocacy, online petitions, and text messaging as
a means of further organizing a greater part of the population to learn
about and support this community-created solution.
Still, most citizen-led approaches culminate in elected ofcials still
needing to be convinced of the merit of the proposed solution. Te actual
power of community voices is still minimal and requires old-school com-
munity organizing techniques to support the truth that the wisdom of
the crowd has greater merit than professional lobbyists and single-issue
constituency groups. Tis is the major upgrade that has to happen to
move us from Democracy 1.0 remnants to a Democracy 2.0 world.
About the Author
David B. Smith is the Founder of Mobilize.org, and is now the Executive
Director of The National Conference on Citizenship.
GLossARY
Astroturf Groups
Apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily con-
ceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, and
political interests or public relations frms. Tese are generally PR frms bank-
rolled by corporations that are trying to shape public opinion to push favorable
state or federal legislation through.
Beta
Te preliminary or testing stage of a new software or hardware product. Beta ver-
sions test the supportability, manufacturability and overall consumer reaction to
the new product. Microsoft released a public beta of its Windows Vista platform
in January 2005, using feedback from the beta users to make changes. Windows
Vista was released as an ofcial product in 2006. Tere are also many products on
the Web that are said to be in “perpetual beta,” meaning people can use them but
they are continuously changing. Gmail is an example of a perpetual beta.
Blog (see Web Log)
Blogosphere
Te collection of all blogs that creates an ecosystem or community of bloggers
who link to one another’s entries and can often create a group or “swarm” that
serves to illuminate or advocate for a position or issue.
Blogstorm
When a large amount of activity, information and opinion erupts around a par-
ticular subject or controversy in the blogosphere. Also known as a blog swarm.
For instance, the blogosphere created a “swarm” that brought to light the mistakes
in Dan Rather’s reporting of President Bush’s national guard service.
ZJ/
ZJ8 GLossARY n
Checks and Balances
Te government is divided into three areas of power (also known as separation of
powers): Executive (the president), Legislative (the Congress), and Judicial (the
Courts). Each branch has its own jobs to fulfll, but each branch has the abil-
ity to keep the others in check. For example: Congress can pass a law, but the
President can veto that law, but then Congress (with a 2/3rd vote) can override
the President’s veto. Another example: the President can appoint judges to the
Supreme Court but the Senate must approve them.
Craigslist
An online network of communities that ofers local classifed advertisements in
areas such as jobs, housing, cars, services, local activities and even romance. Craig-
slist has classifeds and forums for 567 cities in over 50 countries worldwide.
Cybercitizen (see Netizen)
Data-mining
Te process of sorting through large amounts of data and picking out relevant
information. Data-mining programs allow users to analyze data from many
diferent dimensions or angles, categorize it, and summarize the relationships
identifed.
Digital Divide
Te gap between people who have access to digital and information technology
and those without access to it.
Digital Immigrant
A person who grew up without digital technology but was able to learn and adapt
to it.
Digital Native
A person who has grown up with digital technology such a computers, the Inter-
net, cell phones and MP3s. Young people, ages 15-29, also known as GenY or
Millennials, are often called digital natives.
Echo Chambers
Online communities of like-minded people in which information, ideas or beliefs
are amplifed or reinforced by transmission within this “closed” space.
GLossARY n ZJ9
Echo Chamber Effect
When a piece of information is passed between many like-minded people,
repeated, overheard and repeated again until most people assume that the newer
(more extreme) variation of the story is true. Te echo chamber efect can become a
massive game of telephone on the Internet.
Facebook
A social networking website that was originally designed for college students, but
is now open to anyone 13 years of age or older. Facebook users can create and cus-
tomize their own profles with photos, videos, and information about themselves.
Friends can browse the profles of other friends and write messages on their pages.
See more at http://www.techterms.com/defnition/facebook.
Federalist Papers
Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the pseud-
onym “Publius,” the Federalist Papers are a group of 85 articles advocating for the
ratifcation of the United States Constitution.
Freedom of Information Act
A federal government law that allows for citizens to request the disclosure of
documents from federal agencies. Government agencies are required to disclose the
requested records unless they can be lawfully withheld under nine exceptions. See
more at http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/index.html.
Hashtag (term of use on Twitter)
Used on Twitter to tag certain feeds. By using a ‘#’ before a word or phrase it
automatically links this ‘hashtag’ or keyword to a website that compiles all of
these tags with links to the original feed.
Millenial Generation
Also known as Generation Y these are the group of people born from around
1980 to 1995.
Mindshare
Te development of consumer awareness and popularity that is used in advertis-
ing and promoting a product. Marketers try to popularize their product so that
the brand can be associated with the whole line of product. Kleenex and Band-
Aid are two examples.
Z+J GLossARY n
Mobilize.org
Formerly Mobilizing America’s Youth is an “all-partisan network dedicated to
educating, empowering, and energizing young people to increase our civic engage-
ment and political participation.” It works to show young people how their lives
are impacted by public policy and in turn, how they can impact public policy.
MoveOn.org
MoveOn is a non-proft public advocacy group that focuses on supporting Dem-
ocratic Party candidates and causes. It exemplifes a way for busy but concerned
citizens to fnd their political voice in a system dominated by big money and big
media.
MySpace
A popular social networking site open to anyone that features an interactive,
user-created network of friends, personal profles, blogs, groups, photos, music
and videos.
Netizen (also known as a Cybercitizen)
A person actively involved in online communities.
Open-source Software
Software created with an open source code available to anybody. Tis type of
software is freely distributed and permits users to use, change and improve the
software and then redistribute the modifed or unmodifed form.
Porkbusters
An efort led by mostly conservative and libertarian bloggers to cut pork barrel, or
wasteful, spending by the U.S. Congress.
Pew Internet and American Life Project
A non-proft organization that explores the impact of the Internet on children,
families, communities, the workplace, schools, healthcare and civic/political life.
Six Degrees of Separation
Te idea that if a person is one step away from each person he or she knows and two
steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows,
then everyone is an average of six “steps” away from each person on Earth.
GLossARY n Z+1
Social Networking Website
A site that provides a virtual community for people interested in a particular
subject or just to “hang out.” Members create a profle in which they can
list as many or as few personal attributes as they choose (including photos,
likes, dislikes or biographical data). Examples of such sites are Facebook and
MySpace.
Skype
A computer program that allows you to make calls from your computer—free
to other people on Skype and cheap to landlines and cell phones around the
world.
Superpoking
An extension application to the native “poke” option on Facebook. A poke is a
very simple application that enables Facebook users to in efect “tap” another per-
son. Te only way to respond to a poke is to poke back. A superpoke is basically
anything you want, including “dance with,” “tickle,” “cuddle,” “high fve,” “hug,”
and even “drop kick.”
Swiftboating
Political jargon created in the 2004 presidential campaign used as a strong derog-
atory or belittling description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers
unfair or untrue.
Tagging
A keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (a picture, a geographic map,
a blog entry, a video clip etc.), which describes the item and allows for keyword-
based classifcation and search of information.
Twitter
A free social networking tool that allows families, friends and co-workers to stay
connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to the question:
What are you doing?
YouTube
A video-sharing website that allows users to easily upload, view and share video
clips.
Z+Z GLossARY n
Webcast
A media fle distributed over the internet that can be accessed by many users at
once. Like a TV broadcast, a webcast can be distributed live or recorded.
Web Log (often shortened to Blog)
A website that is usually maintained by an individual with regular entries listed
in reverse chronological order. It can contain interests, descriptions of events, or
other media such as graphics or video.
Wiki
A single page or collection of web pages designed to enable anyone to contribute
or modify joint projects like reports or lists or research data. Wikis are used to
create collaborative and community websites. Te best known wiki is Wikipedia,
an online encyclopedia.
ABoUt tHe eDI toRs
Allison Fine is a successful social entrepreneur and writer dedicated
to understanding the intersection between social change eforts and
social media. Her frst book, Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the
Connected Age (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006), was the winner of the Terry
McAdams National Book Award and the Axiom Business Book Award.
She is a Senior Fellow on the Democracy Team at Demos: A Net-
work for Change and Action in New York City, and a Senior Editor
beta
)” at the Personal Democracy Forum. Her paper, “Social Citizens(
about the ways that young people are using social media for social
change was released in May 2008 by Te Case Foundation. She is
a prolifc writer and her articles have been published in the Boston
Globe, San Jose Mercury Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She
is also a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and
Te Hufngton Post.
Fine was the Founder and Executive Director of Innovation Net-
work, Inc. from 1992-2004 and the C.E.O. of Te E-Volve Foundation
in 2004-2006.
Micah L. Sifry is co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy
Forum, a website and annual conference that covers the ways technol-
ogy is changing politics, and TechPresident.com, an award-winning
Z+J
Z++ ABoUt tHe eDI toRs n
group blog on how the American presidential candidates are using
the web and how the web is using them. In addition to organizing
the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference with his partner
Andrew Rasiej, he consults on how political organizations, campaigns,
non-profts and media entities can adapt to and thrive in a networked
world. In that capacity, he has been a senior technology adviser to the
Sunlight Foundation since its founding in 2006.
From 1997-2006, he worked closely with Public Campaign, a non-
proft, non-partisan organization focused on comprehensive campaign
fnance reform, as its senior analyst. Prior to that, Sifry was an editor
and writer with Te Nation magazine for thirteen years.
He is the co-author with Nancy Watzman of Is Tat a Politician
in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day (John Wiley & Sons,
2004), author of Spoiling for a Fight: Tird-Party Politics in America
(Routledge, 2002) and co-edited Te Iraq War Reader (Touchstone,
2003) and Te Gulf War Reader (Times Books, 1991). He is also an
adjunct professor at the Political Science Department of the City Uni-
versity of New York/Graduate Center, where he teaches a course called
“Writing Politics.” His personal blog is at micah.sifry.com.
Andrew Rasiej is a social entrepreneur, futurist, and Founder of Personal
Democracy Forum, an annual conference and community website about
the intersection of politics and technology. He is also the co-founder of
techPresident, an award winning group blog that covers how the 2008
presidential candidates are using the web, and how voter generated
content (a term he coined) is afecting the campaign. In the 2004 pres-
idential race he served as Chairman of the Howard Dean Technology
Advisory Council. In 2005 he ran a highly visible campaign for Public
Advocate of New York City, running in the Democratic primary on
a platform to bring low cost wireless Internet access to all New York-
ers. He co-writes a bi weekly column for Politico.com and he appears
ABoUt tHe eDI toRs n Z+5
regularly on CNN, ABC, NPR, and other major news outlets as a
commentator on technology and politics.
Rasiej maintains the position of senior technology adviser for the
Sunlight Foundation, a Washington D.C. based organization that
focuses on using technology to expose corruption in Congress and
facilitates citizen engagement and oversight.
Rasiej is the founder of www.MOUSE.org (Making Opportuni-
ties for Upgrading Schools and Education), an educational non-proft
organization started in 1997 to connect public schools to the Inter-
net. Currently, MOUSE trains students in public schools to provide
technology support for their schools, teachers, and fellow students.
MOUSE is active in over 100 public schools in New York City and
has programs based on its student led tech support model operating in
over 20 countries around the world.
Rasiej is a co-founder of Mideastwire.com, which is a Beirut based
news service which translates opinion pieces from newspapers in all 22
Arab countries, Iran, and the Arab media Diaspora and makes them
available over the Web to English speaking governments, corporations,
media, and educational institutions.
In the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy, Rasiej helped
organize local technology professionals to provide relief and recovery
to small businesses and schools in lower Manhattan. Soon after, he
proposed the creation of a National Tech Corps that would augment
the National Guard and provide emergency technical, communica-
tion, and database support in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist
strike. Tis idea, now called NetGuard, was approved in a bill by the
US Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and is now being implemented by the
Department of Homeland Security.
Rasiej is a member of the Board of Directors of the social inno-
vation conference Pop!Tech. He is a graduate of the Cooper Union
for the Advancement of Science and Art and past recipient of the
Z+c ABoUt tHe eDI toRs n
prestigious David Rockefeller Fellowship Program administered by the
New York City Partnership. He lives and works in New York City.
Joshua Levy is a writer and web strategist whose work explores the
intersections of technology, politics, and activism. He is Associate Edi-
tor of techPresident and Personal Democracy Forum, two sites that
cover how technology is changing politics.
Levy is a frequent commentator on the use of the Web in the 2008
election and social activism. He is a podcaster for NPR’s Sunday Soap-
box series, a flmmaker exploring the nature of social action in virtual
worlds, and a blogger whose analysis has been featured in the New
York Times, the Washington Post, the Hufngton Post, Salon, NPR,
ABC News, AOL Politics, the CBC, Sky News, and XM Radio. He has
an MFA in nonfction media from Hunter College in New York.
ABoUt
PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM
P
ersonal Democracy Forum is an annual conference and online
community (www.personaldemocracy.com) that covers how
technology and the Internet are changing politics. Started in
2003 by Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum
(PdF) has become the seminal gathering place for the growing commu-
nity of leaders and activists from the increasingly interconnected worlds
of technology, politics, journalism, blogging, and advocacy who want to
make sure they stay on top of what’s coming next.
Te annual Personal Democracy Forum conference is a cross-par-
tisan event. Keynoters in past years have included: Google CEO Eric
Schmidt, Stanford University Professor Larry Lessig, New York Times
columnist Tomas Friedman, the Christian Coalition’s Ralph Reed,
Elizabeth Edwards, SEIU President Andy Stern, Arianna Hufngton,
Craig Newmark of Craigslist, political strategist Joe Trippi, and blog-
gers Markos Moulitsas, Hugh Hewitt, Jane Hamsher, Matt Stoller, and
Josh Marshall.
PdF is also the home of techPresident.com, a group blog on how
the candidates are using the web and how the web is using them,
which was launched in February 2007. TechPresident.com covers the
gamut of online campaign activities: from campaign websites, online
Z+/
Z+8 ABoUt PeRsonAL DeMoCRACY FoRUM n
advertising and e-mail lists to video postings on YouTube and who’s
got the fastest growing group of friends on social networking sites like
MySpace and Facebook. TechPresident’s “Daily Digest” e-mail news-
letter has become a must-read for the many journalists, bloggers and
activists who are watching how voter-generated content is changing
the contours of the electoral process, and are learning how to adapt and
thrive in this new world. In September 2007, TechPresident won the
prestigious Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism.

© 2008 by the Personal Democracy Press http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us Rebooting Democracy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. ISBN: 978-0-9817509-0-3 Printed in the United States of America

Con t en ts
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Foreword . 5 Esther Dyson Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Introduction 11 to: Micah L . sifry, Personal Democracy Forum 2008 Zack Exley 21st Century neo-enlightenment Julie Barko Germany echo Chambers = Democracy David Weinberger 19 27

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 38 43 48

Participatory Democracy Demands Participation Michael Turk Winning the Future in the Personal Democracy Age Newt Gingrich Participation As sustainable Cooperation In Pursuit of Public Goals Yochai Benkler By the People, For the People Andrew Rasiej

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

the Merciful Death of the Freedom of Information Act and the Birth of true Government transparency: A short History Ellen Miller

59

the Void We Must Fill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Richard C. Harwood smartmobbing Democracy Howard Rheingold Weaning Campaigns from old Media’s teat Brad Templeton 70 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

the Power of Inclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Marie Wilson

In the Beginning there Were Wikis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Joshua Levy saving America from Its 18th Century Political system Jan Frel and Nicco Mele 87

small “d” Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Susan Crawford Professional Politicians Beware! Aaron Swartz sidewalks for Democracy online Steven L. Clift Privacy in the Internet Age: time to Go? Glenn Harlan Reynolds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 . 101 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112

Can social network sites enable Political Action? danah boyd

In skypeoogletubeapedia We trust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 Martin Kearns Grassroots Activism is More than a Campaign Morra Aarons-Mele Corruption, technology and Constitutional Design Zephyr Teachout our Voting Re-Public John C. Bonifaz . 122 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 . 142

Checks and Balances Reinvigorated Craig Newmark

the “Killer App” of Public Participation Mark Murphy

Citizen 2 .0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Nancy E. Tate and Mary G. Wilson the Last top-Down Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 Joe Trippi tangled signals of Democracy Micah L. Sifry . 155

Finding Your obviousmeter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Matt Stoller

Congress Reloaded Matthew Burton Beyond WarGames Douglas Rushkoff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 . 168 . 171

the obvious Answer: online Voting Allison H. Fine

Who needs elected officials? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Tara Hunt new Gadgets Do not new Humanity Make Avery Knapp and Tennyson McCalla Deliberative Democracy in theory and Practice Kaliya Hamlin . 181 . 185

Government by the People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192 Beth Simone Noveck self-organized self-Government Scott Heiferman the Digital Will of the People Pablo del Real Political Collaborative Production Clay Shirky Community Information Commons Harry C. Boyte the ethics of openness Jeff Jarvis Creating Humane Codelaw Gene Koo Digital natives as self-Actualizing Citizens W. Lance Bennett A Millennial Upgrade for American Democracy David B. Smith . 198 . 201 . 204 . 209 . 215 . 221 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 . 231

Glossary . 237 About the Editors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 About Personal Democracy Forum . . . 247

.

and networks of activists. the White House Press Secretary. summed up the typical response of government officials accustomed to shutting citizens out of governance when she responded to a question from a  t . Today anyone can be a reporter. a fundraiser or a community organizer. where millions of people can participate directly in governance and policy making. And so we wondered: as the Internet revolution hits the institutions of American democracy. The Internet is putting individual voters. how might it change things for the better? Dana Perino. Our conversation wandered to talking about new social media tools like blogs and social networking sites and their important role in fostering an explosion of public participation in and around the national political campaigns. over a cup of coffee. not just in ratifying the results on Election Day. We started wondering when we might see the rise of similar public energies and optimism about government and governing.PReFACe his project began as so many good things do. in positions that used to be the sole reserve of professionals. all it takes is an Internet connection and a compelling message. For it’s clear we’re living in a new age.

the communications between elected officials and citizens beyond elections. Returning to business as usual will be an enormous missed opportunity for both the new president and the American public. away from the watchful. The storyline of this new century is the yawning chasm between the passion that Americans. interfering eye of citizens. this kind of thinking and behavior is dangerous for Americans and for American democracy. the people had their say at the election booth (a vote that may or may not have been recorded and counted accurately. America’s wonderful. This jarring juxtaposition of our political reality against the poten- . 2009.” In other words. by the way) and now it’s our turn to run the country as we see fit. an unfolding story of astonishing possibilities and periodic disappointment. a new tenant will occupy the Oval Office. The American people have input every four years. particularly young people. and that’s the way our system is set up. it’s easy to see and measure. and that person will be wise to continue to build on the public input and participation that helped to put them there. As we have seen. Political campaigns have begun to use an array of social media tools to connect with potential voters. messy experiment with a republican form of democracy is a work in progress. with the reality of near permanent incumbency for elected officials and a gridlocked political system. but it’s only a small part of the spectrum of political activities that form the backbone of our democracy. but there are far greater uses for these tools beyond campaigns and elections. who runs for office and how. enthusiastic participation together can profoundly affect governance and policy development. and the loosening of the death grip of moneyed. “You had input. n PReFACe reporter earlier this year about the Iraq war by saying. On January 21. Social media and broad. have for a fair and just society. interests on politics and policies. Voting is our most visible political activity.

These essays confirmed our optimistic sense that the political system is due for substantive changes. and three of those submissions are included in this volume. will help to jumpstart conversations about increasing citizen participation in governance.g. creative thinkers spanning the political spectrum and the generational divide.PReFACe n  tial for great political change is vividly revealed in the awful uses of technology (e. and to that end we are publishing all of the essays at rebooting. and from a variety of different professional perspectives.personaldemocracy. touch-screen voting machines or microtargeting of voters by what beer they buy) versus wonderful uses of technology (e. We hope that. The essays are naturally as varied as the participants.g.. to a radical reinterpretation of the public’s “right to know. We invited a variety of interesting. cell phones used to mobilize voters or live-blogging of political events that engage thousands of people in direct conversation with candidates). you.. and unleashing our collective creativity to help solve technical problems and break through long-standing entrenchments. and we apologize for those oversights. . It is our hope that Rebooting America will continue as a living document online.” to the exponential power of many-to-many deliberation to shape public policy. They range from revisiting the need for checks and balances within government and between the government and its citizenry. Undoubtedly there are many more voices and thinkers whom we failed to engage. opening the doors of government wider and making the walls see-through. to write essays for this anthology. We also posted a general call for essays at the Personal Democracy Forum website. our readers and participants. Rebooting America is dedicated to understanding these differences and providing a vision of how we can realize our collective hope for a better future.com and inviting public comment on (and off) the site.

—Allison Fine —Micah L. Sifry —Andrew Rasiej —Josh Levy . n PReFACe Our future does not have to be a continuation of the past or the present. We can create a new and better course—we just need to imagine it first.

so can it foster new governance models. The essayists. were invited to contribute short essays on the following topic:  i . We have pressing public policy problems. or it can ignite the whole thing into flames and burn it out. an array of creative. and between voters and elected officials. an amazing array of new digital tools and platforms that have the potential to inform and empower us and let us self-organize in astonishing and effective ways. about how we can engage more people in public problem solving and community building. adults who should be leaders yet instead lead willfully sheltered lives of comfort and ignorance.” Those words have never been more salient or important than they are today. to spark conversations among citizens. Thomas Jefferson wrote. it expects what never was and never will be. thousand-flowers-blooming garden. in a state of civilization. a citizenry increasingly active in elections yet alienated from governance. This anthology of essays is intended to shine light.F oRe WoRD Esther Dyson n 1816. innovative thinkers. Just as the Net created new business models. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free. The stage is ready and the sunlight of the Internet is shining on us: It can provide light and energy for a fertile.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds discusses the fallacy of trying to protect people’s privacy in the Internet Age. and a few gave us a view from the future (Ellen Miller. but within those broad brushstrokes are interesting areas of convergence and divergence. Harry Boyte). imagine that you have to power to redesign American democracy for the Internet Age. Several essayists proposed a radical restructuring of our entire system of government (Aaron Swartz. the radical libertarians call for the radical restraint of government (Avery Knapp and Tennyson McCalla)! . arguing that we should instead focus on fostering greater transparency around (and through) government institutions. and Douglas Rushkoff) and others dwelt on the need for individuals to act outside government to propel change (Scott Heiferman. Martin Kearns argues the opposite. Susan Crawford). but also cautions about the potential of today’s social networking sites to produce big changes in political behavior. David Weinberger discusses the critical importance of echo chambers to the conversation among citizens that powers our democracy. replacing that quill pen with a mouse. others zeroed in on improving the present (Steven Clift. What would you do? Each of the essays has a unique central idea. But they couldn’t have imagined a mass society with instantaneous. many-tomany communications or many of the other innovations of modernity. danah boyd points out the need to break through these silos to broaden the conversation about community life. of course. So. Zack Exley). that more protections of individual privacy and data are needed to provide people with a sense of personal security in order to engage civically either online or offline. they bravely conjured a new form of self-government. Some essayists focused on lessons from the past (Julie Barko Germany. Newt Gingrich). There are common themes of citizen participation and empowerment. And. Nicco Mele and Jan Frel. n FoRe WoRD When the Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787.

It’s ironic that it’s a book. but also on the privatization of space exploration and the use of information technology in health care. but consider it a mere seed containing DNA seeking complementary strands of life in an online conversation with other Americans about how to “reboot” our country. —Esther Dyson New York City April 30. She spends most of her time fostering new companies. politicians pander to the polls using sound bites rather than engaging in reasoned debates (e.g.Esther Dyson n  Our society is relentlessly focused on short-term news and results: On Wall Street you have intraday stock movements and an obsession with quarterly earnings and weekly sales figures. including the mapping of individuals’ genomes. This decade. most notably (in this context) that of the Sunlight Foundation. she is focused not just on the Internet. Please take a moment to explore the ideas and approaches in this anthology. In the Nineties she wrote a book about the impact of the Internet on individuals’ lives (“Release 2. Share them with others and argue—constructively and deeply—about them.. new technologies and new markets. in government. Rebooting America is a look at the long term—the past that could have been and the future that still could be. 2008 About the Author Esther Dyson does business as EDventure Holdings. . And in private life. you have daily weigh-ins and snack bars full of foodiness in place of plain old healthy living. She sits on a variety of boards. the gas-tax tomfoolery of the recent presidential campaign). Make them into something more than just a book by extending them and giving them life.0”) and a seminal article for WIRED Magazine about the impact of the Net on intellectual property.

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Their enthusiastic willingness to share their creative ideas without remuneration and on an impossible deadline was enormously gratifying. We feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Julie Trelstad and her team at Plain White Publishing. Of course.ACK noW L eDGeMen t s t’s one thing to have an idea. Her colleague Russ McIntosh of Studio McIntosh showed  i . and quite another to have the wherewithal to bring it to fruition. And this gratitude extends to our online essay entrants who courageously shared their ideas with the world. Julie is pioneering the iTunes paradigm for publishing and we’re delighted to be along for the ride. This was only possible with team members who were extraordinarily flexible. We hope we have done justice to all of the contributors and their ideas and are delighted that we will have the opportunity to share them widely. we wish we could have selected more of them for inclusion in this first volume of essays. enthusiastic. We are enormously grateful to the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy for their financial support for this project. our volume wouldn’t be very voluminous. a gestation period that usually spans several years. without our essayists. We birthed this entire project in just a few months’ time. and talented.

Our thanks and appreciation to all! . our good fortune extended to working with two outstanding editors. Finally. Mira Lieman-Sifry jumped on board and became our excellent and adept lexicographer. Christina Baker Kline and Melissa Seeley.0 n A C K n o W L e D Ge M e n t s great patience and creativity in his designs. who worked very quickly and with great aplomb.

and hopefully your enjoyment. we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary. We then move to our desperate need for an informed and educated citizenry. Sifry from the future that suggests that what we need most to reinvent America is selfless leadership. Much to our relief. We decided. therefore. the means of knowledge. a memo written to Personal Democracy Forum editor Micah L. therefore. “When we are planning for posterity. they also reflect the themes. Let us dare to read.” Zack Exley embraces this idea in his very entertaining essay. The essays in Rebooting America reflect an array of experiences and political perspectives. We begin with a quote from Tom Paine. and write. when we began this project was that all our essayists might somehow respond to our challenge with exactly the same answer. we felt.In t RoDUC t Ion ur greatest risk. concerns and hopes of our Founding Fathers. to organize the essays around these themes.” Julie Barko Germany gracefully retraces the roots of our democracy from the philosophical underpinnings of  o . think. speak. the answers are enormously and uniquely diverse and interesting. or as put so elegantly by John Adams. “Let us tenderly and kindly cherish.

surely and convincingly imagine our government remade by.” However. prescient as always. even Franklin could not have imagined the new digital tools that enable large groups to co-create magnificent new resources like Wikipedia. Michael Turk closes out this section by lamenting that too much information and not enough curiosity is depressing participation. Richard Harwood and Howard Rheingold describe the need and opportunity to engage our citizenry in local efforts through virtual commons that will force our government to open up and inform the public. do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom. n In t R o D U C t I o n the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century. “Those who govern.” Ellen Miller writes to us from the year 2015 after the Freedom of Information Act has mercifully passed away and a new era of complete government transparency has emerged. openly and energetically share information with us. having much business on their hands. citizens need to be knowledgeable and curious about their government. our government also needs to easily. Brad Templeton closes this section with a forceful argument . the “vast collective creativity of the American people” that supersedes the narrow expertise and interests of government bureaucrats. As previously mentioned. But our essayists could and do imagine such great things. David Weinberger follows with a thoughtful and surprising essay on the importance of echo chambers to support the conversations between like-minded people that are the backbone of democracy. but forced by the occasion. However. Thomas Jefferson wrote. recognized our current dilemma of citizens shut out of government decision-making when he wrote. but that the Internet makes an informed citizenry and direct democracy possible. Benjamin Franklin. in Gingrich’s words. and Andrew Rasiej strenuously. they can be trusted with their own government. “Whenever the people are well-informed. Newt Gingrich. Yochai Benkler.

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent . In their own time.” Aaron Swartz writes a fascinating piece on the need to completely revamp our structure of government with the introduction of a cascade of councils that would reach from the neighborhood level all the way to the top of the federal government. Conversely.” Nicco Mele and Jan Frel argue that the American system of government needs to be radically altered to become more distributed and democratic. there is tyranny. there is liberty. “When the people fear their government. Susan Crawford argues. short-lived action to have a great impact. Steven Clift. noting that we are long way from the days of face-to-face democracy and relatively small numbers of constituents per representative. The power of individual people to catalyze and lead great societal improvements was never far from the thoughts of the Founders. provides a blueprint for myriad ways to engage and activate citizens in local government using new digital tools. “We should not discount the power of minor.In t R o D U C t Io n n  for the need to wean the political system from the teat of big money and big media. Thomas Jefferson’s words echo many of his compatriots. the Founders pressed for the equality of man with a passion and commitment never before seen (although their vision was largely limited to land-owning men). visible. Our essayists Marie Wilson and Josh Levy expand this dream of equality and write compelling essays on the opportunity to involve more Americans across gender. with an intriguing proposal to expand the use of free e-mail communications from candidates to voters to better inform and engage the public. race and income divides in government and policy making in the Internet Age. a pioneer of e-democracy. when the government fears the people. The Founders constantly feared the seeping intrusion of government on the lives of the people. Finally.

in leadership positions. “The essence of Government is power.” In a unique challenge to conventional wisdom. Glenn Reynolds argues for the need for government transparency rather than waging the quixotic fight for privacy in the Internet Age. or turnover. Zephyr Teachout details the long history of corruption in government. In a full circle of thought and commitment. She also provides specific suggestions of the ways that our Founders would have altered the Constitution to avert these threats. not fewer. n In t R o D U C t I o n encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. and power. John Bonifaz shares the concern about corruption eating away at the foundations of our government by systematically detailing the threat to our election system from private ownership of the machinery of elections. lodged as it must be in human hands. danah boyd writes that. In four very different approaches to this topic. Martin Kearns argues for more. Finally.” This statement holds as true today as it did when James Madison said it in 1829. politicians.” wrote James Madison. to help develop policy and govern the nation. more participation that will only happen when we ensure greater preservation of our privacy. will ever be liable to abuse. “Rather than fantasizing about how social network sites will be a cultural and democratic panacea. the Internet revolution . Craig Newmark describes the boon to our system of checks and balances of new databases and citizen journalism tools like blogs that hold government and government officials more accountable for their actions. aided by technological developments like gerrymandering and centralized media. more “churn. Morra Aarons declares that there is no more “off season” for citizenship. she argues. rather than more rules or government agencies. perhaps we need to focus on the causes of alienation and disillusionment that stop people from participating in communal and civic life.” as he puts it. We need to transport the grassroots communities that are powering political campaigns to the capital after Election Day. On a more hopeful note.

Mark Murphy. Finally. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. another of our essay contest winners. little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago. Joe Trippi. and guide .In t R o D U C t Io n n  has enabled us to rediscover our passion for broad public participation in government and governance. Over two hundred years ago. Back to the power of the people to control. is voting online. Douglas Rushkoff is an enthusiastic proponent of using new gaming techniques to rethink the structure and approach of government. Matthew Burton. probably through their existing online social networks. reach critical levels of absurdity. “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. in his trademark candid and forward-thinking way. Micah L.” We often despair of our inability to shape government to meet our needs. one of the winners of our online essay contest. instruct. the people who know best about citizenship. proposes a “Delegation for the Future” as an addition to the House of Representatives that will solely focus on future concerns that our federal government routinely ignores. Sifry shares a creative series of ideas to make our vote more meaningful and communicative than an “X” in a box. These essayists have taken to heart Thomas Jefferson’s warning. It is helpful to be reminded that this isn’t a new lament. describe the opportunity for greater and more significant citizen involvement in the Internet Age.” Matt Stoller has his own personal “Obviousmeter” that tells us when government rules. Finally. forecasts the next “killer app” that will engage millions of Americans. particularly by young people. like no YouTube postings on government websites. Allison Fine challenges us to recognize that the obvious answer to remedy the awful 8-track tape voting machinery and greatly expand voting participation. bears witness to the death of top-down political campaigns. in conversations about their government. that of government is at a standstill—little better understood. John Adams wrote. Nancy Tate and Mary Wilson of the League of Women Voters. “While all other sciences have advanced.

of course. Scott Heiferman.” Beth Noveck describes the specific ways that citizens. Clay Shirky longs for a new mechanism that will enable citizens to more easily form groups with long-term political goals. “In all our associations. Harry Boyte. George Mason wrote. the dean of democracy observers and writers.” Tara Hunt takes this maxim to heart and questions why we need elected officials at all. And finally. n In t R o D U C t I o n government. what happens when laws are created with the express . not just a nation of citizens but also a nation of laws. Kaliya Hamlin brings us back to earth with a thoughtful examination of the different ways that citizens can deliberately examine public issues in person aided by new media tools. “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master. imagines a civil society where citizens can weigh in on every bill and resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives. the founder of Meetup. for example the very successful Peer-to-Patent open review process. particularly those with technical expertise. Thomas Jefferson weighs in. the people. elegantly discusses the possibility of recapturing the transformative public spirit of the 1960s civil rights movement by reimagining the pubic commons using Internet technology. The radical libertarians Avery Knapp and Tennyson McCalla go even further and question the fundamental value of government to society. com. and consequently is derived from. Pablo del Real. can successfully add value to policy and procedure development using wiki-style processes. We are left to explore the many ways that citizens can participate in governance and policy development without becoming a professional member of the governing class. the third of our contest winners. passionately defends the need for civic associations that advocate for better or different government policies. However. We are. in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim—that all power was originally lodged in.

” Lance Bennett affirms this view with a description of a new style of citizenship practiced by young people. We close our volume with an essay by a Millennial. Thomas Jefferson: “We may consider each generation as a distinct nation. and reimagine it and us in new ways. The reader should feel free to sample the essays by particular authors or themes.” In the words of Madison. Again. Gene Koo provides a compelling illustration of the Orwellian dangers of code law. but none to bind the succeeding generation. “software that assumes a particular interpretation of an ambiguous law. the so-called Millennials. turn it upside down and inside out. that he calls self-actualizing. the reader will quickly come to see that our essays call for the people of this country to slice open our government. with a right. ““It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read.In t R o D U C t Io n n  purpose of shutting citizens out of our own government? Jeff Jarvis demands a new ethic of openness in government. and in so doing. David B. to bind themselves.0. by the will of its majority. he writes. Any way this anthology is sampled. essentially makes law. transparency ought to be our governmental default setting. more than the inhabitants of another country. or to read the book from cover to cover.” We end our anthology on a hopeful note about the opportunity that every successive generation has to improve upon our model of government. or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. Smith. and his hopeful message of the ways that young people of his generation are using Internet tools to reshape our country into Democracy 2. .

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I have some good news for you and some bad news. sIF R Y. Personal Democracy Forum 2008 FROM: Micah L. This e-mail has been delivered to your inbox via Google Time Machine from the year 2058. Sifry. inspired by your Rebooting Democracy project and carried out on its 50th anniversary. Sifry. you and your Personal Democracy Forum buddies are better positioned to save American democracy than even the Founding Fathers. but into the American spirit. PeRson A L DeMoCR AC Y F oRUM 2 0 0 8 Zack Exley “ Therefore. It is extremely important that you recover from the shock of receiving this e-mail and act on my recommendations as quickly as you can. I’m writing to share the results of an incredible experiment. TO: Micah L. Personal Democracy Forum 2058 SUBJECT: Leadership Dear Micah.to : MIC A H L . more than anything we will try to build the ethic of true leadership not only into the American political system. As it turns out. First the  ” . So.

most people around the world have their Bionets implanted at birth. It was only a matter of time before “mind voting” was used for every social decision great and small.” a network of wireless brain implants that connects all of humanity in one continuous. I wish I had time to explain all the political upheaval. and found infinite uses for this new “mental telepathy” in the wider world. Today. along with other biological enhancements. But I’m pleased to report that before anyone even had the chance to grumble about a proprietary network of human consciousness. Bush. But I’ll have to stick to the changes brought by the Bionet. it’s turned the whole world into one giant “Personal Democracy Forum. You were only trying to give people an enhanced way of making snarky comments behind panelists’ backs instead of the on-screen back channel chats that had become too linear and uninteresting. wars and economic chaos of the past five decades. you and your Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) business partner Andrew Rasiej invent the “Bionet. A mind vote cost nothing. But conference goers refused to give up their Bionet headsets. Basically. the state has become less and less necessary. You and Andrew became fantastically wealthy. Rudimentary artificial . in a hyper-networked world.” in the truest sense of that phrase. In 2032. As you and many of our friends predicted. The Bionet made instant secret ballot voting as easy as daydreaming. and took only a few seconds to conduct. the Bionet re-vote resolved the surreal election debacle between Karenna Gore and George P.0 n t o : M I C A H s I F R Y. you made the Bionet protocol an open standard—from the data abstraction layer all the way down to the headset specs. decentralized and unmediated conversation. The Bionet began as a gimmick at the Personal Democracy Forum of 2022. Market penetration is effectively 100% because the benefits to businesses of providing implants to workers and farmers to monitor their brain activities and thoughts far outweigh the cost of subsidies for the poor. P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y F o R U M 2 0 0 8 good news: In the biotech revolution of the 2020s.

pressure would build for mind votes. with his slogan.”All Power to the Network!” became more and more dogmatic against any sort of industrial or agricultural planning. In fact. some of us did give them reason to wonder. but not enough. He argued that the problem was not that there was too much instantaneous. according to Friedman. He urged the have-nots of the world to metaphorically wear what he called “the cellophane business suit” (a follow up to his concept from the old Globalization Debate of the “Golden Straight Jacket” wherein. Any time politicians were making unpopular decisions. continuous mind voting in the United States helped to cause World War III. all nations had to accept the new rules of a global economy including fair trade and transparency).” arguing that the Bionet had effectively eliminated distance. this will fix everything!” became the slogan for just how out of touch we Americans were with reality. Thomas Friedman published his bestselling book “The World is a Point. The Personal Democracy Act did not have the intended results. instant “Personal Democracy. The . In the press. and any useful personal boundaries. personal space. it was difficult to argue against conducting one. decentralized decision-making. And because mind voting was so easy. Lawrence Lessig’s first action as prime minister of the post-war World Parliament (long story!) was passing the “Personal Democracy Act of 2042. we thought.Zack E xley n  intelligence even made it possible to enable the Bionet to vote for you automatically on most issues. Naturally. Just a matter of growing pains. And so. our nascent system of instant.” But trust me. Press Secretary Joe Trippi’s immortal words. Minister of Industry Yochai Benkler. there were problems.” The law abolished politicians and delegated all policy making to direct. a lot of the problems were blamed on the fact that such a high proportion of us in government were long past our “expiration date. Though it’s true. “Don’t worry. we’re all sharper now than we ever were with our old biological brains.” In that same year.

agricultural and ecological failures of the past 15 years. And so we hatched an idea. “top-down” democracy. David Weinberger. The ability to “figure it out for themselves. became its intellectual leader. In reaction. We found it was easy to vote against exploitative trade. Zack Exley served as iron-fisted party leader. but impossible to vote a replacement non-polluting industry into being. Mind vote followed mind vote on thousands of different economic policies and schemes to no end. an overly authoritarian camp rose up in politics (or rather. I’ll just say that it made the carnage of Mao’s Great Leap Forward look like a minor hiccup. because government had virtually withered away. We would bring the Framers of the 1787 Constitution to the present day and show them the disastrous results of their old-fashioned. there were the mass famines and ecological catastrophe of the “Great Leap Inward. what was left of politics).” we decided. First. But we kept our faith that “too much democracy” could not be the problem. had been stolen from humanity by the centuries during which people were forced to live without the liberating effects of Personal Democracy. “Let them figure it out for themselves!” joined “Let them eat cake!” on the short list of historic phrases that sparked full-blown revolutions.” Benkler’s unfortunate televised comment. P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y F o R U M 2 0 0 8 results were immediate. I can’t even bring myself to write down the figures associated with the economic. We found it was very easy to vote against pollution. n t o : M I C A H s I F R Y. We would then send them . Facing the failure of our efforts at Personal Democracy. the revolutionary mobs in the street found that they had no one to rebel against but themselves. dramatic and disastrous. but much more difficult to vote for a means of making a living for poor countries when we stopped trading with them. we laid blame on the doorstep of history. However. after a transformation reminiscent of Mussolini’s turn from socialism to fascism.

Constitution Hall was teleported to the present with all of the Founders inside. via the Bionet. We knew that changing the past would erase our present. “Remove yourselves from our premises!” Two months passed. “Dear Sirs. because he had mastered the terminology and the ways of the modern world better and faster than anyone else in the group. Then America’s Founding Fathers presented the world. The group chose Alexander Hamilton as their spokesperson. More brains.” he said (showing he hadn’t mastered every aspect of st 21 century culture). It took a while. We were impatient. After caucusing alone.Zack E xley n  back with millions of Bionet headsets so that they could “reboot democracy” and jump start progress toward a Personal Democracy utopia. we believed it was worth the sacrifice. tuned in to Hamilton’s speech than to any other event in the history of the Bionet (save for the unveiling of Madonna’s new body in 2051). in more languages. but no one was going to argue when George Washington told us. With the whole world watching through their Bionet mind’s eye. just imagine how those guys felt at their arrival in a fantastic world of the future. their appointed leader George Washington told us that the group wanted a chance to read up on the events of our history (and their future). “On behalf of my colleagues of the 1787 Con- . with their findings. We told them that they could take as long as they liked and we would transport them back to the very same instant from which we plucked them when we were done. During their study. but with billions of people starving and war waging all around the world. they kept their deliberations secret from our world in the same way that they had kept their constitutional deliberations secret from their world. If you think you were shocked by the arrival of this e-mail. but they finally got over their shock and accepted the new reality that had been presented to them.

And yet. I thank you for giving us this opportunity to study our future—your past—toward the aim of improving it. “We now understand that the stakes of our enterprise were higher than any of us imagined: Our United States of America will go on to have a greater impact on the world than any other nation during these three centuries. n t o : M I C A H s I F R Y. “We now see that was folly. We were looking for a way to make good leadership automatic.’ We believed that democracy was the best means to that end. First of all. “But we do not accept your conclusion that this ‘personal democracy’ is any solution for our age. we do not hold democracy to be a panacea or an end in itself. all rushing in .or yours. That is why we attempted to base our democracy on the hope that a democratically elected aristocracy of merit could replace the old aristocracy of birthright.. “We knew it was a gamble. P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y F o R U M 2 0 0 8 stitutional Convention. “Today. in our time it does not even call itself one nation. We were naïve to think that our complicated system of ‘electors’ could replace the necessity of every generation to find its own leaders. but this time with your own ingenious new system instead of ours. But we were wrong to believe we could relieve future generations from that responsibility. We do see that we made many errors as we laid down the foundation for this new country. and empower them—’from the bottom up’ as you love to say—to do what must be done. You have brought us here in the hopes that we would go back and commit that very same folly. We knew that private interests would descend upon our president and Congress as they had upon the Crown and Parliament.. you have reduced the concept of democracy to the ‘personal’ quest for happiness of twenty billion people. Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We set out to create a republic based on the non-negotiable principles of ‘Life. We were treating our political system as if it were a mousetrap that merely needed fine-tuning.

and all others who are reading this. After you send us back to Philadelphia. Please wish us luck. Therefore. But we have drawn one conclusion: We took for granted that our example of selfless leadership would speak for itself and be emulated by future generations. Micah . it is up to us. “In our study of history.Zack E xley n  different and often opposing directions.” As we look back through history. we will consider that issue. it is up to us in every generation not just to build a better system in which leadership can function better.’ But too many of you are not even willing to risk your next promotion or grant.’ but instead to use the powerful networks available to you as good leaders. But democracy can never be ‘personal’—it is communal. just as we will wish you great good fortune and fortitude. selfless leadership. It didn’t. you who are living at the dawn of the Networked Age have the greatest responsibility not to abdicate humanity’s right to conscious action to an abstract notion of ‘network. but into the American spirit. So. above all. we see a precipitous decline in the quality of leadership right at the moment when mass media and the Internet created the greatest opportunities for good leadership. but a way to take care of others. Therefore. more than anything we will try to build the ethic of true leadership not only into the American political system. we have seen how our children and grandchildren immediately swept away our hopes for disinterested. Good luck! Yours in great hope. my dear younger self. “We risked our lives for that kind of ‘democracy for others. to be better leaders. Democracy is not a way to take care of oneself. Almost instantly they organized into petty political parties that pandered to short-term private interests rather than the long-term common good. “We have not come up with any answers about what a different system would have done better.

Inc. . He is also a co-founder and president of the New Organizing Institute. organizing and technology. where he advises organizations on communications. He directed the online campaign for the British Labor Party’s 2005 re-election..org. was Director of Online Organizing and Communications at Kerry-Edwards 2004 and served as national organizing director at MoveOn. P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y F o R U M 2 0 0 8 About the Author Zack Exley is a strategic consultant with ThoughtWorks. n t o : M I C A H s I F R Y.

and coffeehouse. It is not a coincidence that we embraced the metaphors of the printing press. where so many connections were made. in the middle of the 2004 primaries. but we need a leadership willing to listen and participate–not on platforms or pedestals. and more than one journalist compared online political discussion groups. but on egalitarian our years ago. where people go to get their daily fix of information. ” . the online political community heralded the rise of the political blogosphere as an evolution in—and improvement upon—the printing press. blogging communities. and listservs to coffee houses. Political bloggers became the new pamphleteers. which once led Western Europe to question the traditions established by religious and political authorities.21s t Cen t UR Y neo-enL IGH t enMen t Julie Barko Germany “ Digital citizens should not be afraid to know or to act. business transactions were conducted. and ideas were debated during the Enlightenment—the  f footing with their constituents.

as the motto of the Enlightenment in an essay titled “What is Enlightenment?” He translated it to mean “have courage to learn” or “dare to be wise. “To have begun is to be half done. or tyrant. men—and indeed. and contemporary of our nation’s Founders. the Latin poet Horace wrote. they will no longer be limited to a mechanical knowledge of the procedures of the arts or of professional routine. ruler. I cannot divorce a discussion about democracy in the Internet Age without reference to the ideals and innovations of the past. During the first century BC.8 n 2 1s t C e n t U R Y n e o . dare to know. French political scientist and philosopher Antoine-Nicholas de Condorcet. Enlightenmentera thinkers (including many of the Founders of our country) possessed the audacity to hope that through knowledge. build new societies and—to quote (rather anachronistically) Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem Ulysses—“to strive. the phrase sapere aude. Another Enlightenment thinker. we can envision new forms of government. a belief that through humanity’s reasoning faculties. will be able to govern themselves according to their own knowledge.” When I read this translation. to use a phrase popularized by presidential candidate and Senator Barack Obama. and wisdom. and knowledge.” Or. they will no longer depend for every trivial piece . to seek.e n L I GH t e n M e n t era that birthed many of the ideas upon which our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are based. to find. wisdom. Thus. and not to yield. they meant men—could govern themselves without an intercession of a king. he said. With reason. I feel a sense of movement. reason. start!” Immanuel Kant adopted the later part of this line. humanity and government could achieve perfection. Educated citizens. outlined this belief in his Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795).

This concept remains fresh in 2008. and elected officials use blogs and wikis to ask for public input about pending legislation. produce wisdom. regular voters track the fundraising and spending of political candidates. democracy in the 21st century requires a few adjustments. to do so. to writing an encyclopedia. in fact. or who may wish to confide the care of government to the ablest of their number but will not be compelled to yield them absolute power in a spirit of blind confidence. nor the ability to collaborate with fellow citizens instantly. will have no need to be controlled by them. we are able to access information at rates that would have seemed impossible to Condorcet. since differences in enlightenment or talent can no longer raise a barrier between men who understand each other’s feelings. and so they will attain a real equality. And yet neither access to infinite information. This same technology enables us to harness the wisdom of many to accomplish everything from tracking congressional spending. and the rest. to the process of translation. and that echo in our founding documents. . every insignificant matter of instruction on clever men who rule over them in virtue of their necessary superiority. Though technology. ideas and language. The wisdom of the (informed) many may. It is this ideological tradition that makes 21st-century democracy so vital. not to mention Thomas Jefferson. regardless of physical location. govern as well as an elite few. some of whom may wish to be taught by others but. This was the spirit of the age and ideals that swirled throughout the early years of our nation. In order to progress towards this lofty and rather Utopian ideal. John Adams. Benjamin Franklin. during the early years of our new era—an era in which citizen journalism challenges mainstream media gatekeepers.Julie Barko Germany n  of business.

knowledge. We need an education that teaches technological literacy and fosters innovation system. Increased. 3. slow assimilation of subversive values to conventional society. and a belief that some buzzwords of the Digital age—such as “increased openness. that those “subversive values” include the belief that technology. Finally.0 n 2 1s t C e n t U R Y n e o . that “Web culture is the final stage in the long. A system of education that enables the population to possess more than just a functional literacy. who wrote. A spirit of public leadership that understands and values technology. and civil society. Dare to think for yourself! . Additional guarantees of free speech and privacy. innovation. a lack of fear about and exploration of the potential of technology to make voting more accessible and more direct. affordable access to the Internet.” “collaboration. I agree with Lee Siegel. 5.e n L I GH t e n M e n t 1. as I do. in Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (you can ascertain from the title that Siegel is criticizing the Internet).” But only if one believes. cybercafés and Internet stations in economically disadvantages areas.” and “transparency”—are imperatives for public office. 2. including civic Wi-Fi. and broadband networks in rural communities. and civic engagement can produce a nation of leaders and thinkers able to work collectively and create a new era of enlightenment in American democracy. not clichés. governance. despite the temptations that ubiquitous computing will pose to more closely monitor citizens and restrict speech. 4.

Person-to-Person-toPerson: Harnessing the Political Power of Online Social Networks and User-Generated Content. . and The Politics-to-Go-Handbook: A Guide to Using Mobile Technology in Politics.Julie Barko Germany n  About the Author Julie Barko Germany serves as the director of the Institute for Politics. Julie is the principal author and editor of several publications. Democracy & the Internet at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. including Constituent Relationship Management: The New Little Black Book of Politics.

alking together is the fundamental political act. Our confusion about the role of conversation in democracy is manifested in the persistence of the question whether the Net is enhancing or dismantling the political conversations we think essential to democracy. or will  t ” . Rather than opening us up to a wider range of opinion. In this case (despite the overall premise of this anthology). is the Internet barricading the doors of belief? Will we use the fact that we have more control online to hang out exclusively with people like ourselves. And that may be no less important.” even though their discussions inevitably appear like nothing but a bunch of homogenous supporters rah-rah-ing each other. While the Internet is certainly providing new features and new forums for talk. it is not transforming the near-genetic basics of how human conversation works. the technology isn’t changing the nature of democracy so much as clarifying our understanding of democracy.eCHo CH A MBeRs = DeMoCR AC Y David Weinberger “ A democracy needs such “echo chambers.

As Yochai Benkler. we would still have the enormously difficult task of comparing the results to the state of openness in the real world. the author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. To what could we compare such statistics? To the percentage of space newspapers give over to views that oppose their editorial positions? Typically. but will it make it better. Do results vary based on topic? Over time? By demographic? Perhaps we form echo chambers around political candidates but not cultural topics. says. We don’t know what effect it will have once its first generation of users has grown up with it as a ubiquitous part of civic life. How often do people read the columnists they disagree with? How much time in the day do you spend talking rationally and calmly about matters of state with people . are we cursing insensibly at them or engaging in a rational back-and-forth? Third. Second.David Weinberger n  we use the frictionlessness of web connectivity to engage with people from different walks of life? Will the Internet become an enhanced public forum or a set of “echo chambers?” We’ve been unable to resolve these questions for three reasons. the empirical research that exists is extraordinarily hard to interpret. The law professor Cass Sunstein reports that only low double digit percentages of links point to opposing viewpoints. the question is not whether the Net will make our political discourse perfect. First. Around TV shows but not movies. that’s a few Op-Ed columns and some percentage of the half-page of Letters-to-the-Editor that papers run. even if we knew which vectors to follow. Around reality TV shows but not sitcoms? When we link to people with whom we disagree. and Benkler is right in responding that he doesn’t know whether that’s a cause for rejoicing or despair. the Net is too young and is not yet what it will be. Do we look at the patterns of links between websites? That doesn’t necessarily tell us how the information flows.

This is worse than an echo chamber: It is a room full of people egging each other on to the most extreme and vile opinions. There’s no denying the despair we all feel when turning over certain rocks on the Net. n eCHo CHA MBeRs = DeMoCR ACY with whom you disagree? How deep does the disagreement have to go before you are too angry to talk. Yet when we look out across the Net. in so doing. is not whether the Internet is closing us down or opening us up. Everyone also has to be able to talk about her beliefs in public so that those beliefs can be well informed and well reasoned. The question.. a conversation in which you’re open to having your ideas changed? Me neither. we see clusters of people saying the most godawful things and. but rather what assumptions make the persistence of online echo chambers—the same kinds of cliquish gatherings that have always existed on land—seem simultaneously so urgent and so hard to resolve. “You think you hate her? Here’s how much I hate her. we could look at hateful real-world groups and despair for our democracy. but we recognize that such groups are the evil we . But how much does it happen? How important are such echo chambers? What influence do they have on our democracy? And why have so many people focused on them as the example of the Net’s effect on democracy? After all. giving permission to others to say even godawfuller things. respectful conversation with a neo-Nazi or an out-of-the-closet racist. Hearing sentiments that are forbidden from the real world public sphere uttered in the perceived privacy of the Internet legitimates those sentiments. rather than seeing people engaged in deep conversation..” is not a helpful trope in a democracy. This urgency is undergirded by our belief that democracy is a conversational form of governance. or simply see no point in pursuing the discussion? Have you ever actually sat down for a long. It would be foolish to argue that this never happens. It’s not enough (we believe) that everyone gets to vote. therefore.

Trolls and hand-grenade throwers are ignored. not just in our thinking about democracy. Shouldn’t supporters of a candidate have a spot on the Web where they can be supporters together? Is a site an echo chamber if it fails to rigorously challenge its participants’ every view. the most prominent political sites—other than candidates’ sites—are not all the hatefests they’re often portrayed as by the media. Yet not all echo chambers are born equal. . they are not equivalent to marginalized extremist groups such as the KKK or the Stormfront White Nationalist Community. In part it’s because some of the echo chambers appear on highly popular sites. or moderated out. Thus. The echo chamber dynamic is facilitated by sites so large that the commenters are functionally unknown to one another. Likewise. at the conservative Redstate. (You can find plenty of examples of awful interchanges. Echo chambers loom large in our thinking about the Web. reasonable disagreements are common.com. flamed.) Our picture of the Net as a set of hateful echo chambers is encouraged. but not all of them are devoted to ever-tightening spirals of hatred.David Weinberger n  have to live with in order to get the benefits of our freedom to assemble and to speak. although it may be more rough and tumble than we’d imagined. because.com. participants encourage one another in their beliefs. Yes. and you’re likely to find just the sort of vigorous debate we want for a healthy democracy. That’s how the mainstream media works. they’re not looking for a genuine discussion. But the Web is characterized by a “long tail” of sites with relatively few readers. reasonable discussion is the norm. too. by the premise that the only sites that matter are those with hundreds of thousands of readers. but you can find plenty examples of everything on the Net. At the progressive site HuffingtonPost. by definition. including a supporter’s most basic commitment to his or her candidate? Further. Present a calm argument against the progressive viewpoint of an article.

Even when . The previous paragraph is unconvincing because we all agree that people generally don’t spend a lot of time reading that with which they disagree. there is little actual data about the readers of these sites. that’s my point. So. and our taking them at their worst. That dynamic is missing on the smaller sites that. Pretty lame. Perhaps data would show that in fact we’ve achieved the democratic ideal on the Web after all: People of all persuasions are reading sites of every persuasion. and we can analyze the political positions of people who write posts or comment on them. That doesn’t mean conversation is irrelevant or trivial. Conversation finds an area of agreement and then explores the differences. while we can map the links going into and out of a site. our focus on echo chambers. Nevertheless. even though the writers and linkers are fairly homogeneous. n eCHo CHA MBeRs = DeMoCR ACY and the way to get attention is to be more outrageous than the previous person. Pure reason is a better corrective than architect. our notion that they typify Net dialogue. in aggregate. Even taking that as an ideal requires a picture of rationality that is unrealistic.or offline conversation simply doesn’t work that way. For example. constitute the bulk of web traffic. Never will. on. In fact. unfettered rationality in which we suspend core beliefs in order to think again about what those beliefs ought to be. tell us something: Our image of what a democracy should sound like is misconceived. Conversations shape our existing ideas and occasionally generate new ideas that are in line with our existing beliefs. We know that. Perhaps the readers are diverse. Never did. We can probably count the times on one hand that conversation changes our minds about anything important. what good does conversation really do in a democracy? It helps us work out differences based upon shared ground. eh? Sounds like I’m grasping at straws to defend the Net? I agree. It hardly ever in our lives is an isolated exercise of pure.

If the Net does nothing but help us accept the primacy of standpoint over reason—while leaving reason some footholds in the wall of belief—it will have done our democracy the valuable service of making it more realistic.” even though their discussions inevitably appear like nothing but a bunch of homogenous supporters rah-rah-ing each other. About the Author David Weinberger is a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. but of the gap between our ideals of democracy and the mechanics of human social intercourse.David Weinberger n  conversation doesn’t change minds. their continued existence is evidence not only of the fractures in our society. A democracy needs such “echo chambers. it serves other social roles. The persistence of “echo chambers” on the Net is not a failure of democracy. . It also makes possible the rare conversion of beliefs. From the outside that may look like an echo chamber. and. Conversation among people who are in basic agreement builds relationships and foments political movement. He is a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of Everything Is Miscellaneous. community and political commitment. including binding people together so they can engage in effective political action building trust. when done in the public forum of the Net. He was an adviser on Net policy to the Dean and Edwards campaigns. We are never able to stand fully apart from our commitments in order to evaluate them in the cool light of rationality. but that is how people come to make common cause. Rather. it leaves traces by which opposing views can understand—and thus tolerate— one another better.

Tonight’s finale will determine the winner. The traffic has spiked as millions of people across the nation express their opinions. the contestants have been jockeying for position and it is finally down to two. When 8 i chooses not to vote. The program’s website is noticeably slower tonight than it was this afternoon. For 16 weeks.PA R t ICIPAtoR Y DeMoCR AC Y DeM A nDs PA R t ICIPAt Ion Michael Turk “ An electorate so easily swayed by simple arguments and disinclined to look for more information with easy access to voting on policy decisions or elections is more destructive than an apathetic electorate that t’s 8 o’clock on Wednesday night. but it has also been more immediate and arguably fairer than in the past. The competition has been grueling. ” . Trying to break into this business used to be a grueling ordeal characterized by endless hours spent honing your craft. Fingers are poised to speed dial all across America. Now an audition process vets contestants and determines who is most qualified for the top position. Millions of American homes are tuned in to the most popular TV show on the air.

followed by 24 hours of Internet voting. But would that be a good thing? When the Framers of our Constitution built our representative democracy. As practitioners of Internet campaigns march toward a Utopian vision of direct democracy and virtual town halls. 2007.Michael Turk n  all the votes are tallied.t11. Today it is due to a combination of too much information and not enough curiosity. Trading in the quadrennial display of ego and fundraising prowess in favor of a sixteen-week debate series weeding out one competitor at a time would certainly have its supporters. It found that Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 spend only 6 to 20 minutes a day reading. July 19. as a society. July 19. it was lack of access to education. 2007.htm 2 American Time Use Survey.bls.5 hours watching TV. we. the winner will be announced—and someone will be elected the next American president. with our top leaders chosen from afar by telephone calls and Internet voting.t01. True direct democracy would be at our fingertips. there must be a corresponding effort to educate Americans beyond our current ninthgrade civics class level. Let’s call it politainment.bls. our political process has been reduced to merely another offering in the crowded world of celebutainment. In 1776. Imagine the possibilities of having weekly political debates on proposed legislation. US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. but 2. they understood one thing: most people are not informed on issues.release/atus. In this scenario.gov/news.gov/news. Accessed 3/18/2008 at Statistics http://www. are not greatly concerned with studying the issues. US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a vision with a certain appeal.2 In an age of always-on communications and our insatiable need for entertainment. Without an informed electorate participating 1 American Time Use Survey. In June of 2007.release/atus. Accessed 3/18/2008 at Statistics http://www.htm . the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its American Time Use Survey.1 They spent less than half an hour a day on educational activities.

Accessed 3/21/08 at http://www. c) stay as long as needed or d) increase troop strength. the Gallup News Service reported that number had remained largely unchanged from ten years prior5: “Our basic numbers on public support for invading Iraq have stayed roughly the same for month after month … The level of sup3 Public Opposes Troop Surge by 61% to 36% Margin.html 5 Iraq.signonsandiego.gallup.0 n PA R t I C IPAt o R Y D e M o C R A C Y D e M A n D s PA R t I C IPAt I o n directly. Celebrity Opinions on Iraq. An electorate so easily swayed by simple arguments and disinclined to look for more information. the Associated Press reported that 59% of the American people favored the invasion of Iraq. however. with easy access to voting on policy decisions or elections. Religion and Politics.gallup.com/poll/7927/Iraq-BushApproval-Celebrity-Opinions-Iraq-Economy-Religion. the surge option was described. our politics of the future will never live up to their promise. on February 27.com/news/world/ iraq/20030227-2009-iraq-poll. and 36% supported it. Gallup News Service. January 9.aspx . Gallup questioned Americans on their attitudes toward Iraq. Only 12% favored an increase in troop strength. 2007. Gallup News Service. almost a quarter of respondents shifted position based on variations in descriptions of policy ideas. As another example. asked of the same people. Applying that sort of variation to instant voting on policy decisions or elections would subject the American political system to swings in opinion more extreme than even our current partisan structure. One week later. Accessed 3/21/08 at http://www. February 27. Under a “four alternatives” question.aspx 4 Poll suggests public support for invasion of Iraq would drop if Saddam destroys missiles.4 War detractors would argue this was due to the Administration’s “misleading” of the American people. 2003. Bush Approval. 2003. January 9. In the same survey.3 Within the same survey.com/poll/26080/Public-Opposes-Troop-Surge-61-36-Margin. b) set a timeline for withdrawal. Associated Press. is more destructive than an apathetic electorate that chooses not to vote. respondents were asked if the US should a) withdraw immediately. In January 2007. Accessed 3/30/08 at http://www. 2007. The Economy.

far fewer Americans now 6 The Internet and Campaign 2004. Compared with the 2000 campaign. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. military action against Iraq to bring about a change in that country’s leadership. Accessed 4/3/2008 at http://www. it is also opening doors to new educational opportunities. March 6. “[J]ust voted in a run-off election that I only became aware of when the ballot showed up in my mailbox.Michael Turk n  port has changed a little here and there.pewInternet. As a final example. A Pew Internet and American Life Project study following the 2004 election found dramatic increases in the use of the Web to research candidates and issues—with more than 75 million Americans using the Web for information and news about politics.” The narrative on Iraq that was cemented following the 1991 invasion of Kuwait held sway over the electorate for more than a decade—creating an environment where making a case to go to war against them was relatively easy. Fortunately. 2005. But its implementation must be in tandem with a more informed electorate. debate and election. we are consistently finding that between 55% to 60% of Americans favor U. almost double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%).” The sender is politically engaged and active. Yet the message demonstrates the difficulty of staying informed of every political discussion. That’s not far from what we found 10 years ago. but when all is said and done.pdf . the following text message from Twitter was received as this was being written. We must challenge ourselves to create a renewed personal attention to matters of public concern. while the Internet is reshaping the way we participate in campaigns and interact with our government.org/pdfs/PIP_2004_Campaign. More informed and rigorous public debate was not possible within the existing paradigm of politainment.6 Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the presidential campaign from the Internet. None of this is to say that direct democracy is not a desirable goal.S.

Turk served as the eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee. The power of social networks to bring people together.org/pdfs/Pew_MediaSources_jan08. Prior to his position at the Committee. the potential for a new era of citizen involvement exists. where he is working to build a robust grassroots activist base for the cable industry. Turk was the eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney ‘04.7 With more Americans turning to the Internet for information. 7 Social Networking and Online Videos Take Off: Internet’s Broader Role in Campaign 2008. Before joining NCTA. together with a diverse variety of opinion to interpret and frame that information. the concept of direct democracy may become a reality. n PA R t I C IPAt o R Y D e M o C R A C Y D e M A n D s PA R t I C IPAt I o n say they regularly learn about the campaign from local TV news (down eight points). 2008. nightly network news (down 13 points) and daily newspapers (down nine points). January 11. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. paired with the Internet. If the Internet is able to bring “We the People” back to our political process. can create a modern political state that invites civic participation.pdf . The wealth of information available. creates a rich and fertile learning environment. About the Author Michael Turk is Vice President of Industry Grassroots for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Accessed 4/3/2008 at http://pewInternet.

It’s a useful exercise because. and in some instances.W InnInG t He F U t URe In t He PeRson A L DeMoCR AC Y AGe Newt Gingrich “ Governments today still metaphorically operate with the quill pen. do so almost literally. The challenge is to replace the Founder’s “quill pen with a mouse” and to imagine a government for the Information Age. governments today still metaphorically operate with the quill pen. checklists. Take for instance the recent admission by the Department of Commerce that after spending $1. and in some instances. do so almost literally. incentivize productivity and innovation with rewards and encourages risk-taking ). in fact. regulations.3 billion they are going to drop the effort  t ” . he challenge posed by the editors of this anthology relates directly to the focus of much of my efforts over the past several years: How to migrate government from what I call “the world that fails” (one of paper-based bureaucracies of process. self-preservation and punishment) to “the world that works” (where entrepreneurs rapidly create adaptable new technologies.

Our vision for the Solutions Lab is to tap into the vast collective creativity of the American people to provide innovative solutions to the challenges facing America. we see the Solutions Lab as a valuable resource for elected officials. Clearly. solutions government bureaucrats cannot deliver. this pattern is unsustainable if America is to continue to be the leading power on the planet in the 21st century. First. we see products and services with increasing quality. our system has to harness the power of collective intelligence. Yet. indeed. Instead. greater inconvenience and spiraling costs. it is the beginning of a plan of action. more choices. In nearly every economic sector. best described in James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of the Crowds. and decreased cost. greater convenience. Furthermore. having already doubled since 1990. at all levels. who will not only have the ability to acquire ideas. we see precisely the opposite: lower quality. This sort of cost explosion without any improvement in capacity and capability (the antithesis of Moore’s Law) is a systemic challenge that permeates all of our government bureaucracies. they plan to revert to paper-and-pencil and hire over 600. fewer choices.000 temporary workers at a cost of approximately $13-15 billion ($37 per person counted). n W In nIn G t H e F U t U R e In t H e P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y A Ge to develop hand-held computers for canvassers in the 2010 census. At American Solutions we have developed a “Solutions Lab”—an Internet-based. in nearly every part of government. This means that by 2010 the cost of the census will have almost doubled since 2000. So. grassroots exchange and collaboration platform that allows people to share ideas and then to work together to improve them in a team-building environment using wiki technology. but also to gain instant . I want to suggest three principles that should guide us in using the innovations of the Internet Age to migrate government from the world that fails to the world that works. imagining how we would “reboot government” for the Information Age is not just an exercise in speculative fiction.

we set up the Thomas system to publish all legislation online. Campaign finance. but more importantly it can surface government systems that are working so they can be emulated nationwide. . become less and less acceptable. Because it is in the government’s nature to encroach on freedom and because it has the ability to coerce.New t Gingrich n  feedback on their ideas outside of the scope of the 24/7 news cycle. in a totally private company. Second. for our government to truly harness the wisdom of the crowds. We named the new system of transparency after Thomas Jefferson because we knew this innovation was one which the author of the Declaration of Independence would approve. the rise of earmarks and secret holds on nominations are just a few examples. Before the Information Age. when I was sworn in as Speaker of the House. and will. it would have been nearly impossible to track down who introduced which earmark. who was funding which candidate and who was holding up the executive branch from filling its positions. though we proved with the Thomas system that it is possible for the public to have access to all of this information. As Peter Drucker warned thirty years ago in The Age of Discontinuities. Obviously this project will allow citizens to voice frustrations with government services. Yet today it is just as difficult. government is different from the private sector.” which will bring the groundbreaking system of user ratings and feedback that made eBay so successful to citizens and their government agencies. it must be as transparent as possible. We are also launching “Rate Your Government. The fact that they don’t should. In 1995. higher standards of transparency and accountability are called for in government than in the private sector. Congress has taken some decisive steps backward from this commitment to transparency and accountability. The public really does have a right to know about actions that. In recent years. would be legitimately shielded from outside scrutiny.

 n W In nIn G t H e F U t U R e In t H e P e R s o n A L D e M o C R A C Y A Ge Moreover. a tall clerk’s desk. . and insisting on a commitment from our elected officials to continually learn from the world that works. To do so. Imagine walking into a government office today and seeing a gaslight. Today. at American Solutions. At American Solutions. maximizing this opportunity for Americans by committing to as transparent a government as possible. in an age of such an explosion of new science and technology. Sadly. Third. we will achieve a more modern government that delivers more choices of greater quality at greater convenience at lower cost. While we can’t be sure of what the Founders would have thought of our 21st-century democracy. Internetbased effort to identify all 513. a bottle of ink for dipping the pen. this has to change. minus the outward evidence of obsolescence. we are launching a new project called “513Connect. as well as from leading innovators and entrepreneurs of the private sector. that is the reality of today’s government. Solutions Island will feature regular learning opportunities for elected officials to learn from each other.000 elected officials into a common learning environment.” 513Connect will be a collaborative.000 elected officials currently serving in the United States so that citizens can easily engage elected leaders. there needs to be a commitment on the part of elected officials to learn continually. we should harness existing technologies to further strengthen our democracy and ensure that it will endure. To fully realize the Founders’ vision of a republic that respects the creator-endowed rights of all its citizens. and a stool. we want to network all 513. a quill pen.” a private. we are developing “Solutions Island. 3D Internet metaverse for elected officials to share ideas and best practices. we know that their vision for a democratic republic has survived. The very image of the office would communicate how out-of-date the office was. By focusing on using information technology to harness the collective intelligence of the American people to solve problems.

Gingrich was known as the chief architect of the Republican Contract with America and a key player in the Republican Party’s regaining control of Congress after 40 years. americansolutions.com). House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999 and was a member of Congress for 20 years. . General Chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future (www.New t Gingrich n  About the Author Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the U. During his tenure. an Atlanta-based communications and management-consulting firm. and a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.S. Gingrich is the CEO of The Gingrich Group. DC. representing the state of Georgia.

sustainable. Processors. Domains of action that require the acquisition of information. as well as audio and video sensors. ” . and culture is widely distributed in the population. its production into knowledge structures 8 t “ Large-scale collaboration. and effective. storage. are now in the hands of everyone with a computer or mobile phone. knowledge. among widely-dispersed populations. communications capacity. which could make an appreciable difference in the basic architecture of participation in contemporary democracies.PA R t ICIPAt Ion As sUs tA In A BL e CooPeR At Ion In PURsUI t oF PUBL IC GoA L s Yochai Benkler he networked information economy changes a set of physical facts and enables a cultural trend. This means that the practical limitations on large-scale collaboration among geographically and socially dispersed people have been dramatically reduced. The physical capital necessary for effective production and communication of information. its organization and analysis. is manageable.

and the capacity to tell stories about how things are and how they might become no longer depend on access to significant material capital resources. power. with relatively moderate and manageable levels of effort. and authority that typified industrial society. sustainable. governmental or otherwise. is manageable. come together to act effectively on problems that they could not tackle in the past. people can. These technical and social facts have given rise to a cultural trend of greater engagement in individual and collective social action aimed to achieve results in the world without going through the traditional structures of effective action. First. browses websites. and in many instances already is being. Individuals can act socially in ways that traditionally had local effects with little economic or political salience. The mass-mediated public sphere used to concentrate the production of stories about who we are. to harnessing peer production to define problems and solutions for public action. This is how we got YouTube. This is how we got Wikipedia. to organize them. This is how we got free or open-source software. because it is what runs major portions of these services. This is a new and important realization. Large-scale collaboration. MySpace and Facebook. applied to problems of democratic governance: from the construction of the public sphere. people can and do work cooperatively together. It can be.Yochai Benkler n  and structures of meaning. which practically anyone who uses e-mail. Two critical points emerge out of the experience of the networked information economy. needing neither markets nor hierarchies. and effective. through the harnessing of cooperative models for implementing government oversight on an ongoing basis. writes blogs or edits wikis uses without even knowing it. The networked public sphere. Second. what . among widely-dispersed populations. but now can have significant effects in both social and economic-political domains.

A dozen or more years of experience with the networked public sphere has taught us a lot about how it can operate.” The networked public sphere is comprised of e-mails and e-mail lists. we have begun to see organizations like the Sunlight Foundation provide better tools for collaborative production of the watchdog function. A collaboration initiated by Porkbusters. The most visible successes of the networked public sphere have been in the domain of playing watchdog. Recently. like the Burma campaign on Facebook. But neither is it the trackless cacophony of antagonistic echo chambers that others predicted. Instead. mobilized readers to investigate the identity of a senator who secretly blocked legislation that required more transparency in government spending. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo uncovered the U. we were no more than “eyeballs. the CBS/Dan Rather report on George Bush’s military record. we have seen a public sphere where millions. to vast collaboration platforms like DailyKos with thousands of contributors. The public at large was reduced to passivity in this model of production. This foundation funds projects that take govern- . but a large and significant change from where we were a mere decade ago. Attorney purge that resulted in Alberto Gonzales’s resignation. and ultimately encompassing blogs on both sides of the American political blogosphere. the republic of yeoman authors that some hoped it would be. an investigation which successfully identified the culprit and forced removal of the block. Not everyone. It is not. can participate in setting the agenda. or flash campaigns that re-purpose other platforms. More recently. Older stories from the past half decade are well known: the critique of Diebold voting machines.S. blogs ranging from individual thoughts to professional and semi-professional new voices like Instapundit or Talking Points Memo. it turns out.0 n PARtICIPAtIon As sUstAInABLe CooPeRAtIon In PURsUIt oF PUBLIC GoALs challenges face us. and how we might overcome them. filtering what is important. rather than hundreds or thousands. and telling our common stories. the debates that led to Trent Lott’s resignation.

Both the rise of networked debate and the rise of a peer-produced watchdog function characterize a vastly different role and level of mobilization for citizens than was typical as recently as a decade ago. as we never could before. and will likely continue to see. Some problems cannot be solved systematically. People living their day-today lives encounter a multitude of obstacles and overcome them using diverse solutions. to a sense that what we see. And this attitudinal change is the linchpin to the possibility of a change in practice. but require attention and effort unavailable to local governments. Developing systems that allow people to report problems. filtering. The next phase in the integration of large-scale cooperation into democracy will come when we begin to use platforms for collecting. it is now no more than one or two. As we walk around with video cameras in our pockets (our mobile phones). Instead of six degrees of separation. New forms of engaged collaboration. On the free-software model. Taking this approach to the national level. we are already seeing. and all bugs can be fixed in that environment if enough people look at the problem. vet them. we can capture images and sounds and expect to be seen and heard. care about. offer solutions. a shift in attitude—from passive acceptance of forces greater than ourselves. compare solutions across municipalities.Yochai Benkler n  ment data and collate and render it in platforms that allow citizens to collaborate on investigating and identifying problems about which they particularly care. and refining proposals for action and active contributions. As these capabilities increase. and say could become the subject of a broader community of concern and action. The social distance between any citizen and someone who can speak and be heard by a substantial community has shrunk. and propose action could overcome the limited resources at the local level. . everyone is a beta tester of their own physical environment. Some can. It is simplest to imagine this occurring at the level of local government.

the basic principle is. from passive couch potato to active . (Please see Beth Simone Noveck’s essay beginning on page 192 to learn more about the Peer-to-Patent system. including the provision of important public goods. strategic gaming. active social cooperation on a wide range of activities. math. While the implementation may be far from simple. or commented or tagged a post increases. And that is what we must do in designing systems for citizen participation in the ongoing process of managing our collective lives. And yet these were once objections to the plausibility of Wikipedia or free software. The widespread distribution of physical capital necessary to produce our information environment has triggered a set of new cultural practices oriented around effective. such as in the area of wireless communications regulation.) There is no reason the Federal Communications Commission could not implement a similar platform for its decisions. n PARtICIPAtIon As sUstAInABLe CooPeRAtIon In PURsUIt oF PUBLIC GoALs there is no reason that federal agencies cannot implement similar systems. but is growing rapidly as the number of people who have edited a Wikipedia article. Implementing such systems is complicated. This cultural shift in self-perception. or to connect schools to volunteers to help with reading. or why states and the federal government cannot create effective platforms for teachers to participate in the development of teaching materials. which in turn advises the patent examiners on whether the patent is indeed novel and nonobvious. There are risks of cacophony. and history. and incompetence. We now have the Patent and Trademark Office experimenting with the Peer-to-Patent system. which gives patent applicants fast-track treatment if they submit their patent application to community peer review. We have found ways to avoid both malevolence and incompetence in large-scale collaborations. without re-introducing a hierarchy that disempowers most citizens. uploaded a video to YouTube. This new culture is not yet universal.

About the Author Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard. and acting together to further our common good. . He is the author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Yale Press 2006). Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School. It allows us to move from the minimal implementation of universal participation as the formal right of suffrage. sustainable efforts aimed toward identifying our differences and commonalities. Field ‘55 Professor of Law at Yale.Yochai Benkler n  participant in collaborative practices for making one’s own information universe. opens the opportunity for a more robust. sustainable level of involvement by citizens in the governance of their society. and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. to constructing platforms that will actually engage people in effective. he was Joseph M.

livelihoods. unaccountable representative democracy is going to get an overhaul. because the Internet empowers communication between people and information in powerful new ways the ideal of full participation may still be realized.BY tHe PeoPL e. it has suffered under conditions that our forefathers had hoped would never occur in the democratic system they devised. Instead of a government that would serve the people and empower them. F oR t He PeoPL e Andrew Rasiej “ Our corrupt system of distant. or future prospects. whether the representatives like it or not. Where our country’s founders idealistically thought all citizens would welcome and take advantage of the right to vote. they would be shocked to learn most voters view participation in civic life as abstract and irrelevant to their lives. and laziness coupled with corruption and deference to special interests to the point where people feel so disempowered that only half of eligible citizens even bother to vote. with institutional deafness. e ver since the creation of our imperfect union.  ” . more often than not our government has become a bureaucratic maze. Well.

they had little idea of how to exercise this right in an organized way. elected representatives learned how to use the system they were elected to run to largely keep themselves in power. Even though “citizens” were given a right to vote. such as land distribution. fight off challengers (think gerrymandering of districts). war. and disputes among the states. At the time.Andrew Rasiej n  Forgive this oversimplification. A society such as this would by definition hold elected officials accountable for their performance and throw them out of office if they failed to perform the people’s will. Let’s face it: “the people” had little experience and knowledge so they participated in this new democracy on the fly. the assumption regarding the preoccupations of citizens wasn’t so far off the mark. As time went on.” whereby representatives would be elected to do all the necessary worrying and business of governing. people with real problems learned that they couldn’t get their problems solved by voting in new people to replace the old. displaced and violent Indians. and pass laws that allowed them to preserve and consolidate their control over this bastardized form of democracy. They used their positions to enrich themselves and their friends. failed ones. So in keeping with this view. they designed a “representative” government “for and by the people. but as they saw it. Pretty soon. Not only was it true that most citizens were busy plowing fields in an effort to survive. They believed that by giving “the people” the right to vote and elect these representative leaders they were creating a democratic society. So they began to form organized . raising families. these same citizens had very little time to educate themselves regarding the processes of governing or the issues facing society and the country. our forefathers believed that “the people” were too busy plowing the fields. international trade. and settling the country in the “pursuit of happiness” to be burdened with the worries of running the state and protecting it from its enemies.

these various groups’ efforts created even more imbalance within the system. did you know that the Dade county election commission that suspended the vote counting during the Bush vs. As further proof. This doesn’t mean that we are all going to become one assembled mass in some new virtual Coliseum. one need look no further than Florida where Cubans have been making sure with great success that the embargo on their former homeland remains intact until their economic interests (mostly property they own in Miami) are not lost when the embargo is lifted and a great sucking sound is heard across the Caribbean as capitalism floods their former island. The ability to aggregate and share knowledge has become democratized and commonplace. creating a new economy of abundance and an exponential explosion in the amount of information available to the human race. n B Y t H e P e oP L e . and not-for-profits to force their representatives to listen to them. and the “wisdom of crowds” isn’t a fanciful notion but an opportunity for the “will of the people” to be put into effect either by surviving institutions and leaders or by the people acting in their place. thumbing up or down ideas and feeding losers to the lions. denounced their leaders’ enemies. Ultimately. As an example. Those with the time and money won out over the masses. These groups raised money for their elected officials. Rather. F o R t H e P e oP L e groups such as political parties. and their success has created many of the afflictions facing our democracy today. leaving Miami to play second fiddle to a rejuvenated Havana. it means that we’ll have new and expansive ways to share the best information about anything that’s . labor unions. over time. To wit: Organized minorities are more powerful than disorganized majorities. and attacked anyone who had opposing views until they got their way. in large part because of the size of their memberships. trade associations. Gore 2000 election was dominated by Cubans intent on restoring an anti-Castro Republican administration? Now the Internet is marching its way through society.

An early example is Politicopia. in other words our untapped surplus brainpower is sitting on the couch watching American Idol. he estimates that Americans spend 200 billion total hours a year passively watching TV and never engaging in a productive activity. Our corrupt system of distant. building better and better information systems which will solve problems and improve the world. So what happens to our forefathers’ idea of representative democracy in this brave new world? Do we really need representatives if we have morphed from panoply of organized minorities to one big organized majority? One need look no farther than Wikipedia. skills. For instance. he estimates that Wikipedia has leveraged about 100 million total human hours. and time. All that TV watching equals the time it would take to create 2000 Wikipedias. Every day there are new self-organizing groups producing and sharing their knowledge.com where citizens can participate in an open wiki that crafts legislation for the State of Utah. Indeed. The author Clay Shirky uses the phrase “cognitive surplus” to mean the free brain time the industrialized world has generated for people. unaccountable representative democracy is going to get an overhaul. Well. creating more transparency and illuminating the inner workings . whether the representatives like it or not.com to see examples of how collected organized knowledge can produce a resource that improves people’s lives that also continues to evolve as an ongoing human asset.com or Congresspedia.Andrew Rasiej n  important and involve citizen experts in deliberations and decision-making. Furthering his point. organizations like the Sunlight Foundation are publishing government information and data in easily searchable and open databases. Imagine if just one percent of that cognitive time was harnessed. humans could have an additional 20 resources equal to the value of Wikipedia. a small but discernible percentage of the population is deciding to shut off the television and take advantage of the Internet Age to embrace the read/write Web and participate.

an educational non-profit organization started in 1997 focused on providing technology support to public schools. F o R t H e P e oP L e of government in ways never imagined possible. or community board could ever hope. and how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign. Wait till the next generation of citizens—those for whom sharing information collectively is a natural pursuit—start worrying about why government doesn’t work for them. and conversations about everything happening around them faster than any government agency. they’ll just go do whatever needs to get done. . by the people. “government of the people. He is also the co-founder of techPresident. for the people. a Washington D. And this is just the beginning. themselves. city council. opinions.C. an annual conference and community website about the intersection of politics and technology.” About the Author Andrew Rasiej is the Founder of Personal Democracy Forum . Rasiej also maintains the position of senior technology adviser for the Sunlight Foundation. Abraham Lincoln was more prescient than he realized when he wrote in the Gettysburg Address. shall not perish from the earth. based organization that focuses on using technology to expose corruption in Congress and facilitates citizen engagement and oversight.8 n B Y t H e P e oP L e . They will not wait for government to act like our parents did and our forefathers hoped.in offer citizens the ability to contribute local neighborhood information often with real-time news. Other sites like outside. an award-winning group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the web. Rasiej is the founder of MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education).

true government openness was emerging to take its place. maybe it was inevitable. ooking back. in 2015. Bush.t He MeRCIF UL De At H oF t He F ReeDoM oF InF oRM At Ion AC t A nD t He BIR t H oF t RUe GoV eRnMen t t R A nsPA RenC Y: A sHoR t HIs toR Y Ellen Miller “ In its fourth decade FOIA faced off and lost to the secrecy obsessed administration of President George W. while FOIA was dying. (Brief historic and ironic aside: A young Republican congressman from Illinois named Donald Rumsfeld was a champion of government openness. And yet.  l ” . Perhaps the well-intentioned yet fatally compromised Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was doomed from the start. well before it died this year. the passage of a Freedom of Information law requiring government to provide information to citizens upon request was championed by newspaper editors and other journalists. and by a California congressman by the name of John Moss. In the 1950s and early 1960s.

executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.8 FOIA was meant to be “democracy’s X-ray. as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff. As early as 1991. 2008.9 FOIA had some victories. and the world learned of the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities after 9/11 —all as a result of FOIA. and took years to answer others. FOIA was doomed.html . The FOIA Advocate 10. Despite these and other high-profile successes. abuse and corruption.” Downloaded at Project Censored: The News That Did Not Make the News..htm. Less than 10 years later.) In 1966. wrote in 2007. government information was never easily or willingly released. http://www.gwu. with trepidation on the part of the press-wary Lyndon Johnson but great fanfare from others. FOIA was born. the Associated Press discovered that researchers at the National Institutes of Health were collecting royalties from drug companies for tests they conducted on unwitting patients. 10 http://www. downloaded on April 4. Jr. Rumsfeld convinced his boss to veto FOIA amendments meant to strengthen the law. fraud. and to reclassify already released material. allowing journalists and other citizens to ferret out waste. An executive order issued by the Reagan-Bush Administration in 1982 instructed the federal government to classify documents whenever in doubt. FOIA was being criticized as an oxymoron and was fading into obsolescence.org/static/1991/1991-story7. reported in 2007 that: 8 http://www.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB194/index. NASA was found to have covered up damning details of the 1986 Challenger disaster. historian David Garrow used FOIA to uncover records of the FBI’s surveillance of Martin Luther King. a publication of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.nfoic.0 n DeAtH oF tHe FReeDoM oF InFoRMAtIon ACt/BIRtH oF GoVeRnMent tRAnsPARenCY and signed on as a leading co-sponsor of Moss’ bill.org/advocate/advocate_090707.html 9 “FOIA IS AN OXYMORON.” as Anthony D. Federal agencies failed to answer most requests.projectcensored. Romero.

Ellen Miller n  • Two of every five FOIA requests filed in 2006 were not processed • The number of exemptions cited to support the withholding of information had increased 83% since 1998 • The number of FOIA denials increased 10% in 2006 • The cost of processing FOIA requests had gone up 40% since 1998. Bush “neutered” the provision by shifting the funding for the office from the National Archives to the Department of Justice.com/so_much_for_the_new_foia_laws . other efforts within the Congress and elsewhere were laying the groundwork for true government transparency. a 70% drop from the previous administration. While FOIA was dying. Bush signed the Open Government Act of 2007. even though agencies were processing 20% fewer requests • Most people were waiting much longer for FOIA information In its fourth decade FOIA faced off and lost to the secrecy obsessed administration of President George W. journalist and journalism school 11 http://www. Bush. However. In 2008. Vice President Dick Cheney even argued that he was not part of the executive branch. For instance. where it died. and thus was not covered by the act. hyper classification under the aegis of national security. and stonewalling to further secrecy. the first reform of FOIA in over a decade. Jeff Jarvis.org/ 12 http://www. The administration tightened the government’s grasp on information like a boa constrictor suffocating a rabbit.bushsecrecy.12 It included the significant provision of establishing a FOI ombudsman to provide independent oversight and settle disputes over FOIA requests. the 2007 study found that the Bush Administration’s Justice Department granted only 4% of the FOIA requests it received in 2006.11 Bush used executive privilege.sunlightfoundation. a blogger.

Personal Financial Dis13 http://www. The Coburn-Obama Act of 2006 was the first of a handful of laws passed over the next five years. Congress passed the Government Transparency Act requiring lobbyists to register and disclose all legislative contacts. a website that allows citizens to research federal government spending. “Why should we be asking for information about and from our government?” he wrote. stored. Congress began to see the potential of these new online tools. It forced the Senate to follow the House’s lead and make Personal Financial Disclosure reports available online. “The government should have to ask to keep things from us…Government information—every act of government on our behalf—should be free by default. and opened to search and analysis. all legislation and regulation discussed within 24 hours.davosconversation. This law established USAspending. and make public within 24 hours. n DeAtH oF tHe FReeDoM oF InFoRMAtIon ACt/BIRtH oF GoVeRnMent tRAnsPARenCY professor.”13 Digital technology and web-based tools allow business transactions to be digitally captured. campaign finance reports.” In 2009. It increased the filing frequency. Later that year. exposing the workings of Congress to the light of day. Congress passed the Government for All Act that became the gold standard for government transparency of personal and financial relationships. staff member. It also required Senators to file.gov. he argued. This era later became known as the “Government Transparency Revolution.gov/ . or executive branch employee.org/?p=3422 14 http://www. requiring monthly reports. The law required that all public reports be filed electronically and shared within 24 hours of their filing. This was not possible when the information was stored on paper in file cabinets. The Act also required lobbyists to disclose any relationship to a current member of Congress.usaspending. wrote that the act be turned inside-out.14 The success of the website led to the formation of the Transparency Caucus Advisory Committee in 2009 that pushed more reforms on Capitol Hill and into law.

About the Author Ellen Miller is the co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. She previously served as deputy director of Campaign for America’s Future. citizens were participating directly in the writing of legislation and regulations. The federal government stopped fearing transparency and embraced openness. . FOIA’s demise was necessary to allow transparency and information to flow freely. In 2010. “Leadership” PACs.Ellen Miller n  closure reports were amended to require disclosure of the affiliations of Members (and their spouses and their adult children) with political action committees. Congress passed the Information for Everyoe Act that ended the practice of secret legislation once and for all. These cascading reforms whetted the appetite of the public for open and transparent government. Ultimately. This included Congressional Research Service reports. and all other non-classified research and information available to members of Congress and their staff. The Information for Everyone Act opened up all congressional information to the public in free. Suddenly. and any 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations. Specifically. the act required that all non-emergency legislation be posted online. in its final form. She is the founder of two prominent Washingtonbased organizations in the field of money and politics—the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Campaign. Other mandated disclosures included the employment of immediate family members and their economic relationships with for profit and not-for-profit entities. easy-to-use online formats. Legislative Information System documents. The act also required disclosure of the purpose and identification of the beneficiaries of legislative earmarks 72 hours before a vote on them. at least 72 hours before a vote.

hold little relevance nowadays. . . They will tell you about their community’s fragmented efforts. Harwood “ . ” . The very groups that once connected us to one another. In most communities across the nation the right conditions and capacity necessary to support widespread change simply do not exist.t He VoID W e MUs t F IL L Richard C. its negative norms for public discourse. The void is great and I fear it is expanding. We are drifting away from one another with too few opportunities to pull us together. broadcast news and robust civic and religious institutions. the lack of trust they  i notion of what it means ‘to know’ a community. and when people feel more and more disconnected from one another and their leaders. Go to any community and people will talk about this lack of civic foundation.we must make a fundamental shift from simply finding new ways of aggregating information to generating true public knowledge rooted in a fundamentally different am writing this essay at a time when our society continues to fragment and re-configure itself. such as newspapers.

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have in leaders, and the dearth of catalytic organizations working for the common good, not just for their own good. Some believe that the Internet can be a panacea, enabling us to re-knit our communities. Many people with noble intentions have launched new and ever more sophisticated social networking sites, such as Facebook and Change.org. I believe these sites will emerge as new seedbeds of democracy, where people can forge new relationships and trust. But the Internet has also proven to be the perfect tool for enabling society’s relentless push to create consumers out of citizens, helping build a world where individuals are free agents, able to create their own communities, aggregate their own news, amplify their own voices—and go their own ways. How can public life and politics work if there is not an expressed intent to see and hear one another, especially those who are different from us? How can we create shared realities and discover ways to act together? Indeed, how will we collectively address the pressing issues of our times? I believe the Internet may yet be one of our best bets for rebuilding the civic foundation of our communities. It can enable us to build new “community knowledge hubs” that will help re-engage people and allow them to forge pathways into public life. But to seize this opportunity will require that we embed in our sites and spaces an intentional and decidedly public orientation. First, our efforts must focus on creating “public knowledge.” When people talk about new online community hubs, they often start by reciting exhaustive lists of information they want to gather and post. The result sounds like a description of your junk drawer, a stuffed catchall for everything and representing essentially nothing. In still other areas we see single-issue groups serve up highly specific, expert-driven information on particular issues, and countless advocacy groups whose sole purpose is to advance their own cause and to



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rally supporters and donors. Further, while Facebook and other social networks connect us to friends and colleagues, the content usually revolves around the personal, and still encourages us to see and hear from only those we choose. Replicating or aggregating these ideas, tools, or approaches alone will not produce new and useful knowledge for communities. The problem has never been a shortage of information online. Instead, we must make a fundamental shift from simply finding new ways of aggregating information to generating true public knowledge rooted in a fundamentally different notion of what it means “to know” a community. Based on over 20 years of research, The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation created a framework called the “7 Public Knowledge Keys” to encompass seven factors that, when taken together, help people see a broader and deeper picture of their communities and the people who live there. These knowledge keys include: • Issues of Concern—the issues, tensions and values people are wrestling with • Aspirations—the aspirations people hold for their community and future • Sense of Place—including its history and evolution • Sources—the sources of knowledge and engagement people trust most • People—the things people hold valuable to themselves and the community, and the language and norms that shape their lives and interactions • Civic Places—the places where people get together and engage (offline and online) • Stereotypes—the stereotypes or preconceived notions one must watch out for Of course, wikis hold much promise for generating content, even knowledge. But to generate public knowledge is something else, requir-

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ing us to actively engage people from across a community, because that is the only way to bring the “7 Public Knowledge Keys” alive. What’s more, such engagement must be an ongoing effort, since communities, issues, and people will forever change. The very process required to create this knowledge breaks us out of the relentless segmentation that drives so much of society. The essence of public knowledge is its currency and credibility. Second, in many communities, scores of good groups do good work in small niches; but very few groups actually span boundaries. Online hubs must intentionally span these boundaries. We desperately need groups that bring people together across dividing lines, incubate new ideas, and spin them off. We need a mirror held up to our efforts so we can see and hear one another and our shared realities. This boundary spanning function sits at the heart of my notion of community knowledge hubs. Without these boundary spanners, the void in communities will grow and our connections will fray even further. Some may argue that many online sites already span boundaries with blogrolls, RSS feeds, recommendation filters, rating tools, and so on. Such functions make the web what it is—robust, vibrant, alive, teeming with activity. And yet I believe that community knowledge hubs must serve a different purpose. They must turn from simply aggregating, recommending, and sharing content, and focus on the relationships between and among different facets and sources of public knowledge. By spanning traditional boundaries, people can see and make connections on issues and ideas that are often intentionally kept separate. On an issue like public schools, we find many groups advocating for their own “solution” based on their specific frame of the problem (charter schools, parental involvement, teacher performance and pay), when individuals in their daily lives actually experience the issue in a way that connects and cuts across these artificial boundaries. We must swiftly move away from hyper-segmentation, which,

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while valuable in connecting and accelerating like-mindedness, creates needless and harmful divisions in public life. Bringing disparate pieces of public knowledge together gives people the chance to see and understand the rich diversity within public life and politics. And it is from this understanding that people gain a sense of their own capacity to step forward and engage. Third, it is important to understand how change occurs in communities. In the 1990s, when I worked with newspapers to help them better connect with their communities it was clear that they saw their role as the destination site for all things community. But people in communities told us they viewed newspapers as only one of many sources for learning about the community and forming their own judgments about key concerns and issues. What newspapers often missed was that people were piecing together their lives over time, and that community awareness and change emanated from a host of factors, of which newspapers were only one component. What they lacked was a sense of humility about their place in the community and how they could best fulfill their role. It is essential that those creating community knowledge hubs avoid this mistake. At a recent meeting with a community foundation and thought leaders on these issues, I was struck by the extent to which, like newspapers, they believed that change was to begin and end with them. Creating a community knowledge hub, they assumed, meant they had full responsibility for driving out all change associated with it. When they talked about pursuing community knowledge hubs, they often envisioned some single, large civic effort that they would identify, direct, own and manage! Faced with such a daunting prospect, many of the leaders were fearful of undertaking any such effort. Most change in communities occurs through small pockets of activity that emerge and take root over time. These pockets result from

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individuals, small groups, or an organization seeing an opportunity for change. Seldom are such pockets orchestrated through a top-down strategic plan; instead, they happen when people and groups in communities start to engage and interact, and when they create a sense of what I call authentic hope. In this way, community knowledge hubs can play a crucial catalytic role—helping to foster the conditions for people to tap their own potential to join together to forge a common future. The Internet holds enormous potential to help rebuild the civic foundation of communities. My hope is that people will band together and build these new community knowledge hubs, enabling them to help re-knit their communities. It is a vitally important task. But these community knowledge hubs will only spark the change we need if they have a decidedly public orientation that says that we must be able to see and hear one another. This is the void we must fill.

About the Author
Richard C. Harwood is founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a non-profit catalytic organization dedicated to helping people imagine and act for the public good. For nearly two decades, Harwood has led the charge to redeem hope in our politics and public life, discovering how to create change in the face of negative conditions.

the creation of virtual public spheres where citizens debate the 0 i a Utopian myth of days gone by. place of assembly. listserves and social networking sites allow for many-to-many communication. is a worldwide printing press. Previous technologies allowed users only to communicate oneto-one (telephones) or few-to-many (broadcast and print media). and now every pocket. citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real political influence. or recede as t has taken over 10 years of talk about “new media” for a critical mass to understand that every computer desktop. self-organized. be successfully contained by those whose power they threaten.sM A R t MoBBInG DeMoCR AC Y Howard Rheingold “ In the next few years. broadcasting station. ” . and organizing tool—and to learn how to use that infrastructure to affect change. This provides opportunities and problems for political activists in three key areas: the gathering and disseminating of alternative and more democratic news. Mobile and deskbound media such as blogs. peer-to-peer.

disinformation. however. such as . Misinformation. Today. and the organizing of collective political action. South Korea’s influential OhMyNews and MoveOn.” Each of these sites offers up-to-the-minute news alerts.Howard Rheingold n  issues that concern democratic societies. But political activists and those who sponsor progressive projects also have a role: For “we journalism” to acquire long-term credibility and lasting impact. incredulity and magical thinking are problems on the supply side of these new reporting modes. And reputation systems. we must fund. The New News Blogs and moblogs. org’s Misleader. staff and promote media literacy—teaching users to create and consume this new journalism. threaten to undermine “we journalism” before its impact is fully realized. Aggregators of blog postings—which rank blog listings by popularity. a small number of broadband Internet providers. provided by a combination of citizenreporters and trained staff. filters and syndication services also could develop into useful tools for assessing the veracity of information sites. similar to Google’s page rank technology—already serve as a filter for this flood of amateur journalism. Internal and external forces. While the owners and administrators of such sites range widely—from passionate individuals to collectives to upstart non-profits—these blogs are markedly more democratic than their corporate-run. Activists also have a role in turning back the corporate attacks that seek to privatize the Internet by regulating content and limiting the ability of amateurs to produce cultural works that compete with those of media conglomerates. top-down brethren.org are signs of what San Jose Mercury-News columnist Dan Gillmor calls an emerging “we journalism. such as the international network of Independent Media Centers.

Indeed. because communication media under dispute are profoundly political tools. are pushing for regulations that would enable them to pick and choose the content that travels over their part of the network. for better and worse. Now. citizens are arguing with each other— . and over how they can organize and assemble for collective action. Internet-based media will exert more and more influence over what people know and believe. as companies work to extend copyright far beyond its original intent and establish digital rights schemes that make it difficult to produce or distribute digital content not authorized by the entertainment industry. perhaps because the literacy around this use of media has not had sufficient time to mature—the World Wide Web is just over 10 years old. and has been gaining uninitiated users each year. Online and many-to-many technologies can shift the locus of the public sphere from a small number of powerful media owners to entire populations. these examples substantiate the manipulation of public opinion via popular media that Habermas warned about. The Electronic Town Square Network TV news and talk radio are hardly examples of the reasoned debate that philosopher Jürgen Habermas had in mind when he described the public sphere as central to the life of a democracy. the value of Internet discourse in this effort has not been proven. The consolidation of media ownership into the hands of a small number of individuals or cartels—who exchange political funding for legislative and regulatory favors—is being fought by organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In coming decades. But activists who have not been involved in technology or media issues need to join in this battle. However. The courts also are coming to bear in this fight. n s M A R t M o B BIn G D e M o C R A C Y Comcast and Viacom.

seeing their favored candidate losing in exit polls.org also has grown from a website protesting the Clinton impeachment to an effective lobbying movement that influences legislation and elections. Technologies and methodologies are developing very rapidly at this point.000 personal e-mails and uncounted SMS messages. Activists and journalists must take a leading role in determining the success of this outcome by wielding these technologies skillfully and purposively. listservs. Organizing Collective Action Only recently have political activists successfully used many-to-many media to mobilize large-scale collective action such as street demonstrations and protests. 2008 will be the watershed political event for the Internet that the Kennedy-Nixon debates were for television in 1960. Innovations are not confined to the United States.Howard Rheingold n  with varying degrees of civility—and sometimes marshaling evidence to buttress logic in countless blogs. The quality and level of know-how and the willingness of a significant portion of the population to adopt and self-enforce online etiquette will determine whether reasoned online debate will flourish or be drowned out by surlier forms of argument. If Obama wins. In South Korea. In a few years. all of which ultimately turned the tide in the election’s final hours in favor of . used a website to organize a get-out-the-vote campaign involving 800. and mobilized the self-organizing capabilities of supporters using social networking tools to propel this underdog to front-runner status. MoveOn. In the United States. get-out-the-vote campaigns and legislative lobbying. the cyber-generation. as are the political moves that seek to neutralize them. electoral fundraising. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has built upon the success of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run. chat rooms and message boards.

In the Philippines. citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real political influence. The above examples are only the beginning. Media capabilities are multiplying. What we know now. And activists are only beginning to experiment with ways to multiply their ability to organize collective action. the number of people who use their mobile phones as Internet connections and text-messaging media is growing explosively. Smart Mobs). Activists should concentrate their efforts on technology and its capabilities for amplifying collective action. He is the founding editor of Hotwire. self-organized. be successfully contained by those whose power they threaten. will decide which of those scenarios unfolds. Influencing elections and legislation is the sine qua non of effectiveness. n s M A R t M o B BIn G D e M o C R A C Y President Roh. About the Author Howard Rheingold is a prolific author (Tools for Thought. . Note: This essay first appeared in In These Times in October 2003 and has been updated for inclusion in this anthology. a million citizens used SMS to organize street demonstrations that helped topple the Estrada regime. and has taught about participatory media and community at the University of California at Berkley and Stanford University. or recede as a Utopian myth of days gone by. and what we do soon. The Virtual Community. peer-to-peer. In the next few years.

and the cost of media has been driven down. but that website only influences the people who sought out information on the candidate. and the cost media has been driven down. and become beholden to them whether they like it or not. raising money to get re-elected. These ads will effectively push their way unasked into voters’ homes. Most of this money will be spent on TV ads. In the last decade we’ve had a true revolution in media. is a different result possible?  c ” . In particular. many new media are vastly less expensive to use than broadcast media. If the cost of media drives corruption. Every candidate has a website. They raise money mostly from large donors and special interests. This is the primary source of corruption in government.W e A nInG C A MPA IGns F RoM oL D MeDI A’s t e At Brad Templeton “ If the cost of media drives corruption. is a different result possible? ongressmen tell me that as soon as they are elected to office they immediately set to work on their first order of business.

and managed by election officials. A Secretary of State could run such a program with a tiny expenditure. just as we do street addresses. This release of information could be voluntary. Every candidate would get one free hit before voters can opt out. such as allowing each candidate one more shot two days before the election. super cheap. Also. Some candidates would send out a modest quantity to keep the voter’s ear. it is important to note . while another might say. The most important point here is that e-mail is super. “You get five e-mails. Use them wisely. We might also consider some opt-out variations.” Candidates could then send out an emailing only to voters who have set their criteria at a certain threshold. E-mail addresses would not be made public the way other categories of registration data are and voters would have the choice to opt in or out of political mailings. Some e-mail messages might be longer and wordier—it’s up to the candidates to see what works. and the voter. Others might be less sparing. but after that the candidates must carefully choose how much mail they send so as to not annoy voters. perhaps promoted as a voter’s civic duty. You might think of this option as political spam. Each e-mailing would also include appropriate opt-out links and instructions. It can be assumed that most of the e-mail messages would try to be pithy and to direct the voter to websites or web-videos for more information. Any registered candidate could request that election officials do an e-mailing to all the voters in their district. it’s worth doing.” one voter might say. That’s up to the candidate. If this option reduces the candidates’ dependence on expensive advertising even a little. Voters could even be given a range of e-mail options that would allow them to control how much they want from each candidate. “Show me all your ads. but it will be conducted with the consent of registered citizens. n W e A nIn G C A M PA I Gn s F R o M o L D M e DI A’ s t e At I propose that we collect e-mail addresses from people when they register to vote. Some might reserve their messages for the weeks preceding the election.

For example. every so often one of the TV ads could announce. that generally rely upon costly television advertising. the e-mails would correspondingly end up largely in the inboxes of the undecided voters. E-mail is certainly more “in your face” than a website. we could consider encouraging major websites to donate such space for use by political . “Yes. However. it doesn’t just have to be for partisan purposes.).” We could also draw voters into the use of new media by reminding them of different modes of learning about candidates and issues on the ballot.. Similar to the way that old broadcast media space was often reserved for public service announcements. “You see candidates saying many things about themselves and their opponents here on TV. I gave serious consideration to the booklets or websites of several candidates. It would not be unreasonable to assure some control over the content of the e-mails.g.Brad Templeton n  that as voters opt-out because they have made up their minds or don’t want to participate in an election. You owe it to yourself. e-mail efforts may need to be limited to the major races.” This means that they have pages they display for which there are not enough paid ads. and it is less intrusive than a robodialed phone call. be sure to visit the official election site and see all sides. If old media is going to continue to be used. most websites and search engines have a large amount of “spare inventory. Before you vote. You owe it to democracy. if for no other reason than to ensure that impostors don’t register as candidates simply to advertise used-car lots and the like. etc. And as there are so many elections at so many levels of government (e. county legislators and sheriffs. just the folks the candidates would love to reach. Rather.” This would not be binding as it would appear on a secret ballot but it would make you feel embarrassed if you weren’t able to check the box. say congressional and larger. there are more new media capacities with which to experiment. A checkbox on the ballot might say.

but it might also convince the electorate that the new method is much better than the corruption-driving system it replaces. inexpensive systems of communications like those outlined above might make people more aware of minority views. He is currently chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). This ad space is largely free to provide. www. the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. The future holds the promise of an array of new media we have yet to imagine. or through a campaign of civic duty. and its website. They want that revenue and will lobby hard to protect it.8 n W e A nIn G C A M PA I Gn s F R o M o L D M e DI A’ s t e At campaigns. in the current set-up. He also created and publishes rec.netfunny. most voters focus on just two or three candidates. . and involved with the Foresight Institute and BitTorrent. About the Author Brad Templeton founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com”). which would lose the previous windfalls from campaign advertising. the only cost would be to broadcast media. The nation’s TV broadcasters are addicted to the teat of political ad spending. they usually don’t see them at all. Perhaps we can recruit the websites to donate excess capacity before they too are lost to the addiction of campaign dollars.com. Open. we may be able to shape these media to encourage inexpensive. If we begin early. Some voters might even think that it is making them disproportionately aware of these views. as. In competitive elections. We could encourage these donations through tax deductions. open and broad political discourse without allowing them to become captive to and of political campaigns and candidates. the world’s longest running blog.funny. Inc.humor. Imagine if one out of 50 election season YouTube videos started with a randomly selected short political video ad? It might be annoying.

Here are a few examples of ways the Internet is broadening participation for traditionally marginalized groups.t He PoW eR oF InCL UsIon Marie Wilson f “ True political participation is only achieved when a person’s voice counts as much as his or her vote. or the last 10 years. ” Instant Runoff Voting Instant runoff voting on the Internet is one way that women and other outsider groups have a greater chance of winning elections. This would be  . but also to enhance and extend what they bring when they serve. their preferred candidates have a better chance of winning when a majority win is not attained for any one candidate. By allowing voters to cast their vote for a number of candidates in priority order. The White House Project has looked closely at how adding women to our nation’s leadership could transform our democracy. The Internet Age gives us a rich opportunity not only to bring more women into leadership positions across this country.

including women. This has the dual benefit of connecting more citizens to democracy and makes for a richer civil society by ensuring that bills are more like to be constitutionally sound.80 n t H e P o W e R o F In C L U s I o n particularly effective in local and county-wide races. The inclusiveness of the Internet offers the possibility of fostering a stronger. is engaging more people in the process of formulating legislation and testing to see that proposed bills and resolutions actually benefit those they are supposed to serve. I was told that an extraordinary amount of legislation had been passed by the legislature and put in place that actually contradicted the state constitution. the product would be more likely to improve. in the past. there is the urgent matter of ensuring that judges are able to weigh in on the constitutionality of bills—which the Internet age now allows for. For example. For example. Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Legislation One of the most important attributes women bring. if all voters in a district were given the opportunity. via the Internet. which are the typical entry points into politics for outsiders. to comment on proposed legislation. The Internet offers new ways of bringing that kind of inclusion about. but which. In a session the White House Project held at Ohio State University with several former and current judges. has been difficult to guarantee. despite its being passed precisely because it was purported to save state or district money. Legislation is often passed that actually ends up costing more money than it saves. The same could be said when it comes to economic initiatives. Transparency. as measured by research institutions such as American University and the Center for American Women and Politics. more equitable democracy that could benefit both women and men on many fronts. and increased engagement .

but know themselves not at all. elite group of men. and spirited political landscape. America’s political system may have been forged by a small. The Internet has proven to be an immense avenue for inspiring a more robust. “Multi multa sciunt et seipsos nesciunt. A lively online blogging debate will include the voices of more women (especially young women. who are high Internet users) and refine their thinking—as well as public policy—through their input. encouraging previous “outsiders” to lay claim to the political process. As the connections between technology and politics continue to unfold. True political participation is only achieved when a person’s voice counts as much as his or her vote.” (Many men know many things. bring women into the process. again. And both are greatly facilitated by the spread of technology. will be the key to change. women are finding their voice by blogging and commenting online about how our democracy functions. but the Internet offers an expansive and fresh opportunity to create new entry points and forums towards the creation of an entirely new type of politics.) . Public Debates Online via Blogging Holding public hearings and debates on important issues via a form of Internet blogging could also sharpen the debates on legislative proposals.Marie Wilson n 8 of a wide swath of citizens on these matters. it is important that women take the lead in the process of exploration. diverse. But increasingly. and. Women are known to be “outside the box” thinkers—so having their ideas at the forefront of political and legislative debate might bring the online community the quality of innovation that women bring to every other table at which they serve. Women are less likely to see themselves as experts on policy because they have too few examples of women serving as leaders in their state and local governments.

Wilson is founder and President of The White House Project. co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World (Viking 2004).8 n t H e P o W e R o F In C L U s I o n About the Author Marie C. .

“It is very expensive to call my family back home.” said Andy.” I asked for questions. In my first lesson I handed out printouts describing how to set up an account on a website called Blogger.” said Ivelisse. a man in his early 20s who would soon become the savviest of the group. “Maybe this is easier?” 8 t ” .com. you can write about social and political issues and connect to other bloggers. and Pakistan. I then launched into an idealistic rant that began: “Social technology is a new. most of whom were from the Dominican Republic.In t He BeGInnInG t HeRe W eRe W IK Is Joshua Levy “ While I was lecturing about communities and social issues. “Can this make it cheaper?” “I call my mother every day. You can form groups at the click of a mouse. wo years ago I showed up in an English as a Second Language class in the Bronx to teach the students. my students were worrying about how to pay for expensive calls to the Dominican Republic. a woman in her mid-40s. how to blog. Honduras. powerful way to organize and be involved in your community.

” While I had been indoctrinated in the marvels of a wiki world—Utopian ideas about technology-assisted self-organizing and activism—my students understood social technology on a much more personal level. Several of my students used the Spanish-language networking site MiGente. While some students accessed the Internet online at school or at a library. Because the students immediately searched for terms they knew—merengue being the first hot topic—they discovered that buried in the Web’s overwhelming morass of text. “They connect you to the world. and the world to you. like children and platanos. Honduras. “Hyperlinks are the bread and butter of writing online.com. my students were worrying about how to pay for expensive calls to the Dominican Republic. history. The tools for broader civic engagement were there. and immigration. and Pakistan. . not high-minded optimism. images. and instructed them to link to other bloggers who also wrote about these things. I explained hyperlinks.8 n In t H e B e GIn nIn G t H e R e W e R e W I K I s While I was lecturing about communities and social issues. They wanted results. but not necessarily the interest. food. Linking turned out to be an empowering act. and many of them were in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from their constant text messaging. We had wildly different notions of what constitutes “communications technology. and video were real people blogging every day about issues and topics they were also interested in.” I asked the students to write blog posts about particular issues like music. perhaps half the class had a desktop computer with Internet access at home. Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny After going through the process of setting up blogging accounts. They all e-mailed religiously (it was the cheapest way to stay in touch with their families). My students were not newcomers to new media.” I said. and others used MySpace and Flickr.

The Dream of Web-Induced Political Consciousness.” “You get to write about things that you find interesting. hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters protested rising anti-immigrant sentiment across the country. many students simply went through the motions. It was a profound moment for me. to gain political consciousness. We were experiencing. on a microcosmic level. asking for their response to the project. if any. They were discovering kindred spirits and linking to them. of them had been touched by the Web in the way I had been hoping. One day Andy complained that while he understood why it was important that we learn about the Web. On one of the last days of the semester I set up a camera outside the leafy campus and interviewed about half the students. These networked. After that class. My students suddenly found themselves in a position to comment on those events in the semi-public space of their blogs. to do something.Joshua Lev y n 8 That same spring.” “It’s fun to connect to other people using the Web. and in the process creating something new: an online community. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Most gave me bland responses like “It was a fun project. I walked away that day depressed about the ability of the web to help people outside of the elite world of the well-connected to self-organize.” etc. he didn’t see how this would make it any easier to keep in touch with his family. Others agreed with him. While I had been talking about the significance of connecting to new people all over the world. connective acts comprised a small-scale model of the actions and feelings that fueled the birth of the Web in the first place. I could see that this and other anxieties were getting in the way of the web-induced political consciousness I was trying so hard to impress upon my students. . I felt that very few. many of these students wanted to connect to specific people in specific places. the birth of the Web itself. beginning in March 2006.

As with other types of education. For me. He is Associate Editor of techPresident and Personal Democracy Forum. and his analysis and work at techPresident. the Washington Post. and activism. politics.com has been featured in the New York Times. About the Author Joshua Levy is a writer and web strategist whose work explores the intersections of technology. For most Americans. it won’t be adequate to use words like “revolution” or “people-powered democracy” until my students can join the conversation. AOL Politics. ABC News. among others. . the Web is becoming as typical and unremarkable as the analog phone. and XM Radio. Sky News. only part of the problem will be solved. With a few. If we really want to think of the Web as an engine of political change. It made me realize that even if we get more computers into our schools and extend Internet access to all citizens. much less log onto Facebook and create activist groups.8 n In t H e B e GIn nIn G t H e R e W e R e W I K I s Joining the Conversation The course was a very brief time to try to accomplish very big things. the CBC. there are structural barriers to making this happen. we must pair the goal of universal accessibility with education to ensure that citizens become web literate and that they learn about the intrinsic social possibilities of the Internet. Education isn’t free. NPR. Working single mothers have little time to feed their children. superhuman exceptions. young men working two jobs are often too tired to blog about community affairs or presidential politics. When we talk about how online participation is changing our politics—and it really is—we all too often forget about those who are being left behind. Travel is becoming increasingly expensive. the Huffington Post. Salon. We need to ensure that this becomes true for more and more people across income barriers so that political consciousness—that special dream of mine—will follow.

sAV InG A MeRIC A F RoM I t s 18 t H Cen t UR Y PoL I t IC A L sYs t eM Jan Frel and Nicco Mele “ The closest existing reform movements and campaigns that touch on this subject relate to campaign finance. when much of the cause has been the inertia of political decay. ” . The only issue at hand seems to be which individual is best suited for this task. totally rewritten. but none of these issues take on the entirety of the dangerously e want to share with you what we believe is the most pressing problem facing our country: the meltdown of our 18thcentury political system. 8 w outdated culture of our political system. Jefferson warned that this is what would happen unless the Constitution was updated. run-off voting and the like. It is also difficult to observe the best political writers blaming Bush’s White House for shredding the Constitution. as though the presidency is still fit to human scale. It is not easy to watch the American media culture (from progressive to hard right) being totally sold on the idea of one president for 300 million people. the electoral college.

And as the politics have stayed the same. In 2006. The inertia of this process is virtually unstoppable. to our dying republic. stripping rights and freedoms. often thousands of miles away from their 300 million constituents.88 n s AV In G A M e R I C A F R o M I t s 18 t H C e n t U R Y P o L I t I C A L s Y s t e M every few decades. at its inability to change energy and environmental policy. Chair of the Budget Committee. said: “It’s hard to understand what a trillion is. becoming more inept and more corrupt. Our political system forces 535 members of Congress and a president to navigate impossibly large issues. at the way the federal government was physically unable to respond to Hurricane Katrina. She continued: . everything else has raced ahead. or how to manage that kind of money in a democratic fashion. Looking around at the unfathomable numbers in the national debt and deficit. the only solution we see at this point is that the political system itself must be radically updated. I don’t know what it is.” He said that hours after shepherding a $2. mostly gloomy. Former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote an article hinting that “we’re at the end of something” in 2005. are wisps and backhanded references. and we are left with a primitive political system. Republican Senator Judd Gregg. But the writers and journalists of our era (across the ideological spectrum) are still completely sold on it. Otherwise we will watch the state continue to fold in on itself. Here and there. Who is to say that we have the right number of representatives? Or that they should physically live in Washington DC to pass laws? To us. It may not be fair to expect anyone to understand what a trillion dollars is. tucked away in transcripts and op-eds. But the Constitution remains virtually unmodified from its inception—we’ve added only a handful of amendments. Science and technology are changing society with increasing speed. the idea of a political savior in the guise of a presidential candidate or congressional majority sounds downright scary.8 trillion budget through the Senate.

This is especially crucial because it means that the federal instrument and state governments are not equipped to adequately deal with gigantic issues like the environment and energy reform. And that means that at some point. ‘The president is overwhelmed. We need a public discourse. It is the only way we will find a solution. The longer the state remains unchanged. in fact. becoming more distributed and vastly more democratic. This phenomenon is already in action at the state level: California has passed a series of emissions laws (which is laudable). In the past I have been impatient with the idea that it’s impossible now to be president. . and feeding on itself to survive. I have wondered if it hasn’t all gotten too big. We need to talk about our collapsing political system. I always thought that was an excuse of losers. too complicated. to support and encourage emerging democratic efforts across the country. in the four years after that catastrophe.’ The presidency is overwhelmed. It can be done. our political system dooms them. This is the real political crisis we face: a political system that is ineffectual. another institution in trouble. too . disconnected from the people. started by our leaders. But since 9/11. . The whole government is. . Americans are looking for political figures in Washington . It’s beyond. Even with the best people in office holding the best of ideals. the harder it becomes for it to enforce any laws other than those that protect itself. too many-fronted. I’d seen a successful presidency up close. .Jan Frel and Nicco Mele n 8 Let me focus for a minute on the presidency. impossible. well-meaning politicians start passing laws and regulations that are meaningless. too crucial. We need the thinkers and leaders of our time to come out and “fess up” that our political culture has become unmanageable—crazy. but the state is unable to enforce them in any meaningful way. that it is impossible to run the government of the United States successfully or even competently. The system needs to be updated.

of course. These reform efforts may even strengthen the fundamental architecture of our political system as they set the imaginative boundaries for what constitutes political reform. one of many rallies he has held with an audience that size. the electoral college. What makes it all the more embarrassing to go down this road is that the political class will expect a solution. The truth is. For a public figure of our day to embark on this path is to be regarded by the rest of the political class as at best a buffoon and at worst a threat. Looking around at the state of things. The closest existing reform movements and campaigns that touch on this subject relate to campaign finance. It is worth wondering why there is not much political argument out there that goes after the fundamental precepts of our political culture—such as the suggestion that 300 million people sharing one president is itself a big problem.” And the general explanation for the interest in the presidential race is that there is no sitting incumbent. what is going on right now is that a large portion of the politically active element in society is expressing itself through the presidential format. Instead. and a defective president. one would have guessed there would be a lot more demand for an examination of the fundamental mechanics of the system. but none of these issues take on the entirety of the dangerously outdated culture of our political system. that 10. runoff voting and the like.000 people are going to see Obama because seeing a presidential candidate speak for an hour is one of the few socially sanctioned ways to express your political concerns in this .0 n s AV In G A M e R I C A F R o M I t s 18 t H C e n t U R Y P o L I t I C A L s Y s t e M to affirm their beliefs about the dire state of our political culture—and to encourage them to re-imagine the Republic. when the only way to come up with a solution is to begin a national discussion. Ten thousand people go to a Barack Obama speech. The explanation available in the media for the huge attendance is that people are inspired by Obama’s appeal to “hope. an unpopular war.

About the Authors Jan Frel is a senior editor of AlterNet. We believe that it’s not too late to save the republic because we believe in the American mind.Jan Frel and Nicco Mele n  country (sending checks to candidates is another). Until something is done to challenge the political culture. A good way to start a challenge to the existing political culture is by having a series of conversations. Countless democratic efforts across the country would be emboldened when some of the voices in the national media and Washington confirm the discomfort with the state of the American political system. that take advantage of all of the technological and social advances of the last three centuries. Never mind that it is deeply inefficient to try to squeeze the issues facing 300 million citizens into the bodies of a handful of presidential candidates in a two-year discussion before one of them has any real power. They would communicate their perspective in their own ways to their audiences. He lives in California. Massachusetts with his wife and their dog and cat. Nicco Mele is a co-founder of EchoDitto and currently lives in Medford.org.000 people “knew” how to practice their politics. with the institutions and systems to match. It would give Americans a resolve to try a different kind of politics where they live. we will keep seeing citizens who want to change things using a tired vehicle. in their communities. like a presidential candidate. This is our political culture. or retreating with disaffection from the political process. We could have public figures serve as ambassadors for various political and social viewpoints. That is the way that these 10. We believe that the American people can craft and invent a new political culture. .

will. we make our lives more sig w ” . a solemn impulse that this is the right thing to do. Abstract ideas about democracy and the notion of civic engagement aren’t as interesting and sticky as we professors might like. or they go to a neighborhood meeting and listen.sM A L L “d” DeMoCR AC Y Susan Crawford “ We should not discount the power of minor. is why. Americans rise to the democratic occasion on their own. work on a campaign—why? Here. A significant life is one in which ideals are somehow linked to courage. When we act in accordance with democratic ideals of participation or representation. I think. We feel. arms folded. They serve proudly on a jury. and it points to what the Internet can facilitate. or action. without needing a how-to guide to democratic ideals. though. e Americans are just trying to get by. We’re a busy people. Every once in a while. visible. they wait patiently in line to vote. We wear a button. short-lived actions of Americans to make our lives more significant and to change democratic institutions. I think.

With the weather report (something everyone seems to be interested in) on a local page could come a small radar visualization. and if enough of us are interested in a particular person or issue we can exert change. and we feel this uprush of solemnity and citizenship. burden) of online communication is that it makes it possible to divide our attention into slender slices. writing about it. If you were interested. And then act in some effective way (such as sharing the information with others. That uprush will be . This is a modest goal. or showing up at the meeting). Voting in elections is important. Attention is the most valuable currency we have these days. We exist. with feedback showing how your action had been assessed/aggregated by others. with pulsing dots showing what matters were likely to have an effect on your neighborhood. we could be doing much more for ourselves. often. With a little experimentation. we have liberty. and it need not be the ceiling for participation. you could click through and do a short amount of reading—perhaps just Twitter-length—about what was about to happen. For example: localities could generate radar-screens of issues coming before the city council or the mayor. and the great benefit (and. This may be too simple. but it is not enough.Susan Craw ford n  nificant. to what our representatives or agency heads were about to do in an area of interest to us—and register our reaction to that proposed action—that would be useful. Easier communication with legislators or agency-actors could help facilitate that uprush of active citizenship. catch up on sports scores. between elections. If it were possible to pay attention every once in a while. and I would use the Internet to do it. We can read about politics. find a news story. Americans want to feel that our lives have been made more significant through participation in governance. but if I had the power to redesign our form of government I would make it far easier for ideals to be joined to action. and talk to friends on Facebook almost simultaneously.

short-lived actions of Americans to make our lives more significant and to change democratic institutions. is possible online. . and that is as it should be. 22. the change forced by these individual actions may be unpredictable and enormous. Identifying public advocacy opportunities. Last term (fall 2007). and starting on July 1. would help—again. a global Earth Day for the Internet that takes place each Sept. such as chances to testify. About the Author Susan Crawford is currently a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School. she was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School. visible. n sM A L L d DeMoCR ACY strengthened when we can see the aggregated response of our neighbors and the resulting government response. teaching Internet law and communications law. She is a member of the board of directors of ICANN and is the founder of OneWebDay. Indeed. 2008 she will join the faculty at Michigan. nonlinear. The opportunity to see results. We should do whatever we can to make it easier for Americans to choose to spend some of their precious attention on democratic matters without having to devote their lives to deliberation. and here is the idea of this one: We should not discount the power of minor. These very simple and relatively minor actions can change lives and our institutions of government in powerful. to know that others are joining with you. Each essay like this has just one idea. with feedback. The Internet makes these kinds of visible interventions possible. and surprising ways.

1788). and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. a string of presidential family dynasties—it seems hard to maintain that our officials are in fact “derived from the great body of the society” and not “a favored class” merely posing as representatives of the people. a Senate filled with multimillionaires. Unless politics is a tradition in your family.39 (Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles. or a favored class of it. exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers. not from an inconsiderable proportion. your odds of getting  t ” . he government of a republic. might aspire to the rank of republicans.PRoF essIon A L PoL I t ICI A ns Be WA Re ! Aaron Swartz “ By the power of exponents. must “be derived from the great body of the society. James Madison wrote in Federalist No. otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles. just five levels of councils.” Looking at our government today—a House of professional politicians. each consisting of only fifty people. is enough to cover over three hundred million people.

1787). like single-payer health care. national elections have been boiled down to simple binary choices. in reality. the opinions of “the great body of the society” have been edited out of the picture. Nor. “however large it may be. n P R o F e s s I o n A L P o L I t I C I A n s B e WA R e ! elected to federal office are slim. Aside from the occasional telephone poll. “the representatives must be raised to a certain number. Way back in Federalist No. they spend their time on horse-race coverage (who’s raised the most money? who’s polling well in Ohio?) and petty scandals (how much did that haircut cost? was someone somewhere offended by that remark?) The result after all this dumbing down? In 2004.” But similarly. So it’s not too surprising when political scientists find that voters’ decisions can be explained by such random factors as whether they like red or blue. “However small the republic may be. in order to guard against the cabals of a few. Madison put his finger on the reason. (The sun rises over a hill. Or maybe Jones. (A bear prowls through the woods. do we have an opportunity to choose policy positions: no major candidates support important proposals that most voters agree with. they must be limited to a certain number. or whether the current party has been in office for long or not. which advertising men and public relations teams reduce to pure emotions: Fear.) Vote Smith. 10 (The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued). Instead. Instead of substantive discussions about policy proposals and their effects.” The result is that the population grows while the number of rep- .) Hope. And unless you’re a white male lawyer. you rarely get to vote for someone like yourself in a national race.” he noted. voters who said they chose a presidential candidate based on the candidate’s agendas. ideas. whether the economy is good or bad. Nor does the major media elevate the level of debate. platforms. or goals comprised a whopping 10% of the electorate. in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude.

000 citizens (the size of the average baseball stadium). and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. ••• I agree with Madison that there is roughly a right size for a group of representatives “on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. by contrast. That’s a representative for around every 600 voters or 46. but it’s not unimaginably large.3% voter turnout back then). Instead. we have 435 representatives and 300 million citizens—one for roughly every 700. as by reducing it too much.Aaron Swar t z n  resentatives stays fixed. the Internet is.” But what Madison missed is that there is no similar limit on the number of such groups. an enormous collection of wires.000 citizens. you can’t have a real conversation with a TV audience. Which is exactly what the modern constituency has become: the TV audience following along at home. you render him unduly attached to these. The first Congress had a House of 65 members representing 40. Today. Yet nobody would ever think of it this way. To take a technological analogy. Instead of a group to represent.000 voters and three million citizens (they had a whopping 1. It’s a number more akin to a television audience (it’s about how many people tune in to watch Keith Olbermann each night). A baseball stadium may be a bit of an unruly mob. There isn’t a stadium in the world big enough to hold that many people. leaving each politician to represent more and more people. It is too big to convey a sense of what each individual is thinking. at bottom. Even if you wanted to. you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests. it’s a mob to be managed. we group the wires into chips and the . By enlarging too much the number of electors.

your representative reports back to the group. each area council nominates a representative to the city council. And people only deal with things at each level: when the computer breaks. we take the whole thing into the shop. we can’t identify which wire failed. each state council to the national council. Shalom discusses a number of further details—provisions for vot- . and so on. let us imagine a council of you and your 40 closest neighbors—perhaps the other people in your apartment building or on your block. of course. and each city council to the state council. to begin with. developed by the political scientist Stephen Shalom. One of the most compelling visions for rebooting democracy adopts this system of abstraction for politics. And you may vote to set policy for the area which the council covers. You get together every so often to discuss the issues that concern you and your neighborhood. and takes suggestions for issues to raise at the next area council meeting.8 n P R o F e s s I o n A L P o L I t I C I A n s B e WA R e ! chips into computers and the computers into networks and the networks into the Internet. But your council has another function: it selects one of its own to send as a representative to the next council up. would build a legislature out of a hierarchical series of nested councils. gets your recommendations on difficult questions. And. But—and this is the truly clever bit—at the area council the whole process repeats itself. He estimates the right size is 25 to 50 people. Agreeing with Madison. Just as each block council nominates a representative to the area council. just five levels of councils. So. each consisting of only fifty people. he says each council should be small enough that everyone can engage in face-to-face discussion but large enough that there is a diversity of opinion and the number of councils is minimized. Parpolity. is enough to cover over three hundred million people. By the power of exponents. There the process repeats itself: the representative from your block and its 40 closest neighbors meet every so often to discuss the political issues that concern the area.

But there is also something exciting and new about it. Under such a system.Aaron Swar t z n  ing. and delegation—but it’s the idea of nesting that’s key. citizens may begin to wonder why getting into politics is so much harder. each of whom is forced to account to their constituents in regular. Wikipedia lets everyone be an encyclopedia author. and YouTube lets anyone be a television producer. For many years. (It also shows us that many people with those connections aren’t particularly talented. Instead. Politicians in such a system could not be elected through empty appeals to mass emotions. they would have to sit down. recalls. The Internet has shown us that the pool of people with talent far outnumbers the few with the background. In the same way that blogs have given everyone a chance to be a publisher. politicians had a ready excuse: politics was a difficult job. In a world where kids can be television stars just by finding a video camera and an Internet connection. the vast majority of the population was woefully under- . ••• There is something rather old-fashioned about this notion of sitting down with one’s fellow citizens and rationally discussing the issues of the day. Parpolity would let everyone be a politician. which required carefully weighing and evaluating evidence and making difficult decisions. there are only four representatives who stand between you and the people setting national policy. small face-to-face meetings. connections. with a council of their peers and persuade them that they are best suited to represent their interests and positions. and wealth to get to a place in society where they can practice their talents professionally. faceto-face. Only a select few could be trusted to perform it.) The democratic power of the Net means you don’t need connections to succeed.

whose insistence that Iraq did not pose a threat and that an occupation would be long and brutal went ignored. And perhaps in the era of a cozy relationship between politicians and the press.net. except the great body of society. “No one could have ever predicted this. No one. but it’s only a matter of time before they turn to politics.” TV’s talking heads all insist. writer. After all. it also builds up the tools for replacing them. professional politicians beware! About the Author Aaron Swartz is a hacker. New online tools for interaction and collaboration have let people come together across space and time to build amazing things. these men and women of supposedly sober judgment voted overwhelmingly for disasters like the Iraq War. For the most part.00 n t H e e t HI C s o F oP e n n e s s qualified. this illusion could be sustained. As the Internet breaks down the last justifications for a professional class of politicians. . this excuse is becoming laughable. that is. a website that holds politicians accountable. and activist. His latest project is watchdog. And when they do. their efforts have so far been focused on education and entertainment. But as netroots activists and blogs push our national conversation ever closer to the real world.

0 g ” . Clift “ The typical e-government experience is like walking into a barren room with a small glass window. The question that this essay will ask and answer is not what can we do to redesign democracy for the Internet Age. we “democratize” national partisan punditry through blogs aimed at influencing mass media agendas. why have we decided to delete democracy from the most visited interface citizens have with “their” government? And what are we going to do about it? After almost two decades of “e-democracy.sIDe WA L Ks F oR DeMoCR AC Y onL Ine Steven L. newspaper racks.” we seem content with simply accelerating online what’s already wrong with politics. overnment websites don’t have sidewalks. Online news. public hearing rooms. a singular experience to the exclusion of other community members. rather. hallways or grand assemblies. We raise money online to support more political television ads. but. There are no public forums or meeting places in the heart of representative democracy online. and whip up outrage through e-advocacy campaigns that fall into the electronic trash cans of Congress.

You have no ability to speak with a person next to you much less address your fellow citizen browsers as a group. The typical e-government experience is like walking into a barren room with a small glass window. browsing the information that the government chooses to share. Representative democracy is based on geography. registering for services. blogs and other online social networks may appear public. democracy later” e-government projects. I’ve seen transformative episodes where the online medium is used to build stronger communities. a singular experience to the exclusion of other community members. I helped create the world’s first election information website. it is ironic that the best government websites are those that collect your taxes. I’ve been inspired by a small collection of “democracy builders” who are toiling on the edge of e-politics or dodging the grip of “services first. Democratic participation online is having the effect of disconnecting us from our physical place in the world. to our collective demise. just a oneway process of paying your taxes. I’ve given “e-democracy” speeches to governments (and others) interested in using the Internet to improve democracy and citizen participation across 27 countries. The generational challenge we face in designing democracy to survive (perhaps even thrive) online is to identify the incremental contributions . In 1994. on people connecting with one another locally to react to and influence government. around the world and in my hometown. And yet.0 n s I D e WA L K s F o R D e M o C R A C Y o n L In e campaigns. E-Democracy. but are ultimately privately controlled spaces where only the owner has real freedom. or leaving a private complaint that is never publicly aired. rarely does anything truly interactive happen online that enables citizens to jointly solve problems or to get directly involved in efforts to make their communities better. Through these experiences. forums. That said. while those that give you a say on how your taxes are spent are the worst or simply do not exist. As I’ve said for years.Org. There is no human face.

share experiences. In addition. Clif t n 0 the Internet can make when democratic intent is applied to it and then to make those tools.Steven L. any time” representative democracy. and engage people. Big Ideas for the Next Decade We know the Internet can connect people with ideas like no medium in history. The challenge is building a local “anywhere. Make The Internet a Democracy Network by Nature Because representative democracy is based on geography. perhaps paradoxically. make that. We need places for civility and decorum online as all of our public life. content bounded by a state or region or identified as global will be essential. As neighbors gravitate to talk about local issues online. if I had a million dollars. Content. here is what I would do: 1. practices. so . I am an optimist at heart and every day I try to do something positive for democracy online. New content must be easily searched and aggregated for communitylevel display. So. distribute knowledge. features. Government needs the capacity to listen to and engage people online to settle conflicts among the loudest and most powerful voices in society as well as to engage everyday people. particularly politics. one hundred million dollars. states. needs to automatically be assigned (or “tagged”) with a geographic place. and rights universally accessible to all people in all cities. from a news story to an online comment to a picture or video. substantially moves online. content created by citizens must be identified by place instead of simply organized by issue. We desperately need tools and techniques that provide a counterbalance to the politics of divisiveness and vitriol. It can raise voices. and countries. to invest in the future of democracy online over the next decade. through globally shared models and tools.

” be it local. To catalyze this idea. Plone. Restore and Deepen Access to Representative Democracy and Governance Through New Laws and Online Public Hearings Let’s embrace the ideal of government “of. Local online news sites connect communities with shared local news experiences. user-generated content producing systems such as Drupal. or global. We don’t need to build any more echo chambers. I’d work with large open source. However. 3. by and for” the people. Let’s seize this Internet moment to build trust in our government through public interactions tied to decision-making as well as through transparency and the active dissemination of information. We need to invest significantly in efforts that encourage people to connect locally based on common interests and issues. Real “public life. not just globally based on highly specialized interests. Open meeting and other laws must be changed to require the proactive use of .0 n s I D e WA L K s F o R D e M o C R A C Y o n L In e will our elected representatives tap our public pulse online. almost all online social networking experiences that people have with their friends and family online are about private life.” or at least “limited public forums” in legalese. Within months. needs accessible and useful public places online (be they legally “public” or functionally public with restrictions on censorship or arbitrary control by the legal owner). national. we’ve lost something. on government websites by authorizing external links to related resources so government websites are not dead-ends. Joomla. MediaWiki and WordPress. a new dynamic universe of content and interactivity for us to navigate and connect to by place would exist. 2. Connecting Locally Based on Common Public Interests In the past fifty years. We can build “sidewalks. as shopping malls have privatized the historic public space of Main Street. Today’s commercial online social networks do little more than “publicize” private life.

all taxpayerfunded government information from a memo by a township clerk to the town board to ethics filing by Members of Congress. will be available online. I’d fund the creation of open source tools to support “online public hearings. how can any public information remain offline? While the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) continues to have its place. Sound fanciful? Estonia already has such a document register in operation. People could then rate or comment on the testimony of others (with civility and decorum requirements) to help us focus our scarce attention time on the most useful submissions.Steven L. Then add the ability to share your own e-testimony for 48 hours after the in-person meeting. Restoring the Bonds of Community When I was a child and my father had cancer. I predict a fundamental shift: By default. if we really believe in a government that is owned by the people. handouts. Clif t n 0 the Internet for information dissemination and notification. and digital recordings. I remember neighbors coming to our assistance in our time of need. Perhaps a distrust of government power built over 50 years of communism has allowed them to leapfrog our democracy. will be offline. That’s it. with modern life keeping neighbors as strangers. You deserve the right to easily e-mail your immediate neighbors the morning after you’ve been burglarized without having to go door-to-door to collect e-mail addresses. We can balance safety and privacy with selective public disclosure of such personal contact information with an intelligent “unlisted to most” directory option that is not the all or nothing of today. Today. . Only legally narrowly defined private or secret information.” Imagine starting with a standardized online “democratic pulse” (used by all governments) of all public meetings with schedules. 4. Period. minutes. agendas. such as military and national security information. Taking this a step further. we must use these new tools to break down barriers to community.

from babysitting referrals to communicating as a group with city hall about potholes. Work with your elected officials to introduce legislation requiring all public meetings to be announced on the Internet.000 residents) where I live in Minneapolis. Small Actions We Can All Take Today I have shared some big ideas that will help us make progress over the long term. and the academic i-Neighbors project from E-Democracy. Learn more at E-Democracy. require the use of real names. Be sure to give people a choice to participate by e-mail or online. and open up your own local forum. I am helping build an online neighborhood forum that will soon connect 10% of the households daily (in an area with 10. today. .0 n s I D e WA L K s F o R D e M o C R A C Y o n L In e This is big “C” community and small “d” democracy. Every neighborhood should have an online space (see links to E-Democracy. A collection of better-connected blocks. to restore our democracy? A.Org/if. Recruit 100 people. But what can each one of us do now. semi-public ways. but the bonds of community can be restored and nurtured despite dual income families and the assault on time for community involvement. Join or create place-based forums or blogs for your neighborhood or community. We also need tools that allow people who live within a block of one another to connect many-to-many in secure.Org’s Issues Forums and projects like Vermont’s Front Porch Forum. You cannot force everyone to be neighborly. tied to broader neighborhood and communitywide online efforts will serve as the vibrant foundation we need for accountable and effective representative democracy right up to the Congress and president. B. This builds on the simple directory idea above and extends it to support all sorts of exchanges.Org/nf ).

then agendas. . Add geographic tags to the content you share at every opportunity. digital recording.Org/voices experiment. Clif t n 0 Updating open meeting laws to first require announcements.” the new president will likely and immediately turn off the interactivity that helped to get them elected. Learn more at DoWire. the primary engine of innovation is the quest for media attention and power rather than real openness or a desire for democratic deliberation and engagement.Steven L. He is also editor of DoWire. Too often in politics. Clift is a Founder and Board Chair of E-Democracy.Org and an Ashoka Fellow. handouts. No matter who wins in this 2008 “e-election.Org. Hopefully I am wrong and we will see White House 2. We Have The Power And Obligation To Redesign Democracy The democratic potential of this new medium has hit the grinder of partisan politics around the world. Learn more from our E-Democracy. is a good starting point.Org—the Democracies Online Newswire. Tag the content you produce with geographic terms or “geo tag” if you are technically inclined.0 alongside Community 2. whether you simply tag your blog post “Minnesota” so it shows up on WordPress. C.0.com or tag a video uploaded to YouTube. About the Author Steven L.

how would I save privacy in the Internet Age? I’m not sure I would. I’m not sure how much people do care. For most of human history. Instead. in which most of our doings are our business and not easily discoverable by the general public. not nosy annoyances) to monitor people’s comings. goings.PRI VAC Y In t He In t eRne t AGe : t IMe to Go? Glenn Harlan Reynolds “ But here’s the real reason I think it’s going to be hard to protect privacy. you lived in a tribe or a small village. Unfortunately. there wasn’t much privacy. we should probably hope so. and everybody pretty much knew each other’s business. it may turn out to have been a short-lived artifact of a particular stage in technology. gathering information on people was hard and organizing it 08 i ” . Even as late as the 19th century. What we think of as privacy. Before the Internet Age. I might opt for transparency. and guests. is a pretty recent development. apartment buildings were frowned upon because they made it hard for busybodies (then seen as virtuous defenders of community norms. Privacy may be overrated. f I were in charge. At least.

Cameras are ubiquitous in stores. there’s not much agreement on what that kind of treatment . businesses. in public squares and private buildings. you’re telling the phone company—a third party—the number. When you drive down a highway. with computerization. it’s not private. For example. Many people believe that there should be some sort of legal protection. When you shop in a store. Purchase. and. In fact. credit. but the burden of keeping up with the populace at large was sufficiently high that there wasn’t much danger of widespread surveillance. there’s no real protection against this sort of privacy threat (it’s not legally defined as a privacy threat at all). so it’s not private.Glenn Harlan Reynolds n 0 even harder. people weren’t able to put all those different bits of information together. Courts generally hold that things you do in public. a special statute protecting video rental records was passed when an alternative newsweekly published a list of the movies Robert Bork rented shortly after being nominated to the Supreme Court. When you dial a phone number. as other economic developments made escaping scrutiny from the village elders easier. individuals to pry into other people’s lives by making it easier and cheaper to collect and collate information. may be far more revealing than you imagine. Police and intelligence agencies could stay on top of things with regard to selected individuals. easy indexing is probably the biggest threat. aren’t private. The same technological revolution that has empowered individuals in other ways has also empowered states. At present. but current statutes don’t take the necessary overarching approach. each perhaps innocuous in itself. yes. Things are different now. that’s child’s play (sometimes literally so) and the product of all those isolated bits of information. Various bits of the problem get addressed. But traditionally. But there’s no big-picture treatment. on highways. Of the changes. and financial records are digital and easily indexed. with third parties. Now. it’s not private.

I think that this is a terrific idea. your credit records. if people care. Regardless of the law. your medical records. your Internet-surfing records. because they didn’t want the citizens to know what they were doing. In our celebrity culture. I’m not sure how much people do care. If I were going to change the law to protect privacy. but I wonder how well it will work. How likely is that. But here’s the real reason I think it’s going to be hard to protect privacy. Teens (and fat old people) post nude pictures on Flickr. Just thinking about how to come up with those rules is tiring. but in theory. a . I’d want to replace these scattered statutes with an overarching set of rules that apply consistently in all sorts of settings—to your video records. and that Americans a few more generations ago would have considered grounds for a duel. and have made similar arguments myself. The Transparent Society.” I don’t think that’s an insuperable problem. He recommends that we substitute transparency—making sure that people can see what the authorities are doing and who is looking into their records—as a check on misbehavior. transparency for the rest of you. though? David Brin. argues that privacy is a lost cause. so long as others follow the rules. in his book. beyond a general sense that too much access to people’s information is kind of creepy. this is likely to be the position of authorities in general: “Privacy for us big shots. we could develop guidelines for returning a modicum of privacy to individuals. My own county government has been roiled by scandal because its members ignored the state’s open-meetings law. presumably.0 n P R I VA C Y In t H e In t e R n e t A Ge : t I M e t o Go ? should look like. something that’s hardly rocket science. They did so. at least. individuals work hard to get television airtime to talk about their personal lives in ways that Americans a generation ago would have found startling. or a horsewhipping on the outskirts of town. or store-camera footage of you shopping for birth control pills or hemorrhoid cream. given the tremendous technological boost to privacy invasions.

before any laws or regulations are passed. such things seem absurd as grounds for shame now. My first item on privacy protection. because. might be abused. ultimately. . and the publisher of InstaPundit. And with sharply reduced shame comes sharply reduced concerns about privacy. and to understand how information about them. People’s desire for privacy feeds on shame. by the millions. and while people a few decades ago were ashamed of things like going to the bathroom or having a period. And not one bit more. then.Glenn Harlan Reynolds n  photo-sharing website. would be an effort to get the public to care more about privacy. About the Author Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee. the public will get as much privacy as it demands. And shoppers happily hand over their personal information at the grocery store in exchange for a modest discount on peas and frozen yogurt. even seemingly unimportant information. What people care about in this regard matters.com.

It is this lack of motivation that we need to understand and address to improve our democracy and our government. the passion and interest for sharing political and policy information far and wide through SNSes—particularly by and for young people—doesn’t match the capability of the SNSes. People participate in public life for many reasons: identity development. Yet these daydreams are shattered through even a cursory look at actual practices. status negotiation. Activists have fantasized about ordinary citizens using SNSes for political action and speaking truth to power. To date. Typical SNS participants are more invested in adding glitter to pages and SuperPoking their “friends” than engaging in any  s ” . ocial network sites (SNSes) like MySpace and Facebook have reorganized the Web.C A n soCI A L ne t WoRK sI t es en A BL e PoL I t IC A L AC t Ion ? danah boyd “ Technology’s majestic luster makes it easy to fool people into believing that its structure determines practice. yes. community maintenance. civic engagement. and.

By demonizing the technology. We may wish to blame the technology for creating self-absorbed people. Technologies are shaped by society and reflect society’s values back at us. While such a critique surely evokes profiles of women in provocative poses. they aren’t talking about using . While these performances may not be “real. and self-aggrandizement. Social network sites provide opportunities for ordinary people to showcase themselves as pseudo-celebrities. we fail to fully grasp the not-so-subtle message that society values beauty. when politicians and activists talk about using MySpace and Facebook. and is this outcome predetermined? Technology’s majestic luster makes it easy to fool people into believing that its structure determines practice. the most active egoists on social network sites are musicians. and other populations who desperately want attention. The conclusions seem obvious—video games will make us violent.” anyone can self-construct how to put their best foot forward. and social network sites will make us politically activated. It may not be possible for participants to get as much mindshare as Paris Hilton. the Internet will make us more informed. How did this happen. egoists love social network sites because of their desire to exhibit themselves for the purposes of mass validation.danah boyd n  form of civic-minded collective action. but social network sites certainly provide a platform for attention-seeking people to do their thing. marketers. By and large. Unfortunately. albeit a bit refracted. but more likely. what do social network sites say about society? While we may wish that they shine a positive light on us. politicians. the most insidious practices on SNSes highlight how status-obsessed and narcissistic we are as a society. techno-determinist doctrine does not hold up to interrogation. they are certainly less scripted than reality TV. exhibitionism. If we accept that technologies mirror and magnify everyday culture.

Content may be public. For active participants on SNSes. Not surprisingly. gossiping is far more common and inter- . Public and private are only guidelines online because there are no digital walls that can truly keep what is desired in and what is not out. heavily regulated. untenable. Telephones allow people to communicate over long distances. n CAn soCIA L ne t WoRK sIt es enABL e PoLItICA L AC tIon? it the way most people do. there is no additional structural cost between communicating with ten people and broadcasting to millions. Most people are simply logging in to hang out with the friends that they already know. most people are not looking to meet new people. networked publics substitute for physical publics that have become inaccessible. A key aspect of SNSes is scale. However. particularly young people. The warnings about stranger danger have worked. Infinite scaling may be structurally possible online. but beyond bandwidth. The Internet not only collapses space and time. of course. but the attention economy—the tax on people’s time and attention—regulates what actually scales. who see the Internet as the ultimate democratizing technology. This possibility of scaling is what tickles the fancy of most political dreamers. Likewise. but the public may not be interested in your content. offline or online. they are talking about leveraging it as a spamming device. where else can you gather with friends? Online. If you can’t grab a beer at a pub with friends or hang out in a public setting without being banned or shooed away for loitering. just because a private message is intended for ten people does not guarantee that it will stay just with those people if there is broader interest. or downright oppressive. even in the context of a supposed shared space. but to gather with friends when physical co-presence is impossible or impractical. Just because someone wants to reach millions does not mean that they can effectively do so. Activists know that the bullhorn of the Web lets them reach many more people. people pay attention to what interests them.

it is spread further through friend networks. SNSes are explicitly designed to be about “me and my friends. Most users no longer seek out chat rooms or bulletin boards to discuss particular topics with strangers. many within those networks hear the same thing over and over until they believe it to be true. Given the typical friend overlap in most networks. online. It was the echo chambers of the blogosphere in 2004 that convinced mass media that Howard Dean had more traction in the U.” Structurally. Rather than fantasizing about how social network sites will be a . the war in Iraq is depressing. it is impossible to determine the response that the invisible audience is having to your message.danah boyd n  esting to people than voting. if not more so. If that content is valued.S. alienated and uninterested people mainly know people like themselves. People are exposed to the things that their friends choose to share. Just as politically engaged people know one another. Social network sites create cavernous echo chambers as people reiterate what their friends posted. Gossip about Hollywood celebrities is alluring. presidential campaign than he did. what gains traction online is the least common denominator. Lack of shared interest results in a lack of spreadability. Echo chambers are problematic because they give the impression that activists have spread a message further than they have. Instead. they are hanging out online with people that they already know. While the Internet makes it much easier for activated people to seek out information and networks of like-minded others. Bridging the structural holes that divide these groups is just as challenging online as offline. a social network site is the quintessential personal network tool. Embarrassing videos and body fluid jokes fare much better than serious critiques of power. Offline. the dominant networked publics have shifted from being topically organized to being structured around personal networks. you know if a door has been slammed in your face. Over the last decade.

Her research focuses on youth engagement in networked publics like MySpace and Facebook. Berkeley’s School of Information and a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. About the Author danah boyd is a PhD candidate at the University of California. The infrastructure is available for people to spread information. That’s the problem we need to solve. If we can figure out how to activate unmotivated groups. and we’ll know when we’re successful from the messages that will be written on Facebook and MySpace. but the motivation is not there to either share or receive it. n CAn soCIA L ne t WoRK sIt es enABL e PoLItICA L AC tIon? cultural and democratic panacea. . perhaps we can convince them to leverage their own networks and convince others to participate. perhaps we need to focus on the causes of alienation and disillusionment that stop people from participating in communal and civic life.

0 meets governmental management that provides new leadership. but they are not going to make a life of it. If I was in charge of reshaping our democratic system. enables them to participate. protects the privacy of citizens.In sK Y PeooGL e t UBe A PeDI A W e t RUs t Martin Kearns “ We need to move away from the idea that democratic conversation and debate are the karaoke of the political elite. People should not have to be involved in the process for years on end to make a difference in politics and governance. We should design our government to accommodate the wisdom of our crowd and lower the barriers and disincentives to participation. the first thing I would do is make it more ad hoc. I would encourage fewer leadership positions and  m connection. ” . and provides easy-to-use and free tools to scale local participation. They might like to solve a problem or two. but simply by rote and mainly for show. wherein words and issues are sung without passion or ost normal people don’t want to be politicians. We should design a system where Web 2.

I am calling for rolling admissions throughout more of the committees. they are just not great most of the time. We saw this with the groundswell of support for Amber Alerts and the movement for a Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. agencies. People have moments of greatness. one person who will stay in power for years at a time. The more we remove barriers to entry into the political leadership process the more innovation and experimentation we will see. Ironically. staffs in government and Congress.8 n In s K Y P e o o GL e t U B e A P e DI A W e t R U s t design support staff. The original Constitutional Framers may not have believed that everyone was capable of leading government. I would focus on providing stability through redundancy rather than through perfection. committees and offices to be flexible enough to support the leaders of the moment. administration. where we can all lead when our gifts and expertise are needed most. the first step to increasing participation may be reclaiming the right to refuse it. solving our problems for us. but history has proven them wrong. in today’s culture. I am not suggesting term limits either. Contrary to much of the current debate. We need to shrug off our cultured system of elitism and the . The fact that we can download more information in a day than Thomas Jefferson had access to in a lifetime changes the equation of who can lead and how we should think about the paths to leadership. Government should mimic what is going on in the non-profit and advocacy worlds. Our governmental system is designed to identify one right leader at a time. We are living in a time that allows for large networks of people to work together to solve problems. I am not advocating a more participatory democracy focusing on referenda and constant live voting. New leaders and new activities are springing up to address specific concerns but then dissipating again. but rather a dedicated focus on changing the barriers to entry and participation in civic life.

The barriers to participation are considerable. The public should have a right to examine the data held about them and opt out of any database at any time. Our data storage Big Brother can now store and mine a lifetime of comments. People refuse to join and engage in efforts online because they are afraid they cannot get off lists. contributions. The government should establish a right to privacy. even a right to disappear from the grid of data storage. The first step to opening the gates to a new generation of participants and leaders is to establish a DO-NOT-DATA-MINE-MY-FAMILY list. votes or lack of votes. We need to move away from the idea that democratic conversation and debate are the karaoke of the political elite. For instance. photos. but simply by rote and mainly for show. No one leader. Barriers to exit have become barriers to entry. Once we have reinvigorated the capacity of everyday . facts. but all comments should not be able to be associated with a particular person and searched forever.Mar tin Kearns n  protected bureaucracies that politicians have created to keep power in the hands of the few. a right to change opinions. deliberations. Processes that require registering and leaving comments are fine. purchases. military families should be able to oppose a war then delete their electronic history of opposition in the future. We should create much more churn and transition of our leadership. and worsened by the aggregation and scouring of our private data by public and commercial interests. People should have the right to see all of the data stored on him or her or accessed about them by any public. a right to reinvent oneself. wherein words and issues are sung without passion or connection. magazine subscriptions and social networks of friends or foes. Anyone can buy data on the credit scores. The public should be able to prevent institutions they are at odds with from tracking any information on them or their families. bureaucrat or office staff can see and understand all the complexity America is forced to address. political or civic engagement institution.

wherein words and issues are sung without passion or connection. We’ll be serious about public participation when we have kiosks asking for feedback and input on government decisions and public policy located in malls. costs and participation in civic life. We need to move away from the idea that democratic conversation and debate are the karaoke of the political elite. students. We should seek to recapture these feelings in our discourse and leadership. We should encourage creative participation in the very management process of every agency (think YouTube debates meet functioning government). hotels. those with the means to take time from their work and those whose work it is to influence government decision makers. and allow people to express themselves with text. airports.0 n t H e e t HI C s o F oP e n n e s s and everywhere Americans to step in and out of public participation. We should redesign the notion of the town hall to fit the schedules of people who don’t want to choose between family. The true power of democracy is its passion and connection with the citizenry. The public should have the opportunity to create daily briefings on key public events on wikis and blogs. babysitters. chat and e-mail. voice or art. and libraries —as ubiquitous as lottery ticket venders. but simply by rote and mainly for show. Scores of tools and services aimed at increasing participation exist and can be provided easily and without cost. If you’ve ever gone to a government meeting you would see in attendance retirees. That leaves out a huge swath of working people with no real voice in governance. open new pathways to leadership and support the efforts of real people who . If we are able to reduce barriers to participation. we should then focus on the core issues of civic participation at the local level. We should create new ways to participate in public hearings via tools such as Skype. We should offer free conference calling and technical support for civic gatherings.

Mar tin Kearns n  want to wrestle with difficult public problems. . a state-based conservation group solely dedicated to the conservation of Georgia’s rivers.S. Senate. ultimately. About the Author Martin Kearns is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Green Media Toolshed. Kearns also served as Executive Director of the Georgia River Network. Kearns founded the Georgia River Network. we will have an America that is even more exciting and democratic than it has been in the last 200 years. a check and balance to a system (not to a leader) and. Kearns has been a political fundraiser for candidates for the US House of Representatives and the U. Previously. we will create a redundancy of leadership.

Who’s minding the store while everyone is out on the stump?Endless hunger for campaign news marginalizes the work of government and creates headlines like this one from National Public Radio’s Website on April 9.GR AssRoot s AC t I V IsM Is MoRe tHAn A CAMPAIGn Morra Aarons-Mele “ But the super-sized business of politics creates a lapse in responsibility. Now more than ever. 2008: “Petraeus Hearing a Campaign Stop for Candidates. politics is a multi-billion dollar “show business for ugly people. when budgets matter less than the struggle to win every single day. Who’s minding the store while everyone is out on the stump? he cyclical. a matter of  t ” . Even better for the professional class are the long campaigns. as has often been said. cash-rich environment of political campaigns is fertile ground for consultants and vendors who are paid premiums to hit the ground running with ads and talking points that fit into the continuous news cycles.” But the super-sized business of politics creates a lapse in responsibility.” A significant Senate hearing on the future of the Iraq War.

is a labyrinth of red tape that often reeks of failures and false starts.org or the National Rifle Association ask their members to e-mail elected officials or send form letters to newspapers on their behalf. But who says governance is only for elected officials and non-profits? Grassroots political engagement shouldn’t end on Election Day. That’s it as far as citizen participation in governance goes. A recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that twice as many Americans are reading political news online than in 2004. within the legal limits on fundraising and 15 Kohut.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. Andrew. advocacy groups such as Moveon. even though it is one of the ideals our nation was founded upon. A candidate’s online support base is a valuable commodity that can be used as a mighty civic tool.asp. was turned into a photo opportunity for the presidential candidates. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism. about 2% of television news coverage in March 2008 was dedicated to the Iraq war. http://pewInternet. Last year. . another four years will fly by with few accomplishments. they need to bring us voters and constituents along with them. downloaded on April 21. Digital technology makes campaign obsession all the more appealing. Most elected officials want us to stay out of their way once the election is over. Election coverage is exciting. 2008. conversely. Americans are consuming more election news online than ever before. “The Internet Gains in Politics.Morra Aarons-Mele n  national urgency.Today. MSNBC devoted 28% of its airtime to election coverage.15 But when our candidates morph into elected officials. while Fox News devoted 15% and CNN 12%.org/PPF/r/234/report_display. full of all of the possibilities of competition and change. Governing. We yearn to be hopeful but we have a country to govern. when the time for real governing arrives. Governance is not sexy or popular work. But if citizens do not focus on what happens in our national legislature.

gov) listing all recipients of federal grants. the volume of political engagement and media attention is remarkable. If he wins. They don’t engage me civically.USAspending. . we must hold him to this promise and more. in addition to electioneering. Just as candidates ask us to participate in an online phone bank to get out the vote in a primary state. as have the web operations of the congressional and Senatorial Committees. n G R A s s R o o t s A C t I V I s M I s M o R e t H A n A C A M PA I Gn lobbying. leaders cannot squander the energy of voters. we will need our citizens online and ready to act. 16 I am indebted to my friend and colleague Matt Wilson for this discussion. a Senator or Representative can ask us to phone bank other citizens to support passage of health care reform in the Senate. The White House’s website has come a long way in eight years. On his campaign website. The Act directs the White House Office of Management and Budget to create a free. contracts.16 Obama’s most significant legislative accomplishment as a U.S.” such as health care reform. In this extended 2008 primary election season. But they usually just ask me for money. Obama promises to use digital technology to open up government to the public. I get e-mails from all of them. This time around. The most engaging online effort from the White House is the “Barney-Cam” video series about Bush’s Scottie dog! Barack Obama could be the first president to use the Internet as a tool for real civic action. But if we are to achieve real change in the “off-season. Senator is the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. or tell me nasty things about the opposing side. only to build it back up again as the next election approaches. public website (www. when a candidate becomes an elected official. and appoint the first White House Chief Technology Officer. and other payments. co-sponsored with John McCain.

com. Morra is also a columnist for the HuffingtonPost.com and TechPresident. In between classes.Morra Aarons-Mele n  About the Author Morra Aarons-Mele is a blogger and political consultant who is also a graduate student at the John F. she covers politics as Political Director for BlogHer. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. . the largest site for women bloggers.com.

It was a topic on almost a quarter of the days that the members convened. t eCHnoL oGY A nD Cons t I t U t Ion A L DesIGn Zephyr Teachout “ The Framers were right to be obsessed about corruption. Reading the convention-era documents.” George Mason said. centralized media. If liberty was the warp of the political ideology of the era. corruption was the weft. and paid lobbying—would undermine the anti-corruption precautions they included in the Constitution. as the Constitutional Convention got under way. violence or instability. Corruption was discussed more often in the convention than factions.CoRRUP t Ion. Corruption and Technology 1. His concern was echoed in many voices throughout the summer of 1787. our government will soon be at an end.0 “If we do not provide against corruption. the idea of corruption  ” . but could not have anticipated the ways in which various technologies—including the extensive road system. and discussed extensively in the public debates over the Constitution’s ratification.

but nonetheless obsessed with attempting to stop it from happening. Many clauses were intended to limit corrupting perks and temptations of office. to ensure that money is not siphoned from the national treasure. The Founders were concerned that an executive with the power of appropriation would use it to cultivate dependencies. The power of the purse being placed in the legislature was also in part a response to fears of corruption. or from being appointed .” James Madison averred.Zephyr Teachout n  inevitably seizes the reader with grotesque admiration for its force. Inasmuch as you can see the Constitution as creating a kind of technology. representing a technical and moral response to what they saw as a technical and moral problem. the difficulty of acting in concert for purposes of corruption was a security to the public. it was designed to provide structural encouragements to keep the logic and language of society as a whole from becoming corrupt. Section 9 of the Constitution requires an accounting of the treasury. The Founders wove their own stories and their histories around the corruption of the young country—certain it would happen. and corruption. Likewise. the soundness of the remaining members would maintain the integrity and fidelity of the body. And if one or a few members only should be seduced. “The larger the number. intrigue. Section 6.” Elbridge Gerry argued about the representatives to the future Congress. 68. Article 1. Clause 2) prevents Congressmen from holding civil office while serving as a legislator. and the other delegates agreed.” One of the most extensive and recurring discussions about corruption concerned the size of the various bodies. “Besides the restraint of integrity and honor. “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal. trying to control the inevitable venal forces that would overwhelm it. the No Conflict clause in the Constitution (Article 1. the less the danger of their being corrupted. by giving out money to political leaders who were loyal. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No.

the distances too great. money. But the roads were too bad. to confidently collude and identify the electors that needed corrupting. speaking of the fact that “the Electors would vote at the same time throughout the U. and would see public office as a place for gaining civil posts and preferences. between classes. The Founders were also concerned that certain methods of selecting the president could lead to collusion and corruption. Second. and the interests of the state to private or foreign interests.” Morris said. The Founders were concerned that members of Congress would use their position to enrich themselves and their friends. Hamilton successfully repulsed the proposal that the president serve a limited number of years. would lead to plunder. “It would be impossible also to corrupt them. The Framers Morris and Wilson both discussed the importance of physical distance as a protection against corruption. First. and at so great a distance from each other. and the numbers too formidable to allow for the concerted redirection of the minds of men to private gain.” The chief corrupting forces were foreign governments.S. A man’s ineligibility for reelection. and within the legislative branch. and power—all of which. legislators themselves could not be electors.8 n C o R R U P t I o n . presidential elections had several key features. if decided by a small number. because of the long roads across the large country. all the elections would be done at the exact same time. it was argued. and went to great lengths to create an election process that would withstand smallgroup corruption. . First. To guard against corruption. there was extensive debate about who—and how many—should decide the presidency. making it difficult. rather than one of public duty. would have significant coordination problems to overcome if power were distributed between branches. Madison worried that the election of the president. would too easily facilitate corruption. he argued. Second. t e C H n o L o G Y A n D C o n s t I t U t I o n A L D e s I Gn to offices that had been created—or in which the compensation was increased—during their tenure.

But there are at least a few areas in which technology. Corruption and Technology 2. instead of public. because the periodical change of members would otherwise regenerate the whole body. in order to corrupt the federal body—or so the Founders hoped. 63 sums up the efforts of the Founders to create a constitution with such diffuse power that it would be resistant to corruption. and of government being used to serve private. “and without corrupting the people themselves. he argued. it cannot prosecute the attempt. have increased the threat of corruption. and ought to grab our attention now.0 If the Founders brought their sensibilities—and in particular their anti-corruption sensibilities—to the technologies of the contemporary world. and the collective-action problem-solving powers of the Internet. . a succession of new representatives would speedily restore all things to their pristine order. I will focus on three that I think would have garnered the attention of the Founders.” Therefore. other contributors to this volume have shone a spotlight on those.” There are too many obstructions and sequential steps of intrigue to be taken. the Senate would inevitably defeat corruption in the House of Representatives. The Senate. and what additional protections might they include within the Constitution to guard against the constant threat of encroaching corruption? There are many areas in which technologies have improved the possibilities for self-government. ends. must then corrupt the House of Representatives. “must in the first place corrupt itself.Zephyr Teachout n  Madison’s Byzantine argument in Federalist No. what might they think. “It is evident that the Senate must be first corrupted … Without corrupting the State legislatures. and must finally corrupt the people at large. must next corrupt the State legislatures.” Moreover.

and thus I think they would presumably treat any corporation as fundamentally “foreign. to concentrate unprecedented power and wealth. combined with shipping containers and cheap transportation. Gerrymandering Technology has made the great artistry of professional gerrymandering easy. This means that our representatives pick their voters before the voters get to pick them.0 n C o R R U P t I o n . but with legal obligations to maximize wealth and cultural habits. recognizing that the mere existence of such concentrated private power threatens to overshadow the exercise of public power. The Founders were concerned that foreign powers would co-opt democratic channels. t e C H n o L o G Y A n D C o n s t I t U t I o n A L D e s I Gn Corporate Power in the Public Sphere The capacity of the Internet. there was an intense interest in the relationship between the size of certain entities and self-government. enables global corporations without national allegiance. As the discussions at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia reveal. and that conversation would have extended to questions of the size of corporate organizations. The Constitution would include express prohibitions against limited liability extending to corporations that broke the nation’s laws. Political parties hire people to figure out political borders that destroy the democratic process. The Founders would have created protections against concentrated corporate power taking over the building blocks of democracy. Local politicians.” in that the institution does not allow for patriotic obligations. engaged in political action. and constitutionally limited direct or indirect corporate funding of campaigns. Being very savvy. they would have gone even further. They would have limited all corporate political speech and corporate lobbying. or exceeded a certain size. .

and if they could see the form it has taken now. “designer districts. and the role presidential elections play in our democratic culture. and attempted to limit the capacity of narrow interests to coordinate the selection of the president. become unresponsive to citizens.” They write that “the ability to create designer districts increased as more sophisticated programs were devised to include not only basic demographic and voting data. which is why the Constitution requires a census every ten years. technology-enabled districts. The Presidency The presidency was a reluctant compromise for many of the Founders. The Founders went to great lengths to ensure that no particular group would have too much sway over the selection of the president. The Founders worried about districts falling out of alignment with their actual populations. and most challengers find it effectively impossible to unseat them. . Richard Pildes. In their classic textbook. Pam Karlan. but projections of household income. and Samuel Issacharoff call these new. or they would include a far weaker version than currently exists. car ownership and other socio-economic data deemed useful over the ten-year lifespan of a redistricting plan. The design of the Constitution assumed that the electors would play only the first step in the choosing of the president—that each state would support its own candidate—and that it would be up to Congress to finally select the nation’s leader.Zephyr Teachout n  assured of their seats. The Law and Democracy: Legal Structure and the Political Process. magazine and cable television subscription patterns.” The Founders would have attempted to limit technologies’ capacity to directly undermine the democratic process through self-serving political boundary drawing—perhaps by including Constitutional requirements that nonpartisan commissions draw district lines. they would probably not include it.

and the Executive branch. This combination has grotesquely distorted our democratic process. decreasing geographic difficulties. and is a frequent Visiting Researcher at the Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia-Herzegovenia.” About the Author Zephyr Teachout is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Duke University. In the United States of America 2. attempting to create even stronger counterweights to what Hamilton called “the business of corruption. Director of Online Organizing for Howard Dean’s Presidential Campaign. but could not have anticipated the ways in which various technologies—including the extensive road system. and paid lobbying—would undermine the anti-corruption precautions they included in the Constitution. The Constitution would include clearer limitations on executive power. n C o R R U P t I o n . It is now relatively simple to coordinate efforts to sway the House of Representatives. the executive would play a much more trivial role. new technology and concentrated money sway the selection of the now very powerful position of the presidency. . and the campaign financing system would be completely public. She is the former National Director of the Sunlight Foundation. There are hundreds of lobbying firms who see their job as taking money and effectively laundering it to overcome difficult collective action problems for entities that want to privatize public government.0. putting far too much power in the least responsive branch of the three representative parts of government. and likely be more parliamentarian than presidential. the new threats would be taken as seriously as the old. In a second Founding. the Senate. where she teaches Election Law. centralized media. t e C H n o L o G Y A n D C o n s t I t U t I o n A L D e s I Gn However. The Framers were right to be obsessed about corruption.

But a  t “ The threat of election privatization raises a fundamental question: Who owns our vote? ” . and the prohibition of discrimination in voting based on race. and new barriers have emerged that disproportionately target historically disenfranchised communities (i.e. The women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century led to the enactment of the 19th Amendment. photo identification requirements to vote). Bonifaz he struggle for the right to vote has never stopped in the United States. prohibiting discrimination in voting based on gender. to the abolition of slavery and the passage of the 15th Amendment. laws prohibiting ex-felons from voting).oUR Vot InG Re-PUBL IC John C. But the past few election cycles are evidence that our struggle for equal voting rights continues. Certain legal barriers to voting continue (i..e. During our 200-plus-year history.. we have traveled from a time when only white male property owners could vote. The civil rights movement ended the legalized system of racial segregation and brought about the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Gore. In a rush to respond to what happened in Florida. including two separate studies commissioned by the California and Ohio Secretaries of State. The electronic voting machines do not work.P U B L I C quieter threat has emerged that further undermines the integrity of our electoral process. demonstrates that these machines are fundamentally flawed for counting and recording our votes. n o U R V o t In G R e . and pose a serious threat to the integrity of our elections. a small handful of private companies (including. A growing body of evidence. we have seen an alarming increase in the influence and control of private companies over our elections. These machines have turned the election disaster of 2000 into something exponentially worse. There’s only one problem. now known as Premier Election Solutions. voters with disabilities are increasingly using non-tabulating ballot marking devices that allow them to vote in an independent and private manner. Election privatization Since the 2000 presidential election that was decided by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. the United States Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. As a result. Diebold Election Systems. In addition. But more than thirty states still use electronic voting machines. The Election Systems & Software Company. but not limited to. As a result. and Sequoia Voting Systems) have gained enormous profit and influence marketing their electronic voting systems to states and municipalities as the answer to the “hanging chad” fiasco in Florida. They are unreliable and insecure. HAVA has provided more than three billion public dollars to states across the country to upgrade their voting systems. I saw firsthand the dangers of these machines as lead counsel for . some states have shifted to a system of paper ballots with optical scan machines.

and a group of Florida voters filed a separate suit. However. In that hotly contested race for Florida’s 13th congressional district. Florida. Bonifaz n  a coalition of candidates and voters seeking a full and meaningful recount of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Electronic vote counting is part of a broader trend in the outsourcing of key election functions to private vendors.000 votes were lost by the electronic voting machines. Republican candidate Vern Buchanan. argued that neither Jennings nor the voters had a right to the requested materials on the grounds that they constituted trade secrets. In other words.John C. with other public-interest organizations. There were no paper ballots from which to derive voter intent. In the Georgia presidential primary on February 5. Christine Jennings. the organization for which I work. from the Democratic candidate. 2008. [Voter Action. numerous voters reported that . The Florida courts agreed. Many jurisdictions have privatized electronic poll books and voter registration databases to determine whether people are eligible to vote. 18. 400 votes separated the declared winner. which had manufactured the electronic voting machines in question. There was no way to conduct a recount in the Ohio jurisdictions that had used electronic voting machines. Jennings filed a lawsuit contesting the outcome of the election. We were simply told to trust the machine as it reported again its original tally. and served as co-counsel in the litigation. other key software. and the machines themselves in their investigation of the disappearance of nearly twenty thousand votes. The threat of election privatization raises a fundamental question: Who owns our vote? The danger of electronic voting is best illustrated by the 2006 congressional election in Sarasota County. the election was ultimately under private control.] Jennings and the voters independently sought the source code. allowing the alleged proprietary rights of a private company to trump election integrity and the right to vote. The Election Systems & Software Company. helped to bring the voters’ case.

P U B L I C electronic poll books. In the New Mexico Democratic presidential caucus that same day. n o U R V o t In G R e . Voters in other states have reported similar problems using these systems. This can only be guaranteed via voter-marked paper ballots which reflect voter intent and which can. We ought to have a system of public financing open to all qualified candidates and their . will ensure that the vote-counting process is controlled by the people and not by private corporations. be recounted or audited. Voter-marked paper ballots. with or without “paper trails. marked either by hand or by a nontabulating ballot-marking device. Voters must be guaranteed that their votes will be properly counted. Anything of value should be audited. were crashing and inoperable. Every jurisdiction in the United States should be required to conduct rigorous audits after every election to guarantee that our voting systems are transparent and verifiable. Electronic voting machines. Seven Ways To Reclaim Public Control of Our Elections The following list outlines changes that we can make to ensure that our public elections are publicly controlled. and the private companies that have marketed this defective product across the country should be held accountable. leading to long lines and citizens leaving polling sites without casting ballots. made by Premier Election Solutions. Paper ballots. We should not rely on candidates to demand a recount to determine whether our votes are being properly counted. and that includes our votes. therefore. Mandatory audits of our elections. Public financing of our public elections.” should be banned. a flawed voter registration database prepared for the state by the Elections Systems & Software Company led to thousands of voters casting provisional ballots when their names did not appear on the voting rolls.

the integrity of the process suffers. free and fair. Public oversight. The elections industry relies on that barrier to market its privatized electronic poll books and voter registration databases. As a result. from county . The United States. Grassroots networks across the country have already helped to expose key voting-rights barriers that threaten the integrity of our elections. does not. Congressman Jesse Jackson. How can this country claim to have an equal right to vote when the way we administer our elections changes from state to state. Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. voters will exercise greater control over the electoral process. not private money. Even with voter-marked paper ballots. and local level. public support. Election-day registration helps to restore public control of how we access the ballot. we can help ensure that our elections are open. citizens must know that their right to vote overrides any alleged trade secret of a private corporation. Election-day registration. States that use this system experience a higher voter turnout and avoid the barrier of voter registration. where such systems are already in place for state elections. is what counts. transparent. Voters should be able to register and vote on the same day. Open-source voting systems. When votes are counted in secret by private companies. has proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution to guarantee the right to vote for all citizens. One hundred and eight democratic nations in the world have explicit language guaranteeing the right to vote in their constitutions. Jr. In Arizona and Maine.John C. All voting systems in the United States should be required to adhere to open-source standards. With even greater sunlight. Bonifaz n  voter-supporters. state. and the system ought to apply to all elections at the federal. Public control of our elections is dependent upon an active. engaged citizenry monitoring the electoral process. along with only ten other nations.

“A Republic. A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote will provide a powerful means to reclaim public control of our public elections. if you can keep it. History has shown that organized as a movement we have the power to do so. “Well. our supreme legal document. . the social contract between “We the People” and our government. a woman asked Benjamin Franklin. the question is not so much whether we can keep it but whether we can take it back. The power resides in each of us to take control of our vote and our democracy. It is this. we must go to the foundation of our political system: the US Constitution. Doctor. as he left Independence Hall. As we fight to end voter suppression.8 n o U R V o t In G R e . At the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. from locality to locality? In our ongoing struggle for democracy. a national legal advocacy and public education center dedicated to fighting for election integrity throughout the United States. About the Author John Bonifaz is the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute and the Legal Director of Voter Action. which establishes the consent by which we agree to be governed.P U B L I C to county.” Today. what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin responded. we must also wage a new fight for our time: the struggle to reclaim public control of our public elections.

Otherwise. The American Founders created a similar governmental structure including a formal constitution with many checks and balances between the branches of government and the government and its citizenry. They knew this was necessary because corrupt politicians would find ways to  a ” . people in power will inevitably abuse their power. powerful politicians and lobbyists started wars for purposes of vanity. democratic system incorporates a system of checks and balances to facilitate constant vigilance and scrutiny by the citizenry. abuse of power led to an increasingly corrupt and ineffective government. and to enrich themselves and their allies.CHeCKs A nD BA L A nCes ReIn V IGoR At eD Craig Newmark “ The Internet provides tools and information for journalists to aid them in their effective scrutiny of governmental accountability. That’s the story of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic. However. For example. Its informal constitution and checks and balances were quite advanced for its time. including defense contractors.

” The same occurs now via loosely organized groups. created in conjunction with the Center for Media and Democracy. To this end. The Internet provides tools and information for journalists to aid them in their effective scrutiny of governmental accountability. an open. front groups.” Two great examples of these grants are Congresspedia. I was able to verify media reports that a presidential candidate was dominated by special-interest lobbyists. in the manner of the Roman Republic. a database that tracks lobbyist payments to Congress that is run by the Center for Responsive Politics. Investigative reporters now work together to expose such gangs. These tools enable journalists. with no mass media. and Open Secrets. we need to uncover governmental corruption after the fact. Common Cause exposed “Hands Off the Internet. For instance. political gangs spread disinformation via “whispering campaigns. To this end. The Internet provides tools and information for journalists to aid them in their effective scrutiny of governmental accountability. to help preserve American values in Congress. In ancient Rome. The investigative reporting done by the Center for Public Integrity. the Sunlight Foundation funds the development of tools via “transparency grants. or astroturf groups.” a front group for big telecommunications . in order to understand where we’re going. Sometimes. The Founders also realized that a free press with journalists asking tough questions was the only way to preserve checks and balances. Good reporting with mass communications would provide the scrutiny required for good government. collaborative wiki about congressional representatives. and citizen journalists like me. say via a compromised Department of Justice or judicial branch. such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 election. known often as swiftboaters (in the generic sense).0 n C H e C K s A n D B A L A n C e s R e In V I Go R At e D abuse power. specifically their database on Defense Department contracts let in conjunction with the Iraq war. conclusively proves deliberate deception in the run up to the Iraq war.

The Center for Media and Democracy runs SourceWatch. which exposes front groups in the political space. To that end. We w ould all like to avoid the fate of the Roman Republic. The most notable group doing so is FactCheck. This requires that almost all governmental records be made available online. About the Author Craig Newmark is the founder and customer service representative of craigslist. FactCheck. particularly those regarding (honest) matters of national security. Disclaimers: Because of their good work.org. . even the work of good investigative reporters and honest politicians need fact checking. Working together with the public. We also need help exposing those who would deceive us for short-term profit and power. they provide checks and balances of unprecedented effectiveness. and work with the Center for Media and Democracy via Sunlight and also via Consumers Union. this help is being delivered by people of goodwill working together via the Net. speeches. I’ve joined boards of The Sunlight Foundation. Fortunate for us. we need reporters asking tough questions. the Center for Public Integrity.Craig Newmark n  firms masquerading as a grassroots organization. “analyzes what is said by major U. which according to its website. Although certain documents.” Finally.” The Founders recognized the role in our democracy of the press bringing government problems and issues to light. will always be too sensitive for publication.org’s educational arm. interviews. and news releases. a non-commercial community bulletin board with classifieds and discussion forums. political players in the form of TV ads. such as “Freedom’s Watch.S. debates. The press is aided in doing so with the Net and tools like those described above.

Online. doctors. and even text voting for American Idol gauge the feelings of a random slice of the public. Some of those opinions are prose. Public opinion polls conducted online at websites like CNN.com’s rating the relevancy of comments and the discussions those comments spawn. like blog entries and e-mails. movies. lawyers. ” . particularly online. traditional polls conducted by telephone. songs.com. and other service professionals. sometime soon. such as Amazon.com’s ratingswith-comments. There are even “meta” sites providing opinions about opinions. the “killer app” will emerge—the American Idol of citizenship. you can rate products. the list goes on and on. There are more formal feedback mechanisms like eBay feedback or Amazon.t He “K IL L eR A PP ” oF PUBL IC PA R t ICIPAt Ion Mark Murphy eople all over the world are explicitly expressing their opinions in public ways. as it were. and other forms of entertainment. Why can’t these mechanisms be applied to public officials and the political process?  p “ Somewhere.

whether they be for a candidate (e. such as Ron Paul’s advocates raising awareness of their candidate through innumerable online outlets Of course. their nation. and the world. So. most of these are strictly aimed at the presidential race. However. Kentucky based on the site’s “Demand and Be Heard” promotion • Twittering your thoughts on debates and election results in real time • Spreading a candidate’s message via a variety of online media. somewhere is going to create the “killer app” that will allow citizens to become more engaged with their governments. and the other social networks—not in the least because it could be embedded within those social networks. such as: • Joining Facebook groups. That “killer app” could easily become as widespread as MySpace. In fact.Mark Murphy n  The answer is that this change is inevitable: Citizens of democracies will use online tools to voice their opinions of what is going on in their neighborhood. or . Facebook. or even ongoing policy discussions.. what should this “killer app” look like? Will it reflect citizens’ rights and responsibilities in a democracy? Will it offer citizens a rich set of ways to express their opinions. the same concepts could be applied to other political campaigns. the U. presidential campaign of 2006-2008 has demonstrated a number of new tools for rank-and-file citizens to engage with the campaigns.g. One Million Strong for Barack) or against (e.S..g. One Million Strong Against Hillary) • Recording questions and uploading them to YouTube for use in televised debates • Using the website Eventful to ask a candidate to make a local campaign stop as John Edwards did when he visited Columbus. Somebody.

as much as anything else. is designed to make the application’s founders (and their investors) rich. Here are nine principles that will help ensure all three facets of trust described above: . not the many. I hope you agree that we need some principles established. a complicated three-way relationship. need to trust that the feedback is not only accurate. technology providers who offer opinion-aggregating services need to trust that if they scrupulously follow a proscribed industry-wide code of conduct they will not be “thrown under the bus” for the results their services report. Elected and appointed officials.. and that the process won’t be rigged to deny them their input.g. I’m just one person. My aim is to raise the questions and offer up a candidate set of answers. They need to know that the collected opinions have a chance of being seen by The Powers That Be. sometime soon. but documents both total opinion and the opinions of those people directly affected by any given issue (e. Finally. Citizens need to trust that their opinions will be counted and reported fairly. Whether you agree with the above principles or not. rather than “let the chips fall as they may. lest somebody else determine the “rules of the game” for the benefit of a few. can positively affect decision-making. Somewhere. essentially. it is trust in what is. and other authorities. citizens of Switzerland don’t get to vote in our presidential elections). the “killer app” will emerge—the American Idol of citizenship. as it were. n t H e “ K I L L e R A P P ” o F P U B L I C PA R t I C IPAt I o n will it be restricted like traditional Election Day voting systems? Will it offer the openness and transparency necessary for everybody to feel comfortable that the results aren’t being rigged? Will it just be an idea that. or increase the power of some existing entrenched authority? I do not claim to have definitive answers to these questions—after all. to spark a debate.” If there is an overarching theme to what we need. and soon.

trust is broken due to lack of transparency. if the aggregation only happens on a single. Just as anyone can host a blog. 4. if nobody can validate the voting. Citizens need to trust that their visibility is under their own control. Conversely. Openness. Nyms. This will enable authorities to trust that the results accurately reflect their citizens’ input. Anybody should be able to raise an issue using a group process to organize and synthesize related issues. 3.. tied to their own identity. The third principle notwithstanding.g. in the same way that blog entries and comments are publicly visible. Some issues may be tied to a specific locality. Framing. If only pollsters. 2. anybody can build an aggregator to report results or verify the reported results of others. Public. but so must the votes. or put up a web application. Standing. even though it may mean their standing cannot be proven and hence their vote may “count less. Everyone must be able to cast a vote on any issue. Because the votes are public. anybody should be able to build tools and participate in the aggregation of the resulting data. not the control of some outside party.Mark Murphy n  1. However. Determining which votes are from people with “a horse in the race” must be done after the fact. is a resident of the town) in order to cast a vote. so as to use peer pressure to encourage more participation. . There needs to be the means to determine if the voter has standing on that issue (e. if they so choose. And people should be able to make their votes public. trust is broken (witness the hullabaloo over voting machine flaws). Not only must issues be publicly visible. such as whether or not a traffic light is needed at some town’s main intersection. 5. with a “standing provider” empowered to indicate if the pseudonym has standing for some community. people should be able to vote anonymously. run an e-mail server. proprietary site. This is the key to supporting the first principle.” People should also be able to vote under pseudonyms. since screening beforehand could be applied indiscriminately and shut down useful opinions.

 n t H e “ K I L L e R A P P ” o F P U B L I C PA R t I C IPAt I o n government officials. 7. These kinds of requirements might serve to concentrate power into too few hands. . or if the system requires technology providers to submit to some form of evaluation before they can participate. lest the citizens lose trust in the process over fears of censorship or manipulation of results. His blog.g. Unimpeded. and community to help ensure that citizens can easily participate. Self-Policing. 9. anyone?) 6. Rules that might prevent “trolls” from participating will weaken trust. as those rules could be applied to others—and one person’s troll could be another person’s position advocate. About the Author Mark Murphy.wordpress. multiple choice). and authorities need to trust they won’t get swamped with too much input that is too difficult to digest. can be found at commonsguy. Unencumbered. there can be no government interference in collection and reporting. conventions. Since anyone can participate (principle #1) and the government cannot interfere (principle #8). or technology to the online opinion gathering system. positions. the system must provide culture. This will not be possible if the system requires licensing patents or trademarks.. Structure. Different voting methods can be used according to the specific issue (e. covering CommonsWare and his public policy musings. There must be no requirements of anyone providing issues. trust is broken. a newly-launched technical book and software publisher. 8. Countability is central to trust: the public needs to see how their opinions can be counted. a three-time entrepreneur. Since the whole point of the exercise is for the citizens to provide input to the government. since the framing of the question is a critical component for evaluating the resulting public opinion (push polls. is the founder of CommonsWare. or other privileged people are allowed to raise issues.com. and voters need to spell out their selection in addition to any prose the voter wishes to provide.

And we applaud these changes. Wilson “ If we want our politicians and decision-makers to be trustworthy and transparent. probably with endless possibilities.S. And others focus on the role of the citizen (and the public at large) in the process of engagement and self-government. Tate and Mary G. Some mean the election process itself. ” . Others mean the ways in which our governmental system—with its three levels and three branches— operates. But Americans use the term “democracy” to mean a variety of things. we must expect that citizens interacting with them in the public sphere do so in an open he notion of redesigning U. democracy for the Internet Age is an intriguing one.CI t Iz en 2 .0 Nancy E. We at the League of Women Voters believe that the most significant changes are those affecting the ways ordinary Americans perceive and interact with both candidates and government officials and institutions. All of these components have been—and will continue to be—impacted by the online world and the emergence of many-to-many communications. We are already seeing that the  t and transparent way.

Historically.” . and filtered through the media. the views of individuals—shared on blogs or Facebook pages—directly affect what is happening in the political sphere. individuals can now become players in the process. or by a government body. or challenges to official statements. 0 expanding possibilities for user-generated content online are providing new and positive changes for our democratic system. they were dependent on information provided by candidates.8 n C I t I z e n 2 . And increasingly. many more sources of government data and information are available to those willing to “surf the Net. In so doing. Here at the League we strive to empower citizens to “make democracy work” for themselves and their communities. Getting information— and opinions—from people whom they trust greatly increases citizens’ confidence in discussing and formulating views on complex public policy subjects. in the sense of creating and distributing content themselves. We have already seen this year how the ease and speed of transmission of new ideas. In order to play that role. the Internet expands the types of roles an individual can play in politics and government. The potential is limitless. Today. the public can obtain information from many sources. it has increased the power—and expanded the responsibilities—of ordinary Americans. or the unveiling of past indiscretions can produce instant reactions from candidates or public officials. citizens have been essentially observers in the civic sphere. including not only the original sources (such as a candidate’s website) but also from their peers and others whose judgment they trust. Even more significantly. Power to the People As others have noted. The enhanced role of the Internet in recent years has helped to do just that. making their views known periodically through voting and petitioning. Relatedly.

Although public figures do not always welcome increased transparency or accountability. Often the result of extreme polarization is gridlock. instead of simply digesting the news provided by a daily newspaper or news show. We are encouraged by these trends. we ought to consider ways to guard against the potential downsides of the new online world. however. interact with one another. . Now. with no end in sight. the growing “echo chamber” effect needs to be minimized. The fact that more information is available from more sources increases the necessity for individuals to evaluate the credibility and validity of information they want to use and share. This will lead to more polarized—and presumably more partisan—discussions and decisions. 21st Century Worries Americans’ role in the political life of the country has definitely expanded. Relatedly. citizen expectations concerning their “right to know” about candidates and government operations continue to grow. they will most likely become less informed than if they are exposed to a more balanced perspective on issues and candidates. The recycling of misinformation or “urban myths. and actually influence the decisions of campaigns and government decision-makers in real time. Wilson n  As a result of these trends. individuals can drive the news. many have realized the advantages of more and better ways to gather public opinion and to expand the lines of communication. Tate and Mar y G. When people only visit the particular websites and blogs (or talk radio shows) whose views they agree with. All of this empowers citizens in ways that are better for them and for the country as a whole. is not a step forward in public discourse and decision-making.” for instance. This increases both the pressure for government transparency.Nancy E. As we embrace the tremendous potential for individual Americans to play a bigger role in our democracy. and the ability of citizens to hold decision-makers accountable.

such as databases connected to handheld tracking devices. they are going online where no logistical constraints limit participation. can foster a “gotcha” environment that stifles substantive dialogue and sullies the civic space. The instant access to information. Finally. accountability flows from openness. Old Wine in New Bottles One fear that is often expressed about the evolving online world is that it distances people. in and of itself. Town hall meetings are not being replaced. will not improve the quantity or quality of public decisions. New political technologies are helping people connect—across town and across the world. . no matter how dated or what the source. that people who once met and interacted face-toface now just sit at their computers. This is particularly important in an era when news coverage often focuses on the personal lives and actions of our leaders. And this is the final challenge: to make sure that the new tools of democracy are not just used by the elites or the special interests. If we want our politicians and decision-makers to be trustworthy and transparent. We at the League disagree.0 n C I t I z e n 2 . but allow all Americans to be active participants in the democratic life of the 21st century. we must expect that citizens interacting with them in the public sphere do so in an open and transparent way. Wilson is the President of the League of Women Voters of the United States. are being deployed to knock on doors that have often been overlooked. About the Authors Nancy E. New tools. 0 More information on the web. The anonymity allowed by the Internet may often be at odds with that. Tate is the Executive Director and Mary G. Doorto-door voter engagement has not ended.

” ” . stupid. top-down big-money methods of organizing and winning campaigns that was shown to be obsolete. More than individual candidates losing. In 2008 we are seeing the strongest top-down campaign in the modern history of the Democratic Party. networked politics came into its own during the presidential election of 2008. First I want to make clear that none of what I write here is aimed at some of the brilliant bottom-up thinkers in the Clinton campaign such as Peter Daou. only the  i “ The Clinton campaign failed to grasp “it’s the network. creaky. evangelizing. At long last. The fact is that all the bottom-up thinking in the world will not break through the oppressive culture of top-down campaign management and a top-down candidate. the revolution was won. it was their old. We don’t have to wait to reboot American democracy. today. blogging and talking. here. now. The Clinton campaign has been challenged and put on its heels by the Obama campaign. after waiting. strategizing.t He L As t toP DoW n C A MPA IGn Joe Trippi t’s finally here.

The blunder that many will be talking about for a long. I really thought that she could be a transformational candidate. that would be half a billion dollars for her campaign. much more than Obama has raised in this campaign. A month or two later. long time. I was invited to explain bottom-up campaigning to Clinton’s manager and a few others.” I would have continued. will be how did Hillary Clinton. capable of inspiring millions of Americans to engage in the political process and change the country and our politics.” Do the math. n t H e L A s t t oP D o W n C A M PA I Gn second bottom-up presidential campaign in modern political history. say “I believe there are 5 million women in America who are willing to give $100 to my campaign to change our country and make it a better place for our children. The Clinton campaign liked the idea but she was not going to “unilaterally disarm against the Republicans. Challenge women to help change the country. after the Dean campaign. and fathers that would change the country and our politics—a campaign that would raise more in small contributions than any big donor campaign in history—I realized I was talking to a room that saw me as an oddball wearing a tin foil hat (not the first time this . “Every woman knows that we are not the status quo—we are change. I have no doubt that would have been a successful strategy. husbands. After excitedly explaining how Hillary could run a transformative campaign for change that could engage five million women and many of their sons. I said.” They didn’t get it. Bill Clinton and the top of the Clinton campaign miss the fact that politics had irrefutably and irreversibly changed in 2004 and that the best path to the nomination and the Presidency was to deploy a bottom-up strategy in 2008? I had high hopes for Hillary Clinton. As early as 2006 I urged a Clinton confidant to enter the campaign for president by announcing that her campaign would not accept money from lobbyists or special interest PACS and that she would not accept any contribution over $250 for her campaign.

These victories are directly related to Obama’s ability to activate a decentralized network of supporters who out-organized the Clinton campaign in state after state. responded that the Internet wouldn’t have any impact on the 2008 presidential election because too few Americans use it and all they did was talk to each other! The top of the Clinton campaign had no fundamental understanding that politics had changed since 2004.’ but the Clinton campaign was doomed to run a top-down campaign of the past.300 maxed-out big donor fundraising effort. but. Barack Obama’s entire delegate lead was due to his defeat of Hillary Clinton in caucus states. and we were asked what the impact of the Internet would be on the 2008 presidential campaign. I was wrong about something. and it would be explosively different from anything before it. The Clinton campaign failed to grasp “it’s the network. It might be a strong campaign. They did not understand that the second bottom-up networked campaign would be in 2008. But the difference between the campaigns is based on more than money. There were a few high-level staffers in the Clinton campaign. it would be at great peril in the bottom-up environment of 2008. who got it and tried to get others in the campaign to ‘get it. though.Joe Trippi n  has happened to me) and was politely shown the door.” Barack Obama’s campaign raised more money from the bottom up than any campaign in history—swamping the Clinton top-down $2. I really thought in the closing days of the campaign we would be watching the best top-down campaign in history matched against the second networked bottom-up . even so. and to my amazement and horror. Howard Wolfson and Jay Carson (Jay worked with me in the Dean campaign). Clinton’s chief strategist. I was on a panel in New York City with Mark Penn. Penn answered the question first. Then the final shoe dropped. stupid. They didn’t get it either.

com! Turns out the last top-down campaign on the Democratic side was already dead. His work in presidential politics continued with the campaigns of Walter Mondale. Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean. I heard something I never thought I would hear. too. About the Author Joe Trippi began his political career working on Edward M. he was the Senior Advisor and Strategist for John Edwards’ presidential campaign. May the best bottom-up campaign win. Now Clinton has gone bottom-up. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1980. But in February. . Hillary Clinton was on television asking people to help her by going to www.hillaryclinton. Most recently. n t H e L A s t t oP D o W n C A M PA I Gn campaign in history. Gary Hart.

unfair ballot access rules that discriminate in favor of the two major parties. In a few places.tA nGL eD sIGn A L s oF DeMoCR AC Y Micah L. In most of America today. the disenfranchisement of millions of ex-felons. which often produces the odd result of a candidate who wins even though a majority  e “ Why should your only choice when you vote be to vote yes—or to stay home and abstain? ” . I want to focus on a different issue: whether our voting system actually helps us signal what we want from our representatives in a meaningful way. whoever gets the most votes in a race wins—no matter how many. people vote. voter registration deadlines that depress participation. But while others in this collection of essays. are wrestling with what to do about electronic voting machines that can’t be trusted. or how few. and new photo-ID requirements that may disenfranchise many other would-be voters. Sifry veryone agrees that our voting system needs an overhaul. a run-off is required if no one gets a simple majority on the first round. That is. and elsewhere. elections are run on the “first-past-thepost” system.

We’re using a voting system invented in the 18th century—before there were railroads. let alone the Internet. 2. telegraphs. The only thing that voters are asked to do is vote FOR someone. After all. radio. The next idea follows this same theme. The idea isn’t as crazy as it may seem. you can only do so by voting ‘Yes’ for her opponent. Give voters the ability to vote ‘No’ to a candidate. TV. Put “None-of-the-Above” (NOTA) on the ballot. with new candidates nominated. cars. n tA n GL e D s I Gn A L s o F D e M o C R A C Y of voters didn’t vote for her on the first round. Today. Why should your only choice when you vote be to vote yes—or to stay home and abstain? And if none of the candidates running for a particular office can get more votes than “none-of-the-above. (Staying . Maybe it’s time to try some experiments to open up our voting process? Here are five modest proposals: 1. States would have to require a special election (held according to the existing rules for when an office becomes vacant) any time NOTA got more votes than the candidates on a ballot. When I first wrote about this idea in an article for The Nation back in 1990. if you want to signal your dissatisfaction with a particular candidate. airplanes. But if NOTA were an option and two candidates were savaging each other on the campaign trail. I was amazed to see it endorsed by voices as diverse as the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal editorial pages.” maybe that will send a useful message. the public would start voicing support for NOTA and pollsters would notice. there’s a reason so many campaigns use negative advertising against their opponents: it seems to work—and there’s no penalty for going negative. There’s about as much communicative content in their choice as there is in reading an X in a box.

com” project. author of the weblog Epeus’ Epigone. a long-time professor of government at Cornell University and former president of the American Political Science Association. If two candidates on the ballot both ended up with a net negative vote (i. In effect. and the process.” by Daniel Ferguson. albeit roughly..e.) But why force people to choose the lesser of two evils? I may have only one vote. Last year. As the voting unfolded over the weeks we could clearly see how heavy votes in favor of one video would be balanced the next day by heavy votes against it. we used a system of visible bipolar voting to enable viewers to vote for or against the best video questions submitted to the presidential candidates in our “10Questions.” (We could use something similar in the blogosphere. but why not let me cast it against someone. lead to more widely supported centrist candidates winning elections. and Theodore Lowi. Sifr y n  home doesn’t really have the same effect.Micah L. They call this approach “bipolar voting” and argue that it would have the effect of establishing a kind of quorum rule on who could win an election. voters choosing to vote ‘No’ more often than ‘Yes’ in both cases). the platforms. perhaps. and others have suggested. the election could be held again with a new slate of candidates. In effect. an MIT physicist. a more elegant NOTA option. Ferguson and Lowi argue that a “bipolar voting system elicits a fundamentally new piece of information from the voter as a sort of ‘legitimeter’: It registers the relative measure of preference and also. to reduce their total vote—and let the candidate with the most net positive votes gain office? I’m borrowing here directly from a 2001 article in Political Science and Politics called “Let’s Take ‘No’ For An Answer. so that a link to a post could contain a “positive” or “negative” association.) Bipolar voting also has the virtue of balancing the most extreme blocs of opinion and would. as Kevin Marks. the absolute level of confidence in the candidates. videos that .

every night.8 n tA n GL e D s I Gn A L s o F D e M o C R A C Y had a strong political bias had more trouble gaining a net positive vote total because they stirred up as much opposition as support. we just might start to dissolve the disproportional power of those unrepresentative states over the nomination process. 3. state registrars posted running totals of ballots that had already been cast. which would help boost turnout. and some even open polling locations weeks before Election Day. or early votes cast. while videos that rose to the top had a broader level of consensus across the spectrum. states are doing nothing with this information. But other than reporting generic information like the total number of absentee ballots requested. In some states. on the old-fashioned notion that no one should know what anyone else has chosen to do until the end of Election Day. As more states allow voting by mail and provide absentee ballots for practically any reason. a majority of votes were cast early in the 2006 elections. . Instead of relying on unreliable pollsters. And early results might signal problems for a candidate and cause them to change their positions accordingly. more Americans are availing themselves of the convenience of voting on their personal timetables. we’d all have a real-time snapshot of each race as it was coming to a close. and even which voters had voted (though not their personal votes). And that idea of making results visible as the process unfolds gets to my next point. But imagine if. A final benefit of making early voting results public—and on this notion I am indebted to Jonathan Soros—since about two dozen states start mail-in or early voting well before the Iowa and New Hampshire presidential contests. Release early voting results. like Tennessee. Campaigns would be able to focus their resources on people who hadn’t yet voted.

make the box where you put your vote a little bigger. your vote would be instantly transferred to your second choice. Instead of only being able to vote for one candidate. Ascribe a reason for votes. we can liberate ourselves from that constrained set of options.Micah L. until a winner emerged. since most voters don’t want to risk “wasting” their votes on lesser contenders. at least. Sifr y n  4. (To use an elegant version of this system for your own group decision-making. system. But with an instant runoff. If your first choice didn’t win a majority on the first. And the answer is staring us in the face (or. my face ever since my friend Andrew Rasiej suggested it to me). And that gets me to my last suggestion… 5. Today’s system forces most races down to two viable candidates. so it can contain a few sentences. All of the ideas I’ve mentioned in this article are struggling with the same basic problem: how to tease the true meaning out of a voter’s choice. If no candidate won a majority in that round. under these systems you would be able to list your preferences in order. which has been adopted in a few places in America including San Francisco.) The benefit of this approach. or ranked balloting. From a technological standpoint. and then let’s aggregate those comments to build a richer picture of people’s voting decisions. go to ChoiceRanker. or ranked balloting. the process of transferring the votes of the weakest candidates to the voter’s next choice would be repeated. In other words. Embrace instant-runoff voting.com. Let voters add a comment explaining their vote. multi-candidate ballot. opens races up to more contenders and lets voters communicate more about their choices. this would be child’s play (assuming the other issues with the security and reliability of electronic voting .

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were solved). But even if this was a matter of reading through written comments on paper ballots, why do we deny ourselves the power to say what our votes actually mean? It might seem like a complicated task to collect, sift and report voters’ comments, but the Internal Revenue Service manages to process more than a hundred million individual tax returns, plus countless other forms. Surely we can make our voting system as intelligent as our tax-collecting system. When this country was founded, the right to vote was restricted to white, male landowners, and even they couldn’t vote directly for president or senators. Generations of Americans have struggled and some have given their lives to expand that right to all citizens, and the struggle isn’t over. But is the right to vote only about our ability to put an X in a box? Or is it time to make our votes more meaningful, too?

About the Author
Micah L. Sifry is co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum, a website and annual conference that covers the ways technology is changing politics, and TechPresident.com, a new award-winning group blog on how the American presidential candidates are using the Web and how the Web is using them. In addition to organizing the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference with his partner Andrew Rasiej, he consults with political organizations, campaigns, non-profits and media entities on how they can adapt to and thrive in a networked world. He is currently a senior technology advisor to the Sunlight Foundation.

F InDInG YoUR oBV IoUsMe t eR
Matt Stoller

Did you know that members of Congress cannot
post YouTube videos on their official member websites without breaking House and Senate rules?

have an “Obviousmeter.” The Obviousmeter compares cultural trends and existing power centers and asks, “Can a sixteen year old do something our government can’t?” If the answer in any particular area is yes, then that’s a place to find out where the future is going to smack us in the ass. I can’t predict the future of democracy in the digital age—no one really can—but certain characteristics of what the future will look like can be identified right now. And one of them is that obvious and stupid contradictions are ripe for attack. For example: Did you know that members of Congress cannot post YouTube videos on their official member websites without breaking House and Senate rules? Yup. I am friendly with a tech-savvy member of Congress, or Congresscritter, as well as a whole bunch of staffers, and it is simply infuriating to them that they can’t put up a YouTube 

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clip on their website to communicate with constituents. They can call them. They can mail out tens of thousands of glossy and expensive brochures discussing their recent legislative activities. They can even run expensive TV ads through their political action committees. But they cannot post a YouTube video on a web address that has .gov at the end. The reasons are manifold. If you talk to the Franking Commission, the body in Congress that governs member communication to the outside world, they will give you a list of different reasons. It’s a SECURITY risk! It’s a CORPORATE ENDORSEMENT of YouTube! It’s an ethics VIOLATION! Or even the wonderful, “Just run it by us, we’ll let you know if it’s a violation of the rules.” This bureaucracy-loving attitude is bipartisan, as is the contempt of their intransigence from tech-savvy insiders. Sixteen-year-olds can put up YouTube clips, as the whole world knows. So the Obviousmeter is buzzing in the red. And while it seems as though the problem here is the inflexibility of a single bureaucratic committee, when you pick at the onion of the problem a bit, flakes of skin keep coming off. This problem, at its core, represents the complete breakdown of the line between politics and government, between charity and politics, and between democracy and a hundred-year tradition of Walter Lippman-esque disinterested expertise. The Franking Commission exists because the Founders of the country knew that communication was key to democracy. They codified the ability to ‘frank,’ or mail for free, communications from a member of Congress to their constituency so that the citizenry would remain educated and vigilant. As communications systems became more powerful, centralized, and expensive during the 20th century, breaking down local community bonds and helping to eliminate public spaces in the process, franking created an asymmetry of power that favored elected officials over voters who were passive receivers of an

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incumbent’s information. If you could frank for free, and your opponent couldn’t, you could raise money and your name recognition, and essentially run an election with taxpayer resources using sophisticated direct mail techniques. In the 1970s, the Congressional Franking Commission began remedying this asymmetry of power by imposing speech restrictions on members. No fundraising. No electioneering. Let us see the mail you send out. Nothing political. This made sense as a sort of stopgap measure, since the citizenry could not talk back en masse and had limited public spaces in which to engage in conversation with the powerful forces of televised mass communications. Mail cost money, and citizens couldn’t just bill taxpayers; they were the taxpayers! So when the Internet emerged in full force, the Franking Commission handled e-mail like snail mail. That makes perfect sense; they both have ‘mail’ in the name, right? E-mail and the Web function both as information transmission vehicles and as public spaces. Restricting e-mail or web communication crippled the ability of Members of Congress to convene people on the Web they way they do at town hall discussions, roundtables, district meetings, offices, etc. It stopped the political body designed to collaborate from using the greatest set of collaborative tools ever devised. And it also stopped a medium whose cost structure takes care of power imbalances by making communicating with large groups of people essentially free. While the Internet doesn’t guarantee a large audience, it is amazingly inexpensive to communicate with any size group. (For example, there is no cost associated with those annoying joke e-mail forwards.) The asymmetry of power has been flipped in the Internet Age. Citizens can communicate online to potentially millions of people at no cost, but Members of Congress can’t. But this is real life, and regardless of the rules, members and staffers post videos on their sites, go offsite to join the conversation on blogs, do events in Second Life using



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congressional resources, etc. But the fact that the rules are in place tells us something very important about Congress, which is its antipathy to public spaces. Rather than delve into the difficult questions of whether an embedded YouTube clip of a government resource can be used on a political website, the Franking Commission just says “No” to YouTube. And the Obviousmeter goes off, and Members break the rules, and Congress appears to be clueless. But it’s not clueless; it is protecting a lie. This lie is the supposed line between politics and government, a line that was always fiction but whose illusion could be maintained in a non-digital world. And there are similar fake lines between charities and political advocacy groups, government agencies and political parties, blogs and political action committees, citizens with websites and journalists, and foundations and corporations and governments. In David Weinberger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous, he points out that there are no clear dividing lines between objects and institutions, and that this is particularly true in regards to information. As the George W. Bush administration dissolves into a puddle of embarrassment, and the public begins to believe that change in governance and politics is possible, expect a massive increase of public spaces connected to political power, and a lot more confusion around bright border lines that, when put online, no longer seem particularly bright or even line-like. And listen to your own Obviousmeter, because the world is full of archaic Franking Commissions.

About the Author
Matt Stoller writes at the progressive strategy site OpenLeft.com and is the President of the political action committee BlogPAC. He consults for the Sunlight Foundation on open government, for Actblue, and for Working Assets, a progressive phone company.

Its members are unfamiliar with new technologies and the problems they present.ConGRess ReL oA DeD Matthew Burton “ Congress has always been a reactive body. Of our 100  t ” . The DFI will bring something new to Congress: ample representation of future concerns. he House of Representatives should expand to make room for a new at-large delegation: the Delegation for Future Interests (DFI). It shows in the backgrounds. Congress has always been a reactive body. the candidates for these jobs will be familiar with the decreasing relevance of geography). including voting rights and committee membership. responding to what happened yesterday instead of foreseeing tomorrow’s problems. The representatives will be elected by a nationwide vote with no geographic apportionment (after all. responding to what happened yesterday instead of foreseeing tomorrow’s problems. The members of this delegation will have equal status with all other members of the House. These seats will be restricted to scientists and people under the age of 35.

to unearth government corruption. n ConGRess ReLoA DeD senators. only four congressmen do. Challenges that will require their own essay contests. or collaboratively tackled. Even if such a solution is an extraordinary success. understand. and our economy is regulated by economists. challenges that our generation will never foresee. the current Congress might be the oldest ever: only eight of 537 members are under the age of 35. But no matter what widget we create. Creating the DFI is a low-tech response to an essay prompt that is laden with high-tech overtones. three things will certainly happen in the next 100 years: • Both the widget and the Constitutional changes will become obsolete • One or two more technological revolutions will pass us by • Those revolutions will pose new challenges to our democracy. and the young people eager to embrace. no Net-centric solution to our problems will last long. Nineteen are lifelong politicians with little other professional or research experience. scientists and young people could bring foresight to important issues for the future of the country. 56 are lawyers. And according to the Congressional Research Service. Just as our armed forces are run by military experts. the chances are good that it will be short-lived: our understanding of the Internet . In short. Our population includes people much better suited than your average politician to keep democracy in touch with the future: scientists engaged with emerging technologies that will define how we communicate and work in the future. We shouldn’t. Opportunities abound for web-based citizen engagement platforms and crowdsourced. Zero senators have science doctorates. and challenge these technologies. We trust this body to keep our democracy up-to-date. Just as seasoned lawyers bring historical perspective to our legal code. and no matter how we customize the Constitution for today’s Internet. so should our science and technology policies be guided at the highest levels by those with expertise.

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undergoes a radical shift at least once every election cycle. High-tech solutions may sound sophisticated, but they are ultimately limited by their focus on the Internet. My DFI proposal may not make for the most exciting reading, but it is adaptable beyond the current definition of the Internet. When today’s problems are long gone, the DFI will still be relevant. That is what we must seek when changing our democracy: staying power. Major changes to a democratic system take decades to root themselves into the public consciousness. By then, the nation may have forgotten what inspired the changes in the first place. Our job is to make sure that when that day comes, our changes are still relevant. My solution may not be custom-built FOR the Internet, but it is certainly inspired by it. The Internet has taught me a lesson: when challenged by a new technology, our democracy convulses for a few years. (It hasn’t yet taught me what happens after that.) If given one redesign opportunity, we should heed that lesson and try to solve the root of the problem: a lack of foresight by our leaders. Technical solutions can certainly help; that’s why I spend most days trying to hack American politics. But the DFI will help us not only through today’s challenges but tomorrow’s as well. Let’s reboot for the future, not just for the Internet.

About the Author
Matthew Burton is formerly an intelligence analyst with the Department of Defense. Burton left the government in 2005 to attend NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. He is now building a web application that helps the Intelligence Community share information and collaborate. He created and maintains two government transparency projects: ReadableLaws.org and Speechology.org. He lives in New York.

Be YonD WA RGA Mes

Douglas Rushkoff

henever democracy and computers show up in the same sentence, I can’t help but flash back to some early Cold War simulations conducted by RAND corporation. If we bomb Moscow and then they bomb Phoenix, and so on.…. Basic zero-sum game theory, applied through the paranoid schizophrenic lens of Beautiful Mind mathematician John Nash, yielded the no-win Doomsday scenario eventually satirized in the cyber-action flick War Games. The underlying assumption of these early computer simulations was that people and, by extrapolation, nations, behave with their own strategic interests in mind. Humans—and nations—are presumed to be fearful, self-interested, and hyper-rational. The solution of these kinds of prisoner’s dilemmas was Mutually Assured Destruction: creating nuclear arsenals big enough to ensure that everyone dies if anyone attacks. 
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Our nation is both a functioning nation and a
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Even Nash has subsequently admitted that this way of applying game theory was based on his own paranoid delusions. While the math works out, the logic is hopelessly polar. In short, the paranoia plus binary technology equals an insane, oversimplified, and unstable stand-off. Differences and conflict are exacerbated because the competitive game is an underlying assumption. There’s no possibility for reconciliation, compromise, or collaboration. It’s my computer against yours. To me, the most exciting thing about a networked computing era is the opportunity to model new kinds of games. More than anything else, computers are modeling systems. They let us model the function of a typewriter, a spreadsheet, or a paste-up board, not to mention all sorts of social and fantasy interactions. The most advanced models right now are the ones we’re developing in forums, from MySpace to Second Life, Facebook to World of Warcraft. These are the places where people can experiment with alternative behaviors, life strategies, alliances, and goal sets. Because our computers are networked rather than isolated, we no longer need to see the “other” team as on the opposite side of a discrete boundary. They are part of the same system. As a result, scenarios for cooperation more complex than “mutually assured destruction” begin to emerge. What I’d like to see as a result of computer networking is the possibility for modeling new, as yet-to-be conceived, collaborative behaviors. Play behavior has almost always been relegated to the Dionysian side of the culture, while purpose remains with Apollo and the courts. Both of these artificially isolated aspects of society end up suffering as a result: politics ends up unsexy (leading to the salacious behavior of its repressed participants) and the arts end up unserious (leading to the equally disastrous attempts to bolster its relevancy through cruel entertainments like reality TV).

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Gaming and government are actually one and the same. While we have to actually govern using the Constitution, we can’t let it become so set in stone that we lose the ability to game with it. Our nation is both a functioning nation and a model for a functioning nation. Imagine a discussion of urban planning conducted through a simulation like SimCity. Or a model for local currency developed in a community within Second Life. How about reconfiguring the Electoral College model based on a year of in-person collaborative processes practiced by groups using Meetup.com? Or consider a bottom-up editorial process for amending the Constitution itself, pairing traditional legislative processes with the mass participation offered by wikis and other collective authorship tools. Or, finally, how about engaging the next generation of citizens in all of these collaborative online processes as a way of instilling curiosity and civic practices that will surpass what currently passes for debate in the chambers of Congress? Networked gaming applied to the democratic process can restore our ability to evolve our republic, bring our international relationships beyond the presumption of mutual enmity, and —perhaps most importantly —make participating in government fun and interesting.

About the Author
Douglas Rushkoff is the author of several seminal books on media and society, including Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Open Source Democracy, Coercion, and, most recently, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out. He founded the Narrative Lab at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

t He oBV IoUs A ns W eR : onL Ine Vot InG
Allison H. Fine

Historians will undoubtedly consider our current
era of voting machines the technological equivalent of the 8-track tape machine.

oll inspectors squinting helplessly at hanging chads was the lasting image from the federal election of 2000. We were shocked and frustrated by the fragility and archaic infrastructure of our election system. If only we could replace those dastardly little squares of paper with something better, something modern, electronic and foolproof, then all would be well in America. Two years later, an irony-free Republican Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), a power grab by the federal government to standardize election processes in over three thousand municipalities across the country. HAVA provides funds to states to transition from paper ballot systems to electronic ones, but doesn’t mandate which machines states must use. Six years and over three billion dollars later, a hodgepodge of delicate, complicated, expensive, and unreliable election machinery populates the countryside. Meanwhile, 

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YouTube videos were instrumental in sinking the incumbent senators Burns and Allen in the 2006 election and will surely be similarly influential in 2008.org boasted a membership of over three million in November 2006. We replaced levers and punch cards with privately owned. or any other government funding. proprietary electronic machines that are shut tight to the public like bank vaults. I spent Election Day last year in San Francisco. the other didn’t. have thrown out their electronic voting machines in favor of optical scan machines. MoveOn. but didn’t also vote for a candidate in columns B or C. But the machinery is only a part of our voting problem. As the ecosystem of political campaigns has changed radically. the problem is that you voted for Gavin Newsom in column A. looked at their votes. refused to take advantage of the revolutionary power of the Internet when it comes to voting. at its height in the mid 1970s. Online voting is the obvious answer to our voting woes. like Florida (why is it always Florida?). Common Cause had one-tenth the number of members. according to the blog tracking site Technorati. and announced aloud to the room. Some states. n t H e o B V I o U s A n s W e R : o n L In e V o t In G not a single cent of HAVA money.) Historians will undoubtedly consider our current era of voting machines the technological equivalent of the 8-track tape machine.” (San Francisco has a ranked ballot system. Joe Lieberman and Dan Rather suffered the wrath of some of these bloggers—one survived. which is a great idea but needs more educational outreach to be effective with voters. almost irrationally. Seventy-six million Americans registered on the National Do Not Call Registry fueled almost entirely by friend-to-friend e-mails. has gone into researching the electoral system of the future. watching as poll workers repeatedly pulled the ballots of individual voters out of the scan machines. The Election Assistance . Over seventy million blogs exist. but political and media Goliaths have been put on red alert. There is a quiet crisis in recruiting poll workers. we have stubbornly. “Well.

pg. California and other states are recruiting high school and college students as poll workers. 2006. J.” Wall Street Journal. online retail sales in the United States are projected to grow by about fifty percent and exceed $300 billion annually. and their services includes using mobile devices for banking. “US online sales growth ‘to defy slowdown’. 20 . a research firm specializing in banking. and presumably older still every day. Adam. for pay and course credit incentives. B.” Global Finance.Allison H. that the most visible aspect of our democracy totters on the reliability of teens to help open polling places at dawn. It is a telling sign of the vulnerability of our system.. almost a third of the poll workers didn’t show up for work on Election Day. So why do we continue to hold onto an 18th-century voting process in a 21st-century world? According to Celent. ABI/ INFORM Global pg.0. Dec 2007.1 18 Robel. and our poor planning for the future. Jane.18 According to Forrester Research. with nary a worry about security as a result of institutions having worked hard to secure their systems. Imagine how many more people would vote if they could do so 17 Kim.19 If we can trust our personal and business finances to online systems. nearly forty percent of households did some banking online in 2006. “Call It Online Banking 2. surely we should be able to do the same with our votes. 46 19 Jonathan Birchall. November 18.17 Bank of America alone has over 22 million online banking customers worldwide. 21. LLC. “Internet Leaders Think Strategically. In Maryland in 2006. Fine n  Commission conducted a national survey in 2004 that revealed that on average poll workers were 72 years old. pg.” Financial Times. 11. London (UK): Apr 8. We have come to the point where almost any body will do in some places to relieve our “Greatest Generation” poll anchors. 2008. Sixteen-hour days that ricochet between tense and tedious for paltry pay are not great recruiting enticements.

just as Bank of America does every day. we are obliged to make it as simple and reliable as possible in the hope that it will lead to further civic participation. our outsized anxiety about elections being hijacked by nefarious vote stealers remains firmly intact. mobile lives. with. n t H e o B V I o U s A n s W e R : o n L In e V o t In G from their desktops. Also imagine how many more digital natives. laptops. We can’t know all the answers today. Voting is the entry point for community life for millions of people. researchers reported an increase in voting in Oregon after voting-by-mail was instituted. of course. The first. but not an intractable problem. young people born to. crowded field of election thieves. The second concern cited against online voting is a potential decrease in turnout and loss of civic capital generated by the gathering of citizens locally to vote. If online banks can be audited. is security. The concerns about online voting are oft stated if misguided. The Defense Department and private corporations have sophisticated encryption systems that can be used for voting systems—and they will need to be updated and adjusted to stay ahead of the hackers. This anxiety begins to spiral out of control when discussing online voting—as if changing the voting system will create a huge. or at a kiosk in the library or shopping mall.org that systematically dismantles the myth that voter fraud exists at any significant level). I will concede that this is a legitimate concern. and of new media. but that doesn’t make the task of transitioning to a new system impossible. . the palm of their hand. so can online voting systems. If the criteria is that we must know all the answers before creating a new voting system. Even though study after study finds no significant amount of voter fraud today (see the voter fraud and integrity work at Demos. will participate when the voting system is reflective of their online. Oregon’s voting-by-mail started in the mid-1990s lays this concern to rest. In 2001. no such system will ever be created.

this means that the engine behind online voting will a collaborative effort of a wide community of public-spirited individuals. easy-to-use and scalable. Fine n  with no deleterious affect on civic feelings. Election systems have always been unreliable. Burns. Traugott. John Bonifaz argues in this book that voting systems must be open and transparent. 65:178-197 (2001) . what has changed is that now we can see all of the problems instantly. All we need to do to get started is put Meg Whitman of E-Bay and Eric Schmidt of Google in charge of a national task force for online voting—that will ensure that the system will be secure. Walk into a polling precinct anywhere in the country (except Oregon!) on Election Day and you will inevitably see a system riddled with human and technical mistakes and problems. It is human nature to think about all of the things that could go wrong with a new system. as opposed to political parties. But at some point we have to decide that what we don’t know yet. And online voting systems should be no different. “Who Votes by Mail? A Dynamic Model of the Individual-Level Consequences of Voting-by-Mail System. Adam. and that they must be wrested from the clutches of for-profit companies more interested in quarterly profits than democratic participation. on YouTube. what details we haven’t worked out today 20 Berinsky. yet still managed by municipalities.. Michael W.20 And millions of dollars are saved every election since the cost of paying poll workers is gone. would be charged with monitoring online voting systems for irregularities and auditing the results. Continuing to hire poll workers to staff elections is the equivalent of rehiring bank tellers to replace ATM machines. nationwide. Translated from geek speak. The very same technology that is shining a spotlight on the problems of the system can be used to fix it. The end result is that we citizens increasingly don’t trust or believe the results of elections.Allison H. Neutral parties. The software code would be open-source. Nancy.” Public Opinion Quarterly.

and human error erode our election system. a discussion paper commissioned by The Case Foundation. long lines. . Fine is a senior editor of the Personal Democracy Forum and a senior fellow at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action. and with great care is surely preferable to watching faulty machines. honestly. About the Author Allison H. are not sufficient reasons to sit and do nothing. An online voting system built openly. n t H e o B V I o U s A n s W e R : o n L In e V o t In G but will tomorrow. 2006) and Social Citizens(beta). She is the author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (Wiley.

0. really? Why don’t people just truly self-organize?” Now. I have found that  ” . why do we need government at all. turned on people exist. having been raised in socialist-leaning Canada and attributing much of my opportunities to that system. I’ve never been one to define myself as a no-government type. I will make it a mandate to create more turned i on.W Ho neeDs eL eC t eD oF F ICI A L s ? Tara Hunt “ When I’m in charge of redrafting democracy. a very astute government official walked up to me and asked a question. tuned in citizens and see where that leads us. but I found myself quite intrigued by her question. I will make sure that we create more ways to put citizens in charge of the system. recently gave a presentation on how individuals around the world were taking it upon themselves to improve government services by using web tools and technology to transform their communities. “If all of these amazing collaborative tools exist and all of these really tuned in. Afterward. Over the past couple of years of talking to government agencies about the wonders of Web 2.

regional and national governments without having to entrust someone to make decisions on our behalf. do we really need to elect people to run stuff? Could we actually create a TRUE democracy and run it all ourselves? Oh. I just mean that we can make good decisions ourselves without all the buttoned up politicians in the way. Large government organizations move slowly and are inefficient. but by actually making the decisions for ourselves every day? Couldn’t we have an ongoing level of engagement with which to make public decisions wisely? Now. We need to deal with real issues that affect us now. Why couldn’t we all be involved in our local. don’t get me wrong. But let me propose this: we need to run policy making more like we run startups.8 n W Ho neeDs eL eC teD oF FICIAL s? it is a frustrating thing to be part of a large organization that has to make the whole country happy at once. Government agencies also cost way more money to run than they produce in value in many cases (mostly through the heavy administrative costs). Well.0 world of collaboration. Small pieces loosely joined. community and transparency. It’s way too complicated. Let’s start with a group of citizens. particularly not with the current state of government. I suggest that . who are focused on long-term issues. you may be thinking “That’s crazy! People don’t have time to be deeply involved in the political process!” Of course they don’t. we’ll call them Ombudsmen. They will pay attention to trends and potential difficulties in the same way that Wikipedia deals with controversial topics using an iterative process of discussion and editing until the community comes to a consensus. My questioner was raising a valid point: in this emerging 2. Simpler. And then there are the here and now issues. Bills are unwieldy and complex. with many people trying to stuff their interests into one piece of policy. I don’t mean that each one of us would need to take turns arresting people or putting out fires.

We can be in a perpetual beta.) concernedmom: “I’m not sure if I would equate video game driving with actual driving ability. I may be putting a little too much faith in our ability to make sound decisions for our communities using Twitter. we may as well make that transparent. #utah. We already don’t know what we’re doing. And if we screw up? Well. We also need our governments to begin to treat our personal data with the respect it deserves and move past their proprietary habits.Tara Hunt n  we deal with them here and now. people. alerts all Utah residents to the suggestion. such as forcing people to fill out awful. Someone sets up a survey and it is put to a vote. tuned in citizens and see where that leads us. I don’t think my 14-year-old is ready. Craigslist sees a jump in ‘Seeking Second Family Car’ ads. too. #utah” The debate goes back and forth until there are enough people gathered around the subject.0 technology. I will make it a mandate to create more turned on. The vote is in favor of dropping the learners permit age to 14 in Utah with 73% voting for and 26% voting against. Imagine an issue arising on Twitter. but the point is that we can streamline our decision-making processes using new Web 2. It’s okay. why not drop the learners permit in Utah to 14? #utah” (The hashtag. repetitive . a free networking and microblogging site. wherein someone proposes a change to the legal driving age: sassygirl123: “With the number of video games teaching our children to drive these days. we’ll fix it. Google records the results and someone updates the Wikipedia entry. I will make sure that we create more ways to put citizens in charge of the system. When I’m in charge of redrafting democracy.

. We need to start using open systems that allow users. B2B and C2C. to manage and safeguard their own information. Her forthcoming book on social capital and online communities called The Whuffie Factor is due out in November 2008 from Crown Publishing.80 n W Ho neeDs eL eC teD oF FICIAL s? forms that get lost in the system. About the Author Tara ‘missrogue’ Hunt understands how the participatory web is changing all of our relationships: B2C. She co-founded Citizen Agency in 2006 with the mission of teaching her clients how to work more effectively with the communities they serve and how to embrace and adjust to all of the changes in culture businesses are facing. in this case citizens.

bindings. By some estimates. . governments killed over 200. reflects things of eternal nature.000 of their own people in the 20th century. [. The Framers’ fears of government power (which are our fears of government power) appear to have been well founded. keyboards. 8 l ” . and a gag on the great beast they had been taught much of their lives to fear (often by experience): the state. Philosophy. The Constitution they created existed in accord with the philosophy they expounded. They attempted to create chains. click-wheels. . unlike fads and technology. computers. Internet(s). not even counting wars. ]none of them change in any fundamental way what the Framers were working with: human nature.ne W GA DGe t s Do not ne W HUM A nI t Y M A K e Avery Knapp and Tennyson McCalla “ Mice. The Framers believed that human nature was one of the eternal things about which they had a fitting philosophy. begging to be replaced as the years passed it by and technology and mores changed. manacles.000. et it be understood that what the Framers of our Constitution attempted to do was not create a document that would be stuck in a particular time.

” Thomas Jefferson wrote the line “…all men are created equal…” in the Declaration of Independence. To clarify some concepts further. among old parchments. among which are the preservation of life. each one a reflection of the Divine. ready to be a means to a master’s end. as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature. incapable of civilization. As all were equally creations and reflections of the Supreme Being. at least not wholly. Continuing with Jefferson. constantly in need of supervision? Was he an automaton. This state of existence. He was an animal to be sure. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law. “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for. robot.’ . and exist in slavish thrall to some pretended authority on behalf of a prince. or musty records. and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power. by the hand of the divinity itself. this state of nature. that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable. But certainly that was not the totality of man. and liberty. Man was an individual created by the Author of the Universe. where subordination and subjection were absent. each man was a master of the Earth. capable of being perfected with the best of directions? No. incapable of being trusted. and the pursuit of happiness…”. and on the collective scale of despotism and war. and no one had more natural authority than the next. we learn: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. let us hear from some early Americans. ready for instructions from some authority. they were equal to one another.8 n n e W G A D Ge t s D o n o t n e W H U M A nI t Y M A K e What was the nature of man to those great men of 1787? Was he an animal. He could undoubtedly act the part of a will-less. as could be seen by his basest acts of barbarism on the individual scale of a criminal. Man was something far grander in the Founders’ eyes. They are written. In 1775 Alexander Hamilton wrote. As the Creator was master of the Heavens. as it was referred to. man was none of these things. soulless. was a state of perfectly realized liberty. but here’s what he wrote in an earlier draft: “…all men are created equal and independent.

and that all unobstructed actions are rightful so long as they don’t transgress the rights of any other individuals. LCDs. microprocessors. computers. LEDs. association. space travel. and the potential for genetic weapons in the 21st. and frankly uninteresting aspects of the manner in—and frequency with which—the mob .g.” The answer to the question of what we might change if we were redesigning American democracy for the modern day turns out to have little to do with the ephemeral. has made this point only more profound. and always so when it violates the right of an individual. to just follow orders.Aver y Knapp and Tennyson McCalla n 8 because law is often but the tyrant’s will. light-speed communications. wi-fi. No technology has changed this fact. higher resolutions. Jefferson again: “Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man. property. Man can still act in a bestial manner as an individual villain. So let us now turn to the present day. to be instructed as if he had no will. freedoms of contract. Our modern gadgets and trinkets cannot obviate self-evident truths. none of them change in any fundamental way what the Framers were working with: human nature. keyboards. satellites. a time of the future relative to the Framers. OLEDS. Mice. etc. click-wheels. unimportant. religious belief. etc.. just as it forces us to do today. Man’s nature has not changed. Internet(s). HDTVs. thought. we learn that all people are equal.. Any individual’s inalienable rights (e.) could not rightfully be infringed upon by any other individual. with all of the danger that that phrase implies. that from their equality inalienable rights are derived. the creation of atomic weapons in the 20th century. No new devices have made this less true today than it was in the Framers’ time. optical fiber roll-outs. On the contrary. Man can still act as a subject.” Putting these ideas together. Reality forced them to work with principles. and his beastly acts can and have been magnified exponentially with power over other men. nanomachines.

com. We demand even more restraints on that beast known as the state. Collectivism won the 20th century. We want to see even less opportunity for the majority to abuse the minority (the individual being the smallest minority of all). Tennyson McCalla is a photographer and jack-of-all-trades who became a volunteer for Ron Paul. libertarian. In drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He’s a young.. as Jefferson said. “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” the Founders attempted to place strict bounds on the delegated powers of government. With those changes. almost none of the legislation that does pass would pass. He can be reached at averyknapp@gmail. Knapp Jr. What we would change has far more to do with the eternal. would be far better off for it. and highly compelling issue of rights: unalienable. civil.8 n n e W G A D Ge t s D o n o t n e W H U M A nI t Y M A K e votes. constitutional.com. was the grassroots Meetup organizer for Ron Paul’s campaign in NYC and is a radiology resident at Lenox Hill Hospital. These changes merely placate people by giving them the illusion of more choice.D. We would grant even less power to our servant. About the Authors Avery J. individual. M. .mccalla@gmail. and the rest of the world. These United States. government. and can be reached at tennyson.. or the means by which we view and rate our elected representatives. Technology is not the engine that drives freedom—it’s a tool that can encourage or destroy it. and it does both. realizing that. crucial. Freedom is the engine that allows individuals to better their lives through such things as technology. and human. radical. these documents were a failure. In that sense. Our hope is that individual liberty can win in the 21st.

business executives.” During the winter of 1997.DeL IBeR At I V e DeMoCR AC Y In t HeoR Y A nD PR AC t ICe Kaliya Hamlin “ At the heart of America’s liberal democracy are competitive elections. Over two weekends in February and March. Then. but this design choice does not enhance collective intelligence and wisdom. on April 2nd and 3rd... fifteen Boston citizens—from a homeless shelter resident to a high-tech business manager. and interest-group 8 J ” . . they heard ten hours of testimony from experts. ohn Ralston Saul. Government is the only organized mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known as the public good. computer specialists. government officials. educators. they discussed background readings and got introductory briefings. from a retired farmer to a recent inner-city high school graduate— undertook an intensive study of telecommunications issues.” wrote “The most powerful force possessed by the individual citizen is her own government. in “The Unconscious Civilization.

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representatives. After interrogating the experts and deliberating late into the night (with excellent facilitation), they came up with a consensus statement recommending judicious but far-reaching policy changes which they presented at a press conference at Tufts University, covered by WCVB-TV/CNN and the Boston Globe, among other news organizations. U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey, ranking Democrat (and former Chair) of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, said, “This is a process that I hope will be repeated in other parts of the country and on other issues.” These ordinary citizens ended up knowing more about telecommunications than the average congressperson who votes on the issue. Dick Sclove, a lead organizer of the event, says that their behavior contradicted the assertion that government and business officials are the only ones competent and caring enough to be involved in technological decision-making. This lay panel assimilated a broad array of testimony, which they integrated with their own very diverse life experiences to reach a well-reasoned collective judgment grounded in the real needs of everyday people. This proves that democratizing U.S. science and technology decision-making is not only advisable, but also possible and practical.21 When the Framers of our Constitution met in Philadelphia in 1787, digital media, modern psychology, social psychology, and ecological and systems science did not exist. The deliberative democracy approach outlined above and expanded upon in this essay integrates the best of face-to-face social collaboration technologies with information and communication technologies for wise governance decisions. Using these kinds of processes and technologies we can actually hear what my collaborator and network colleague Tom Atlee

21 “Ordinary Folks Make Good Policy,” Co-Intelligencer website, http://www.co-intelligence.org/SordinaryfolksLOKA.html, downloaded April 18, 2008.

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calls the Voice of “We the People” expressing the public good.22 At the heart of America’s liberal democracy are competitive elections, but this design choice does not enhance collective intelligence and wisdom. It fragments communities and societies into reductionist, adversarial “sides” and reduces complex spectra of possibilities to oversimplified “positions” that preclude creative alternatives. The norm is that citizens abdicate decision-making to elected officials, who are in turn heavily influenced by the special interests they must serve to raise money to be re-elected. With few exceptions, existing processes of democracy • Do not provide much effective power to ordinary citizens • Promote at least as much ignorance and distraction as informed public dialogue • Serve special interests better than the general welfare • Impede breakthroughs that could creatively resolve problems and conflicts, and • Undermine the emergence of inclusive community wisdom Voting developed as a process to support self-governance in American history, and at its inception in the 18th century it was new and innovative. In the town halls of New England, citizens gathered together, debated, and decided among themselves those who would hold leadership positions in the community. The method has not scaled to address the wicked problems we as a country and world face. Wicked problems are incomplete, contradictory and have changing requirements; and solutions to them are often difficult to recognize because of their complex interdependencies—solutions may reveal or create more wicked

22 How Can We Create an Authentic, Inclusive Voice of We the People from the Grassroots Up? http://thataway.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=477 Initiated by Tom Atlee Modified by/commented on by Kaliya Hamlin

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problems.23 Economic, environmental, social, and political issues are wicked problems. In Tom Atlee’s book, The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All,24 he highlights several working examples of Citizen Deliberative Councils., including Citizen Jury, Consensus Conference, and Wisdom Council.25 These efforts have common characteristics that can be replicated in other communities. They are, to some extent, official, with an explicit mandate from government agencies to address public issues or the general concerns of the community. They generate a specific product such as findings or recommendations to the larger community and elected officials. They are real councils, meaning that they are in-person, face-to-face assemblies. Council members are from a fair cross-section of society, often randomly selected peer citizens. These bodies are temporary, not meeting for more than a few weeks. Their efforts are deliberative and balanced, and often facilitated to help participants to understand diverse points of view. These processes were created before the Web existed, and as such were labor intensive, expensive and difficult to scale.26 But now we have
23 Wicked problems are defined here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem 24 Atlee, Tom, The Tao of Democracy: Using co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All, available here: http://www.collectivewisdominitiative.org/files_people/Atlee_Tom.htm 25 The reader can learn more about these efforts at the following websites: http://www. collectivewisdominitiative.org/files_people/Atlee_Tom.htm, http://radio.weblogs.com/0120875/ stories/2003/03/23/citizenDeliberativeCouncils.html#13, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Citizens’_jury,http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-ConsensusConference1.html, http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-wisdomcouncil.html 26 Scaling in the computing, network sense is the ability to to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner, or to be readily enlarged. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalability In practical terms a website that can handle 2000 visitors a day may not work with 10,000 or 100,000 or a million visitors day. The democratic voting process that worked well in a New England town of 1,000 people or a state of 10,000 citizens is not scaling well to a nation of three hundred million

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an emerging suite of online tools that can augment these processes and reduce their costs. The right combination of face-to-face deliberation with online tools can be as revolutionary as the self-governance process developed by the Framers in 1787. Any neighborhood council, city council, region, state or even national lawmakers can use these processes to tap the wisdom and decision-making potential of the people. Here’s how it could work: Pick an Issue. Choose the topic from all the possible problems that could be tackled. Issues can be surfaced online using popular participation websites such as Digg that allow users to rank issues or polling via a network like Twitter. Frame the Issue. Framing an issue for deliberation means describing the range of approaches to an issue and the arguments and evidence for and against each approach. A wiki is the kind of tool that will allow large groups of people (think Wikipedia) to work on understanding and elucidating an issue together. Select Deliberators. This step is key to the legitimacy of citizen councils. The selection of deliberators must represent the diversity of the community and be resistant to outside pressures. This gives them a legitimacy that is similar to, but more refined than, the selection of juries, which also seeks to convene a cross-section of the community. Database tools can be used to create unbiased and inclusive selections of deliberators. These same kinds of tools can also be used to pool citizens willing to participate in deliberative councils. Collect Information and Expertise. Gathering information from a range of experts and stakeholders about the pros and cons of different approaches is the next step. This is an important factor in both collective intelligence (which learns from and integrates diverse views) and legitimacy (the willingness of ordinary citizens and officials to respect the outcomes of the process). We can find experts via the Web, draw in their expert testimony via web video conferencing, and perhaps have

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online forums where their knowledge is aggregated. Massive datasets of expert information are now free and available about critical issues, such as environmental toxins and the relationship between lobbying funds and legislation in Congress. These can be compiled, presented and widely shared with visualization tools, using methods beyond prose or PowerPoint to present critical information and tell relevant stories. Deliberation. Most citizen deliberative councils involve 12-24 deliberators meeting in concentrated dialogue over four to eight days (distributed over one to ten weeks, depending on the method), led by professional facilitators. Since this may not be feasible in all circumstances, we can use the distributed intelligence of the Web to augment the in-person deliberations. Deliberations can happen both online and face-to-face over time, thus reducing the time and cost. Different algorithmic and semantic tools can be used to help deliberators see patterns of agreement and understanding. Decision-Making. It is important to find processes that produce a deliberative Voice of “We the People” that the vast majority of the population will recognize as legitimate. Online tools like Synanim. com build consensus and shared statements using a multi-step online process. Iteration can also happen using methods like Digg or Slashdot-style voting and community commentary. Dissemination and Impact. It is critically important to the ultimate success of citizen deliberative councils that their impact on public awareness, public policy, and public programs be discussed and understood. Online tools are critical to these assessments in a variety of ways. Politicians and other officials should also sign pledges in support of these efforts (this can be a campaign issue) that can be shared online. Ongoing feedback can be integrated and continually shared with the public using online phenomena like Facebook and organized networks like MoveOn.org to share results and empower “We the People” to ensure its Voice is heard.

net. leadership. She is an expert in the field of user-centric digital identity. meaningful citizen participation in the critical decisions of our government at all levels. and wisdom together with online tools. Canada she has lived her whole adult life in the United States and recently applied for citizenship. . About the Author Kaliya Young Hamlin designs and facilitates gatherings of professional technical communities addressing large challenges.Kaliya Hamlin n  The approaches and processes discussed in this essay are not an answer to our democratic woes and difficulties. The tools and advantages of the Internet alone aren’t enough to augment existing democratic processes and strengthen our country.net and identitywoman. blogging at unconference. Born and raised in Vancouver. This essay is intended as a call to action and research to learn how best to scale new methods of citizen consultation. I invite a more thorough exploration of how these steps can create a deep well of ongoing.

but one whose time has come. People can work together to gather and analyze information. they lead to grave  ” . whether legislators in Congress.” the concentration of power in the hands of too few. Bad decisions not only produce bad government.GoVeRnMent BY t He PeoPL e Beth Simone Noveck “ Ordinary citizens have more to offer than voting or answering polls. ur representative institutions of democracy create “single points of failure. our political professionals are not in possession of the best information or expertise to make decisions in the public interest. The insider-dealing and money-politics that have been the hallmark of the Bush administration exacerbate mounting illegitimacy and distrust of government. the strain on our institutions becomes increasingly manifest. The official no longer needs to be the sole decision-maker. And with the complexity of our global economic and environmental crises. and even make decisions. bureaucrats in the administrative agencies or cabinet officials in the executive branch. Even in the absence of bad intentions and overt corruption. This is a radical o idea.

laboring under a dearth of pertinent information—for help deciding whether an invention deserves a patent. We could even empower local groups to spend money on our behalf —reporting back on how they addressed specific problems and thereby becoming eligible for more funding. In the Peer-to-Patent project. We could appoint citizen juries to “shadow” the work of every cabinet official or agency head. We can now use Internet technology to build a 21st-century government that opens up many processes previously considered the realm of governmental professionals. It is not even greater transparency and “sunshine” —knowing more about who takes an official to lunch. but government need not lose this contest. healthcare and every issue of importance. education. Instead. We need to redesign democracy as a system of collaborative governance where more people are empowered to participate actively in making the decisions by which we order our collective lives. the US Patent and Trademark Office has already begun by opening the examination process to scientists— not only to the examiners employed by the patent office. But this should be just the beginning. There is a competition for talent between the public and private sector.Beth Simone Noveck n  consequences for jobs. The solution is not only to pass laws against dishonesty and corruption. the economy. we have the tools to extend the intelligence and improve the competence of an institution if we can connect it to the expertise of networks of people outside of government. We could enable local communities around the world to submit information and photo-documentation to environmental authorities to inform decision-making about clean air and water and create accountability and impetus for clean-up. The answer to improving the legitimacy of our democratic institutions is nothing short of a fundamental overhaul of the practices of government to eliminate the single points of failure. We have the tools that allow government to .

Proponents of “deliberative democracy” have long argued for what they call the public exchange of reason and advocated for public hearings and town halls —and on-line versions of same —for citizens to talk about the business of government. No matter how civic-minded the government official. these also only allow for a thumbs-up or down vote. and even make decisions. she is blind to many opportunities to pursue the public good. In a survey of environmental lawyers. Ordinary citizens have more to offer than voting or answering polls. law professors J. Ordinary citizens have more to offer than voting or answering polls. . for example.B. The official no longer needs to be the sole decision-maker. In the world before the Internet. But those deliberative conversations do not connect to action. People can work together to gather and analyze information. but one whose time has come. but one whose time has come. This is a radical idea. n Go V e R n M e n t B Y t H e P e oP L e solicit help from those with know-how. passion and enthusiasm. They are generally one-off affairs. Ruhl and James Salzman found that only 8% of respondents thought that the EPA has sufficient time to search for relevant science and only 6% believed that agencies employ adequate analysis. The official no longer needs to be the sole decision-maker. The notion that government knows best is a myth. it made sense to believe that accountability in a democracy could only happen once every few years at the polling booth. of course. While we evolved new measures such as ballot motions and referenda. People can work together to gather and analyze information. where individuals go to throw out unqualified elected officials. Even in the absence of bad intentions or personally corrupt motives. not tied to governmental practices of agenda-setting. policy-drafting and decision-making. The idea of citizen participation is not new. the bureaucrat or politician in Washington simply lacks access to the right information and useful ways of making sense of good science. This is a radical idea. and even make decisions.

Politics is hard and complicated.000 citizens in a jury. But such naysaying misunderstands the issues. If we design the practices of 21st-century governance to split up tasks into many smaller fact-gathering and decision-making exercises.000 people to work on the issue of asbestos or mercury. Most observers think that people are too busy to do the work of professionals in government. we’ll diversify against the risk of defection. and a percentage of whom will want to contribute to solving community problems or clarifying community knowledge. In other words. obscure (yet important) decisions get made every day in government that could be made better if we used technology to open up participation and oversight to a few dozen experts and enthusiasts. It will also make it easier for busy people to do the work of participation. And if we design governmental decisions to be made in groups. what blogger Andy Oram calls the micro-elite. Empowering people requires designing and building appropriate technologies and also enacting the best legal and policy framework to change the way government works. group members will keep each other honest and blow the whistle if corruption occurs. Some will counter that more active involvement in government by private citizens self-selecting to participate will only increase the risk of corruption. The congressman doesn’t demand 10. if we start to think about governance as a much more granular and limited set of practices. spend money and make decisions. the five or ten or hundred people who know best. The EPA doesn’t need 100.Beth Simone Noveck n  Effective government operations demand ongoing engagement —even if only for a few minutes a day. While some issues attract a huge number of people. We should begin by: • Employing “social networking” technology to create online networks based on expertise and interest in particular issues and decisions . we can delegate greater power to citizens to gather facts.

This means offering the data in an open format that does not require special tools for reading. This means getting governmental authorities to communicate their needs to citizens so that people understand what is being asked of them and can supply information to government in manageable and useful ways • Mandating (through Executive Order) that every government agency develop a 21st-century government plan to engage citizens in its decision-making practices and report to OMB and to Congress on its progress. n Go V e R n M e n t B Y t H e P e oP L e • Delegating government practices like fact gathering and analysis to collaborative. venture firms and philanthropies to support 21st-century government innovations by funding pilot projects for government institutions and awarding prizes for success • Amending the E-Government Act of 2001 that was enacted to enhance access to government information by citizens through the Internet. mashed-up. and in a documented. so that government information can be easily analyzed. Funds should be appropriated to institutionalize 21st-century government pilot programs • Mandating (through legislation) that every congressperson and agency head convene a citizen jury to whom she regularly reports. predictable structure that makes it easy to automate queries . and impose a duty to justify departures from the group’s recommendations • Mandating (through legislation) that the federal government provide information in formats designed for data retrieval and use. visualized and used by those outside of government. Every agency should undertake at least one pilot program each year • Encouraging corporations. on-line groups.

Department of Communication. an interdisciplinary “Do Tank” (http://dotank. Her book.com. from customers and employees. . Professor Noveck is the founder of the Democracy Design Workshop. we will both reduce corruption and strengthen democracy. About the Author Beth Simone Noveck is professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law & Policy at New York Law School and the McClatchy Visiting Associate Professor at Stanford University. If we start collaborating actively to govern ourselves. Democracy Stronger. She (and her students) blog at http:// cairns. This same idea has yet to be applied to government.Beth Simone Noveck n  • Creating a cabinet-level Chief Technology Officer post responsible for articulating and reporting to the nation a vision for 21st-century government and its progress The most forward-looking companies know that innovation comes not from the center but from the periphery. not from management.edu) dedicated to deepening democratic practice through the application of both legal code and software code. and Citizens More Powerful will be released by Brookings Press in 2009. Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better.typepad.nyls.

and the public works department picks up my garbage. self or government? Vegetarian or chicken? Isn’t government a big bureaucratic institution that serves me like a customer? Maybe I use a national park once in a while. Which is it. they meant loose associations formed for political purposes. you wouldn’t self-WalMart. precursors of political parties that would develop 8 s “ We’ll make the refreshed self-government we need by continuing to boldly self-organize. who were desperately trying to escape the rule of a monarchical. right? You can’t self-McDonald’s. but it was a key concept for our Founders. ” . the Founding Fathers used the word “association” to refer to people coming together voluntarily for a common purpose.seL F -oRGA nIz eD seL F -GoV eRnMen t Scott Heiferman elf-government is like vegetarian chicken. oppressive government. Most often. As they self-organized America. and every four years I might vote. or send a selfFedEx —so what’s self-government? Self-government may sound oxymoronic to many Americans today. but governing isn’t something I do. It’s something an institution does.

If men are to remain civilized or to become so. was a fundamental building block of a free society for the Founders. The modern non-profit sector now includes associations. the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote. creating new forms of decentralized associations and institutions. increased in number and professional approach. all conditions. they just set a loose framework on top of which others could lay their own ideas and tools. It would never have occurred to the Founders that professional organizations like Environmental Defense Fund or the National Rifle Association would take the place of individual citizens to advocate for legislation or services. . and direct service and advocacy organizations of every size. and all dispositions constantly form associations. these loose associations evolved. churches. political action committees. They became more institution-like as people were becoming more distrustful of institutions. unions. Citizens were self-organizing into more organized associations. neither could Internet pioneers predict the incredible things people have done with their new platforms. Now we’re seeing people self-organize in new ways through the Internet. And. associations. millions of people have . as we know. In the early 19th century. in every corner of the country. now more often known as non-profit organizations.Scot t Heiferman n  later. Just as the Founders of our country could not have predicted exactly how people would use the levers of democracy to advance the country’s interests. for every cause. and say whatever they wanted. The Internet pioneers didn’t think of every contingency in the design. “Americans of all ages.” Throughout the 20th century. Large non-profit organizations that came of age in the 20th century are generally organized hierarchically like centralized businesses. In Democracy in America. The right to meet with whomever they chose. .

I am.com).000 Meetups (local group meetings) happen monthly. however. About the Author Scott Heiferman co-founded the global group-gathering website. the founder of a technology platform. The greatest opportunity for America to revive the spirit of self-government is through citizen self-organization. I’m not going to pretend to be James Madison and offer ways to improve the structure and process of government. In 1995 he created i-traffic. He also founded Fotolog. from Google to eBay to Wikipedia.meetup.00 n s e L F . So I’m stumped by the question of how to redesign American democracy. and Europe. that helps people self-organize locally. to the millions of blogs with very few readers but impassioned. com. the first online ad agency.S. and viewed by nearly 1 million people daily. We’ll make the refreshed self-government we need by continuing to boldly self-organize. Meetup. Human potential was unleashed. America was founded on self-organization. You can’t change a culture from its original foundations. over 100. Citizens will feel—and will be—more powerful when they design the new system themselves. a pioneer in search-keyword media placement.Go V e R n M e n t participated in an unprecedented worldwide explosion of innovation. and no traditional institution could have made Google. MTV couldn’t make Facebook.o R G A nI z e D s e L F . Thankfully. Today. a health condition. or something important to them.net in 2002. the leading photo weblog platform. Barry Diller couldn’t make eBay. NBC couldn’t make YouTube. in 2002. Five million people have registered to meet up with neighbors around an issue. with offices in the U. Meetup (www. empowered authors. . used by over a quarter million people. and now one of the largest online media buyers. I’ve come to understand that nothing will have a more positive impact on our world than the power to self-organize easily.

the answer is “No.” However. He is busy talking to somebody. does your representative talk to some citizens. just not to us. The Internet enables this. So why does he consult with those few and not with me or you? The answer used to be that it was a matter of logistics—it was impossible to solicit the opinion of each 0 n ” . maybe friends of his. Today. for the first time in a modern nation. citizens can be genuinely represented in the process of legislation. But does your federal representative consult you before she casts her vote on bills and resolutions? Does she ask your opinion on laws that will affect you and the entire nation? For most of us. ever before in the history of the world has it been possible for elected representatives to hear the voices of their constituents simultaneously and instantaneously across great distances.t He DIGI tA L W IL L oF t He PeoPL e Pablo del Real “ Electronically publishing the collective wish of the populace for each House bill would result in the ‘digital’ will of the people. as well as corporate lobbyists? We know he does.

51%) To be effective. Let us use the Internet to render the will of the people visible. But that’s not true anymore. 32%) the House: Nay (49% vs. Then. 103 Universal Health Care Act the People: Yea (68% vs. Aggregating the counts of all the districts across the country would create a national figure for each bill. Simply put. Citizens would be invited to register for representation with their district. Now they can know how their districts want them to vote on every piece of law proposed. the digital will of the people is the measurement of our sentiment—a simple Yea or Nay—regarding proposed legislation.gov. the digital will of the people would have to be official—it should be a governmental tool and bear the government’s . Each congressional district would have its own web page at www. citizens would receive an e-mail with a simple poll asking them to indicate their preference with a Yes or No regarding any bills being proposed. not since the advent of the Internet.S. each representative would know what her constituents want her to do and say. house.0 n t H e DI GI tA L W I L L o F t H e P e oP L e constituent in every single district. representatives can easily ask constituents for their opinions on every bill and resolution. and let us give ourselves a voice in our own politics. later. Electronically publishing the collective wish of the populace for each House bill would result in the “digital” will of the people. For example: Poll results for H. With an automatic tally of Yeas and Nays. just as they are invited to register to vote now. U.R. Here is how it would work. allowing everyone first to see the collective wish of the people. Today. When bills are scheduled for a vote in the House. we could compare it to the actual vote in the House.

the entities being represented are corporations and not average citizens. About the Author Pablo del Real is the founder of Auroras Voice. not by making it direct. Corporations. but by requiring direct dialogue—a direct connection between citizens and their representatives.Pablo del Real n 0 imprimatur. The above essay is adapted from his book P-poll: Are You Happy Now? . through lobbyists. The same tool managed by the people themselves would be ineffective. representative government is alive and well. We the People are voiceless—what we feel. not a vote. the people—We. nobody hears. Corporations are not the bad guys. have our representatives’ ears. Government sponsorship and implementation of the tool would ensure the best possible conditions for the integration of citizens and their representatives. That the government has not seized or acted on the opportunity in eight years should make us believe that it needs some prodding from you and me. However. Meanwhile. they are merely gaming the system as it exists. Of course. The opportunity to involve citizens in the process of legislation has existed since the year 2000 when the Internet achieved widespread reach. they would retain what amounts to veto power over the will of the people. a not-for-profit organization devoted to vesting American citizens with legitimate political power. The digital will can improve representative democracy. Representatives need not heed the popular will once it does become visible. We the People want a voice. To be clear.

but it’s n a Monday morning in March of 2006. not just person-to-person. We all know and love these stories of collective political action enabled by new tools. Mobile phones were essential in organizing protestors and forcing the resignation of Filipino President Joseph Estrada in 2001. forty thousand students in Southern California stunned teachers and administrators by walking out of school to protest a proposed anti-immigrant bill. but also in groups. And now. and had scrambled to find a way to participate themselves. the students were able to coordinate with one another rapidly and effectively. The students blocked traffic as they marched to City Hall. the Web is being used to organize the pro-Tibet 0 o worth a shot.PoL I t IC A L CoL L A BoR At I V e PRoDUC t Ion Clay Shirky “ It’s not yet clear whether experiments in incorporation will do for group action what novel forms of copyright have done for collaborative production. creating a very visible and public display. ” . Armed with MySpace and text messaging. They had been inspired by an adult demonstration that had taken place two days prior.

now and in the future. a piece of software has to have a license guaranteeing that its recipe— or source code—remains available to programmers. Similarly. Generally. However. These are great stories. but also for the millions of users who access these kinds of products for free. To qualify as Open Source. and other content-creators to ensure that their work remains available for republishing as well as for . What would it take to copy that collaborative pattern for politics? How can we find ways to encourage the formation of groups with explicitly political goals? One intriguing possibility is a legal structure similar to that of Open Source software systems such as Linux. there are thousands of examples of large-scale and long-term creativity in the sphere of intellectual production. and they bode well for a reinvigoration of political protest worldwide. These efforts create value not just for the participants. but to solve political problems directly. photographers. an Open Source license actually expands them. the goal of the action is some sort of capitulation—someone resigns from office. they all share the same characteristic. the Creative Commons project has created a set of licenses that allow writers. The curious piece of legal jujitsu that makes Open Source software possible is the licensing agreement. There are comparatively few examples of groups using new digital tools to start or sustain long-term political action. This seems to be a particularly political failing. one that is true of many examples of collective action: they rely on stop energy. through the actions of their members. The usual stories of collective action have to do with short-term pressure brought upon existing institutions to try to stop them from doing something.Clay Shirk y n 0 protests dogging the 2008 Olympic torch. or to those employed by open collaborative products like Wikipedia. and so on. Rather than restricting rights of users through copyright. some proposed law is defeated. These groups wouldn’t be working to elect politicians or to propose or oppose laws.

27 Creative Commons is a non-profit organization started by Lawrence Lessig. No problem. This legal guarantee is critical both to bringing groups together and to sustaining communal work. devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to legally build upon and share.0 n P o L I t I C A L C o L L A B o R At I V e P R o D U C t I o n other forms of re-use. because society also has a formal mechanism for deferring to the decision-making power of groups. You’d be laughed out of the room. While this social mechanism has traditionally been designed to reserve and restrict rights. The best you can do is to get one person to open the account and add check-signing privileges. make decisions. but we could. It’s called incorporation. . We don’t have any such tool for group effort outside of intellectual production. present and future—that their work can never be co-opted. law professor at Stanford University. Now imagine coming back a month later and announcing that you and those same friends have incorporated— given your relationship a legal and formal body—and you want an account. so that group can raise and spend money. these kinds of licensing schemes ensure participants—of the past. The common thread is the use of copyright law. depending on the one chosen. Your group has become legally recognizable. which is more restrictive. and it could be pressed into service to create a new zone of expanded rights for collective action in the same way a Creative Commons license expands rights of production and re-use. just sign on the dotted line. These licenses. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. restrict only certain rights (or none) of the work instead of traditional copyright. Imagine going into your local bank with four or five friends and announcing that you want to open a joint account. because the bank won’t recognize the group as a unit.27 As Steve Weber points out in his brilliant book The Success of Open Source. the models cited above employ copyright law to guarantee and expand them. What incorporation allows us to do is to grant legal personhood to a group. Copyright provides a formal mechanism for deferring to the wishes of creators.

their productive contribution comes not in the form of invested capital. sweat equity is the principal form of equity. which allows the formation of corporations whose members know one another mainly or solely online. it generally ends up subverting group decision-making.) In the U. participatory surplus of people who are ready to contribute to efforts and causes larger than themselves. (In the Virtual Company. It’s not yet clear whether experiments in incorporation will do for group action what novel forms of copyright have done for collaborative production. As our society has become increasingly connected. is that incorporating is onerous. In addition. the Community Interest Corporation allows for the creation of businesses with social goals so deeply embedded in their charters that even future owners can’t reverse them. to offer and enter into contracts. the group is still regarded as a legitimate unit. and. a colleague of Noveck’s at New York Law School. of course.Clay Shirk y n 0 and enter into contracts. and to adopt binding forms of governance. which includes the ability to raise and spend money. and largely unused. Incorporation so solidifies the existence of the group that even if all the members change. but it’s worth a shot. David Johnson. while giving those groups the legitimacy that incorporation provides. The analogous bit of jujitsu would be to create a corporate form that allows groups to come together easily and quickly in the ways now made possible by our digital and social tools. Beth Noveck’s wonderful paper “A Democracy of Groups” lays the groundwork for deference by the state in order to make group action more productive. we’ve generated a huge. but in donated time and attention.K. We are only now figuring out how . IBM still exists today. A constellation of recent experiments points to this model of group action. because the CEO generally has enormous and disproportionate executive power. has created a Virtual Company model in Vermont. though not one of its founding employees is alive. The problem..

and consultant to a variety of organizations on network technologies. educator.08 n P o L I t I C A L C o L L A B o R At I V e P R o D U C t I o n to tap that surplus. If I had to pick one method of rebooting civic life. He is the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization (Penguin Press. He is an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU) in their graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program. . and consultant on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. real political change will be generated by groups that start or sustain long-term action. and while protests and pressure groups are a necessary part of any political system. About the Author Clay Shirky is a writer. 2008). it would be by finding new ways to grant groups the legitimacy essential to pursuing long-term and constructive goals on their own.

CoMMUnI t Y InF oRM At Ion CoMMons Harry C.” a crucial balance to “e-commerce. “more and more of less and less. Family life. Materialistic values threaten human values. ew technologies have many positives. That will require online community information spaces that act as “e-commons.” The spread of the Internet undermines repressive governments.” 0 n ” . Web 2.0 technologies create new opportunities for co-creation of content to inform and engage millions of people. we could end up more powerless. We need a place to ground cyberspace. They can feed economic growth and create a “global village. That will require online community information spaces that act as “e-commons.” For all the promise. and privacy are put at risk. The mass culture may well produce. Yet they also hold dangers. community ties.” a crucial balance to “e-commerce. Boyte “ We need a place to ground cyberspace. as many have said.

Bernice Johnson Reagon composed the song in the early 1960s. The movement’s central theme of civic agency—that ordinary people can be architects of their lives. These ideas had been eclipsed by consumerism and the focus on private life in the 1950s. comes directly from the freedom movement. and collaborators with others across differences on common challenges—has re-emerged in the 2008 election season. and our democracy. including the increasing prevalence and power of new technologies. described the Civil Rights Movement in “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” as “bringing the entire nation back to the great . It became a rallying cry of the movement. communities. In the process. not simply a vote (either at the ballot box or in the click of a mouse). capturing the spirit of citizenship and freedom schools that trained blacks in skills of collective action such as how to chair a meeting. and the future of our society and the world. But when Martin Luther King Jr. but it required a broad movement that enlisted the talents and energies of citizens to change a way of life. people recalled that democracy itself is best seen as a way of life. research an issue. I believe these words have resurfaced because people once again feel a sense of urgency about gaining control over their lives. In fact. shapers of their communities.” a central theme of Barack Obama’s campaign. This involved returning to older concepts of the citizen as a builder and co-creator of our communities. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Beyond a particular candidate’s message.0 n C o M M U nI t Y In F o R M At I o n C o M M o n s A Vital Civic Legacy Many people today feel powerless over larger cultural trends. our culture. and negotiate with people of other views and interests. But the civic legacy of the freedom movement of the 1960s (that I participated in as a young man as a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) provides models for overcoming this powerlessness. In 1954 the Supreme Court outlawed segregation.

It also left us with a vital legacy of civic agency to draw upon. The movement sought not only to “realize the promise of democracy” for African-Americans. not help them. The Continuing Challenge Though it did not end America’s racial divide. by loosening the bonds of tradition and enticing them with the allure of modern pop culture. noting the . The 21st century version of segregation is sometimes called the “digital divide”—the lack of access of poor and minority populations to new technologies. A recent World Bank report. But in fact.” And that meant that they would concentrate on community problems like sewers and roads and dilapidated schools. but people had to take on civic responsibility.” Cotton would say. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsored hundreds of “citizenship schools. chances are.digittaldivide.Harr y C. the poor are being given access and. The Digital Divide group (www. they came to see themselves as “first-class citizens. As people struggled with the answers. as well as voting rights.” he was helping the nation remember. in the U. Boy te n  wells of democracy that were dug deep by the Founding Fathers. “Nobody is going to solve these problems for us. and around the world. access is not the real question.” “What is a citizen?” was the question posed in church basements and beauty parlors by leaders like Dorothy Cotton and Septima Clark.S. Government could be a resource.org) has identified far graver problems internationally: Yes. in most countries virtually every citizen will eventually have his or her own wireless access device (or shared use of one in a village). But such access could hurt them. but to make democracy’s larger meaning come alive again. the movement made huge progress in dismantling legal segregation.

Like poor nations brutally exposed to market forces weighted against them. talents and wisdom of the whole citizenry. the commons was a civic meeting ground rooted in the real life of com- . These are dangers faced by people in suburbs. What is to be done? Past challenges facing our nation—the struggle to end racial segregation. Today. as communications industries become more concentrated and local cultures that are supported by local media are displaced. the music they listen to. and working-class communities. Historically. n C o M M U nI t Y In F o R M At I o n C o M M o n s spread of networks into the rural areas of Thailand. as well. or the friends they socialize with online. argues that the quality of digital access being received by low income Thais is one-way. entertainment-oriented. commercial and technologically backward and may be accelerating the exodus of untrained youth from rural areas into cities. the technological revolution is an occasion and a challenge for a new citizen movement.S. rural youth entering the cities with Playstation2 images of Laura Croft dancing in their heads. we face the danger of a mass media monoculture. the struggle against fascism—required the energy. Growing numbers express concern about the exchange of private information on the Internet. may not be well equipped for the challenges that await them in cities such as Bangkok. Many parents feel that they have little control over what their children watch. as young people (and others) enter the intoxicating and seductive world of cyberspace. the Internet can also loosen the roots and relationships of poor. where we have come to recognize the danger of mono-cultures. minority. the Great Depression. The concept of the commons has relevance once again. In the U. As in agriculture.

Peter Levine. union hiring halls. si. Forms of citizen journalism. The commons expressed the culture. among others. Citizens are creating neighborhood web pages and online conversations about public issues. The loss of the civic commons is a major reason for current widespread feelings of powerlessness. But powerful countertrends are emerging using new technologies. and ownership. many commons lost the qualities of civic centers and their roots in places. It was something people helped to create.edu/~presnick/papers/civicextension/index. around which they gathered. state. and Robert Wachbroit. bands and sports teams all could be seen as commons in which people participated. The commons took many forms. traditions.Harr y C. pride. Libraries and schools began to serve “customers. As we shifted to an expert-dominated service society. Newspapers. and through which they developed a collective public signature in the larger world. to develop policy proposals for resources and technical assistance that could spread new information commons. community festivals. are proliferating. histories and common work of particular places. and local policies will be crucial to support this work. locally owned businesses. Boy te n  munities.html). fairs. through the work of creating commons.” YMCAs shut down community problem-solving projects and opened racquetball courts. Lew Friedland. which also requires new institutions to spread the information commons approach.umich. In 2001. New federal. Health clinics in Minneapolis resembled those in Portland. people gained a sense of stake. Community information commons are part of a new. congregations. libraries. settlement houses.” using information technologies as vital resources. schools. I worked with a group including Paul Resnick. Many libraries and schools and non-profits are reinventing themselves as “civic centers. larger civic . We also proposed a “civic extension service” for the information age (http://www. telling the news of community life.

Both stronger public places and stronger citizens will be essential for a flourishing democracy—and for reclaiming control over the technologies that are. or aggrieved protestor.” The civic movement is also generating new concepts and practices such as citizenship through public work.org) and Community-Wealth.org.paunite.com. through which people seek to control their destinies. sustained effort by people with diverse interests and views who develop capacities for work across differences on common civic challenges—is distinguished from dominant definitions of the citizen as voter. Humphrey Institute on Public Affair’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship. both of which provide tools and support services to strengthen local communities. what PPS calls “placemaking. including an international youth civic movement called Public Achievement (www. Public work—productive. n C o M M U nI t Y In F o R M At I o n C o M M o n s movement. He is also founder of Public Achievement. which is being used in schools. a theory-based practice of citizen organizing to do public work for the common good. volunteer.org). Two examples include the Project for Public Spaces in New York City (www.Org (www. universities and communities across the United States and in more than a dozen countries.publicwork. About the Author Harry Boyte is founder and co-director of the Hubert H.publicachievement. It is taking many forms. Public work emphasizes the citizen as a strong civic agent. . a co-producer of public goods and collaborator with others in solving public problems (www.org). community-wealth. This movement involves the growth of anchoring community institutions of many kinds.publicachievement. www.pps. The digital world—if we see it as a supplement and not as a replacement for face-to-face interaction—has much to offer in building such a democracy. www. our human creations. after all.org).

we must insist on a new ethic of openness. we must insist on a new ethic of openness.  n ” . but also new ethics. Now that we have the technological means to open up government and make every action transparent. and we are the watchdog who’ll catch the bastards in the act. ow that we have the technological means to open up government and make every action transparent. If we’re lucky. If society is becoming connected and more (not less) social online. rather than just gathering beneath party banners. Here are my dreams. We have the tools of conversation that can involve citizens in decisions as they are made. The Internet Age gives us not only new tools to change how our government operates and relates to its citizens. so we should expect our politicians and bureaucrats to hear our ideas.t He e t HIC s oF oPenness Jeff Jarvis “ Today the default in our discussion of government is negative: they are doing bad things badly. technology may give us a more human government. then so will politics as we use new tools to organize around our issues.

Hillary Clinton has said she wants agencies to blog: “We should even have a government blogging team where people in the agencies are constantly telling all of you. Turn it inside out. ongoing criminal investigations. and a chief technology office to implement this. n t H e e t HI C s o F oP e n n e s s Abolish the Freedom of Information Act. Government officials and agencies should blog.. It should mean engaging in conversations with citizens about the work of government. The government should put C-SPAN out of business by broadcasting itself. Openness should mean more than releasing official documents. and hold the government accountable. I also believe that radio stations . Every act of government on our behalf should be free by default. everything that’s going on so that you have up-to-the-minute information about what your government is doing.” Webcast government. Obama has said he wants to webcast agency meetings. A blog is a convenient tool to do that—and a more efficient means of interaction than individual letters and phone calls. calling for standardization and openness of government data. including Supreme Court hearings. the taxpayers. national security. yes. See also Barack Obama’s technology policy. the citizens of America. See Ellen Miller’s call for transparent and open government on page 59 in this anthology. We should do the same with congressional meetings and. with rare exceptions: the personal business of citizens. court sessions. citizen involvement in decisions. Why should we have to ask for information from our government? The government should need permission to keep things from us. so that you too can be informed.

these are sure to be the lowest rated broadcasts since the invention of the cathode ray tube. it is ours. Today. That doesn’t mean they’ll be watched. The camera becomes the eye of the people. vote on. of course.com. Citizens would surely do the same for government.com.Jef f Jar vis n  and newspapers should get citizens to record and podcast local government meetings. Now Starbucks has used the same tool. from Salesforce. after all. All it takes is for one reader of the blog Talking Points Memo to watch one hearing and catch a newsworthy moment. One also sees an incredible generosity from customers. the default in our discussion of government is negative: they are doing bad things badly. always on: Big Brother. To get itself out of Dell hell (a reference to when the computer company ignored a blogstorm which I started around its bad service). But that doesn’t matter. Start a government IdeaStorm. and discuss suggestions. It would be good for government officials on the other side of the camera to know that they are being watched. All of government’s deliberations should be public. and we are the watchdogs who’ll catch the bastards in the act. One sees trends emerge in the discussion: Starbucks could see that its greatest problem with customers was not the smell of its sandwiches but the length of its lines. we must also shift to the constructive: positive conversations . a platform that enables customers to submit. Dell started blogging and also created IdeaStorm. So why not create IdeaStorms for our government just as Downing Street in the UK has opened up an ePetitions program? There is another important aspect to this idea: turning the conversation about government to the positive. to solicit ideas from customers at MyStarbucksIdea. Too often. reversed. they offer thoughtful advice about how companies can improve. But it is destructive to concentrate only on the negative. this is true.

I want to actively support such movements as protecting the First Amendment against FCC censorship and insuring a . I envision citizens’ personal political pages where each of us may. if we choose. and movements.8 n t H e e t HI C s o F oP e n n e s s about positive action. citizens will. then the press— including individual journalists—must also be transparent. so will they become more transparent. If the press demands that government be transparent. republican (small ‘r’) structure of our government with its filters. I am not in favor of turning to government-by-poll. This. Here’s how I see it working. Paraphrasing Harvard blogger Doc Searls’ movement for VRM. Likewise. campaigns. But I do think that given a chance to participate in the process. is what Obama’s theme of hope is really about. political relationship management. opinions. I believe the Internet’s ethic of openness will spread across society. participants realize that they need to reveal things about themselves to find others who share their interests. reveal our stands. and where we would manage our relationship with government. Though the Internet has made me a populist. one wishes. call it PRM. and deliberative process. as citizens demand transparency. I do believe in the representative. balances. vendor relationship management. One’s online identity is increasingly made up of the parts of ourselves that we choose to create or make public. and other parts we choose to keep hidden. We are already seeing more personal transparency in society. I voted for Hillary Clinton. Personal political pages. alliances. and allegiances. Ethics are synchronous. In Facebook. I hope technology helps us move past the gift economy to a gift society. blogs and other social media. I post my personal statement online: I am a centrist Democrat.

forming ad hoc. Mark Zuckerberg. They allow us to align ourselves on each issue discretely. The page could become a standard for disclosure of conflicts and biases for politicians and journalists as well. Revolutionary Armed Forces of . Reacting to this idea on my blog.” That is what the Internet is really all about—not content. the founder of Facebook. But on my personal political page. On my page. not an annual event. not media. opportunistic coalitions. TV industry analyst Andrew Tyndall said in a comment that the left/right political pigeonhole “makes it so much more difficult to form coalitions with those at radically different parts of the ideological spectrum…with born-again Christians who are leading activists on HIV/AIDS or Darfur genocide…with Wall Street free traders who want to liberalize immigration with Mexico…. Let’s imagine that millions of these pages can be searched and analyzed to get a constant snapshot of people’s views: Google as the polling place that never closes. I can also invite opponents of my views to try to convince me: send me a link to your best shot. it was being used to organize against the guerilla movement. So this becomes a platform for organizing citizens around shared needs and beliefs.Jef f Jar vis n  national open broadband policy. This puts us in control of public opinion and takes it out of the hands of pollsters. I also get to manage my relationship with politicians: I say which candidates and organizations and movements may approach me to ask for donations or to volunteer. I can explain and discuss any issues I choose. I can change my views and votes on the page. said at the South by Southwest conference that as soon as Facebook was translated into Spanish. I already disclose many of those views on my blog’s disclosures page. not binding ones. Personal Political Pages allow each of us to escape from the conventional left-right authoritarian-libertarian divisions of the political parties and the opinion pollsters. but connections among people. It makes politics a constant process.

com. who blogs at Buzzmachine. He is writing a book. witness record campaign spending this year and John McCain’s efforts to run away from the campaign reform act that bears his name. The political strategist Joe Trippi believes that the power of the Internet to help campaigns raise money from citizens—and to organize those citizens into movements—is what will free our political system from large donations and corporate contributions. campaigns and causes. The future of campaigning—like the future of marketing—is not media but people serving as advocates for candidates. you will have to inspire people to tell their friends.0 n t H e e t HI C s o F oP e n n e s s Colombia or FARC. That’s not happening yet. and is a columnist for the Guardian. who will tell their friends. People replace television. Facebook has been used to organize the Obama movement. About the Author Jeff Jarvis. WWGD? (What Would Google Do?). Television still matters. But let’s imagine that we’re in the future. so big money that pays for television ads still matters. It could be used to organize any cause. teaches at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. when television’s reach has shrunken to the point that is no longer an efficient means of getting out a message. If you want to win an election. .

I became aware of a computer system called Beacon used by the MA Department of Transitional Assistance (aka “welfare”) to distribute various benefits such as food stamps to Massachusetts residents. ” . and our advocates would fight not only to restore their aid. and in New York the state’s benefits distribution  a formats. government shoves analog pegs into round holes. What was happening in Massachusetts was happening around the nation. and indeed our errors were relatively benign by comparison. In Colorado.CRe At InG HUM A ne CoDeL AW Gene Koo “ By using codelaw to carry out policy. Occasionally. resulting in the same loss of fidelity that occurs when music is ripped into digital s a lawyer and techie at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute in the mid-2000s. faulty software generated hundreds of thousands of incorrect benefits calculations. our clients would have their benefits reduced or cut off because of errors in Beacon programming. but to fix the system.

you fix them. n C R e At In G H U M A n e C o D e L AW system was so egregiously broken that our colleagues there brought suit in federal court and won sweeping changes. the software assumes a particular interpretation of an ambiguous law. The 20th-century administrative state in America relies on a particular cascade of power.) So perhaps Lawrence Lessig’s profound observation. and in so doing. it essentially makes law. tax calculators. to whom I owe much of the following analysis. and agency workers carry out the . carefully tweaked to ensure democratic accountability: the elected legislature passes law. an administrative agency. In short. if software is increasingly the guise under which laws manifest in our daily lives. it behooves a democratic society to begin treating that software as law. if you find them. By using codelaw to carry out policy. The larger democratic challenge arises when codelaw isn’t so much wrong as it is not necessarily right: while it may not contradict the law. with public input. These are some of the mundane but vitally important ways in which software is becoming the mechanism whereby government executes laws. has documented many more examples. Software that executes law (“codelaw”) presents a number of challenges to a democracy. That is to say. resulting in the same loss of fidelity that occurs when music is ripped into digital formats. from “deadbeat dad” lists to terrorist “no fly lists” to the inner workings of voting machines. (Professor Danielle Citron. coding errors that lead to wrong results. the reality may be harder—a common excuse we heard was that the state just didn’t have the money to hire someone to patch the software—but in principle everyone agreed that these problems should be fixed. and even Predator drones. has a corollary: law is code. Bugs present relatively easy cases: like potholes. promulgates rules to implement that legislation. As with potholes. It’s not hard to find other examples. code is law. The simplest are bugs. neither is this particular implementation the only way to construe the law. government shoves analog pegs into round holes.

Gene Koo n  rules. Eliminating discretion can be good governance: people are notoriously susceptible to bias. most state and federal rulemaking require a period of public “notice and comment. For example. There must be meaningful participation. But rulemaking isn’t comprehensive either: nuanced decision-making still resides in agency workers who interpret and apply the rules. The real problem for democracy is the gap between the round curves of human laws and the sharp edges of computer code.” during which concerned citizens can offer input. but software developers. A publicly accessible quality assurance cycle would create a parallel process for codelaw. new forms of “semantic code” that’s both humanreadable and machine-executable may narrow the gap between fuzzy . Agencies have traditionally promulgated rules expecting people to fill the gaps later. So what can be done to ensure that increasingly automated codelaw remains accountable to the people? First.0. corruption. the people who fill the gaps are not trained government employees. Democracy depends on laws and rules being accessible to the people. it should enable people like my colleagues at MLRI to submit tricky food stamp scenarios to test that the software gets the right results. Because legislatures lack time and expertise to tight-fit laws. With codelaw. Existing principles that cover traditional (legal) code offer guidance on handling codelaw. But because only the best-resourced lobbyists can bug-check machine code. and just plain meanness. In the long run. codelaw should be no exception. The gradual replacement of agency workers with codelaw reveals the cracks in this system. they delegate specifics to agencies for further rulemaking. software should be fully open for inspection. So when Massachusetts prepares to release Beacon 2. Codelaw takes discretion out of the hands of human beings. often with no substantive knowledge of the law nor accountability to the general public. mere transparency is not enough.

where he developed informational websites for lawyers and the general public. software can ameliorate systemic human failings such as sexism and susceptibility to scams. where he researches a variety of topics from open education to moral values embedded in video games. we need a more nuanced understanding of the appropriate role of codelaw. Finally. and identify the aspects of governance best entrusted to thinking and feeling human beings. compassionate. we should also recognize the limits of software. but it would at least enable more precision for lawmakers. and also helped launch the Center for Legal Aid Education. from Harvard. Codelaw may herald a terrifying dystopia where machines arbitrarily decide our fate. But conversely. he worked for Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. About the Author Gene Koo is a Fellow at the Berkman Center at Internet & Society. Deployed properly. “Legalese” as a software language may not deepen public confidence.D. . and B. He holds a J. n C R e At In G H U M A n e C o D e L AW legislation and binary software. But it also invites us to imagine a world where software augments our greatest capacity for just. Prior to Berkman. and human governance.A.

and the changing American citizen..28 The famed sociologist Robert Putnam and others describe these trends as nothing short of a crisis in citizenship and civic engagement.  c ” . (1996). K. itizenship styles have changed dramatically in recent years.. Zukin. Keeter. and more likely to avoid connecting to government through activities such as voting. civic life. New Haven: Yale University Press. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. C. In particular.DIGI tA L n At I V es As seL F -AC t UA L IzInG CI t Iz ens W. M. they are less interested in joining formal groups or political parties. S. less inclined to seek information via conventional news outlets. Lance Bennett “ But where some see crisis. others of us simply see changing patterns of engagement. A new engagement? Political participation. & Delli Carpini.. as noted by scholars. (2006). New York: Oxford University Press. X.. M. others of us simply see changing patterns of 28 Delli Carpini. and opportunities that will reshape the notion of citizenship in this new century. But where some see crisis. X. & Keeter. S. M.. Andolina. Jenkins. Young people in post-industrial democracies are less motivated by a sense of civic duty than were earlier generations.

A C t U A L I z In G C I t I z e n s engagement. L. But. our country desperately needs a change in our approach to engaging young citizens in community and government life to reinvigorate our democracy in the 21st century. Schools typically emphasize individualistic.). YouthNoise. W. n DI GI tA L n At I V e s A s s e L F . . Press). frequently online. Changing citizenship in the digital age. and isn’t enhanced in formal settings such as schools and youth programs that are often not attuned to the unique communication and social identity styles of young digital natives. focusing on lifestyle issues. In W.T. spectator styles of citizenship. (2008). They gravitate towards highly interactive modes. Learning to become an effective citizen does not happen automatically. The dramatic shift in citizenship styles can be cast in simple terms as a contrast between old century Dutiful Citizens (DC) and new century self-Actualizing Citizens (AC). these young citizens are not solely focused on entertainment. MA: M.I. The bottom line is that digital natives largely do not participate in civic affairs out of a sense of duty or obligation but a sense of personal fulfillment. more than creating new government structures or adding new agencies or changing how we vote. Public-issue websites like Taking IT Global. Bennett (Ed. Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. (Cambridge. and opportunities that will reshape the notion of citizenship in this new century. and election campaigns that enable social networking are also very popular. More than anything else. L. knowledge-heavy. particularly on gaming and social networking websites.29 Dutiful Citizens have the following characteristics: • Obligation to participate in government-centered activities • Voting is the core democratic act. Young “self-actualizing” citizens are connecting with peers through loose social networks. supported by surrounding knowledge and contact with government • Mass media news informs about issues and government 29 Bennett.

allowing students to find their own means of engaging with and learning about issues. because it is both politically safe and easily testable. curriculum developers. community volunteering. why do public schools continue to teach young people as if they are their grandparents—sitting in their armchair. clearly visible differences. and forming peer-learning communities. in part. despite some glimmerings of a national school civics reform movement. • Favors loose networks of community action—often established or sustained through friendships and peer relations and thin social ties maintained by interactive information technologies Given these stark. there is little immediate promise of school reform that will introduce more balanced learning goals for Actualized . reading their afternoon paper. looking forward to their lodge meeting that night? They do this. and many older teachers are. themselves.W. Lance Bennet t n  • Joins civil society organizations and/or expresses interests through political parties or interest groups that typically employ one-way conventional communication to mobilize supporters Contrast this with the orientation of Actualizing Citizens: • Diminished sense of government obligation—higher sense of individual purpose • Voting is less meaningful than other. But perhaps the persistence of ineffective approaches to civics in public schools is simply a reflection that most school policy officers. Dutiful Citizens. education researchers. more personally defined acts such as consumerism. Schools should help students to develop their own public voices by using various digital media. or transnational activism • Mistrust of media and politicians is reinforced by negative mass media environment. However.

Too often when adult-run institutions such as schools. Many adults (teachers. libraries. Similarly. Doing it for themselves: Management versus autonomy in youth e-citizenship.A C t U A L I z In G C I t I z e n s Citizens. they may lack models for effective communication. The ideal learning environment would find ways to combine the two styles. among other options. We are unlikely to find more balanced approaches to civic learning in schools. and democratic practice. Bennett (Ed. Young people are creative and resilient. or community organizations build digital media projects. They are finding new and innovative ways to engage politically. and youth organizations so that they indirectly aid the civic missions of those formal organizations. scholars. Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. many of the online communities developed by governments and youth experts fail to utilize the power of social networking involving participatory media in relatively open. S. In W. and often fail. often using online communities. youth workers. contact with appropriate government officials and processes. L. As a result.). (2008). It would include identifying the individual preferences for personal expression and peer-to. organizing. . when young people are left to their own devices. informal learning environments within which young people can learn civic skills and practice citizenship.peer discovery of issues within relatively open digital media spaces. democratic contexts. they impose limits on what young people can and “should” do. 30 Coleman. We need to create or identify existing. NGOs. the more sustainable projects often strike young people as inauthentic and lacking credibility. It would also offer learning paths for issue resolution and public problem solving that included. 30 At the same time.8 n DI GI tA L n At I V e s A s s e L F . policy makers) are unaware or unappreciative of the civic identity shift that has occurred among many young people. The integration of new civic styles in various learning environments remains a formidable challenge. We should consider creative ways to link those informal environments back to formal organizations such as schools. governments.

Those environments should offer rich resources and peer training in the public communication. young people are using their power as consumers to communicate directly with corporations.) Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. organizing. & Schussman. We need to know what kinds of youth are attracted to what kinds of online environments. (2008).32 And then. many “netizens” are forming online communities that Mimi Ito calls “networked publics. in fair trade and sweatshop campaigns. Bennett (Ed. .org. little. Scholars and practitioners can forge more productive partnerships with sponsors to create research-driven models for digital environments that are more in tune with emerging civic styles. the efforts are generally well intentioned. Earl and Schussman describe music fans petitioning companies to give their favorite musicians greater exposure or more creative freedom. Challenges abound. Yet when government and foundations attempt to create platforms for engagement. Above all. 32 See the Civic Learning Online project: www. as opposed to simply reproducing the involvement of high socio-economic status youth who participate actively in politics anyway.L.” These communities may have novel. and advocacy skills to help young people develop more effective voices and action. explored civic aspects. J. and as yet. In a fascinating example of democratic action by young people in an arena of their own choosing. the vitality of our democracy rests 31 Earl. Lance Bennet t n  For example. A. but driven largely by old-fashioned notions of citizenship and engagement that often miss the mark. And even the most promising youth-built projects often lack the resources to make them sustainable and available to larger audiences. Contesting cultural control: Youth culture and online petitioning.31 All of these efforts are in their infancy. In W. the adults should step back and learn from what happens. We also need to better understand to what degree online engagement networks reach youth who are at risk for democratic participation. In these and other ways.W.engagedyouth.

A C t U A L I z In G C I t I z e n s on reconciling changing youth civic styles with the more traditional notions of citizen engagement that still characterize most schools. . About the Author Lance Bennett is Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C.org). Lawrence Professor of Communication at the University of Washington.0 n DI GI tA L n At I V e s A s s e L F .org). governments. and the Civic Learning Online project (engagedyouth. and public interest spheres. He is also the director of the Center for Communication & Civic Engagement (engagedcitizen.

I was asked to provide some insights into the shared values and principles of the Internet. I began to see some similarities between the Internet and my generation (perhaps this is why we are often referred to as the Dot.A MIL L ennI A L UPGR A De F oR A MeRIC A n DeMoCR AC Y David B. and federal decision making bodies. We have  a or over the Web. Individuals have grown more and more powerless by allowing ourselves to get pushed to the outside of the political process. ” . At the same time. state. I began with the notion that our generation refuses to be defined.com. partially due to our diversity and partially due to our arrogance and ignorance. known as the Millennials. Smith “ The greatest influence of 21st century technologies on the democratic process has taken place in the hearts and minds of individuals. not on computer screens few years ago I was asked to define the very large generation of teens and twenty-somethings who had recently come of age. Over the past couple of centuries. Net and iGeneration). my generation. it seems as though the people have abdicated power to our local.

which will ultimately lead to an institutional response. n A M I L L e n nI A L U P G R A D e F o R A M e R I C A n D e M o C R A C Y relied upon our elected officials to identify the problems they want to fix. the citizenry. Traditional newspapers have nearly been run out of business. informed us about how they plan to solve them. then our first target for change should be the hearts and minds of citizens. The phenomenon of the Internet and the various technologies related to it have changed the underlying values of individuals and society as a whole. and mostly follow the dominant culture. mass media distribution. This methodology is based on the premise that our institutions reject change. particularly radical and significant shifts. Our Founding Fathers created a system that rebuffs change. and failing. but trying to apply these innovations directly to our current. television shows are trying. We often talk about how new gadgets or emerging technology will change the way our government interacts with our electorate. We must look for venues where new ways of doing things can bear greater fruit—through individual and then institutional renewal. If this is an accurate assumption. and then gone about doing all of this with very limited input from us. arcane institutions misses the boat. not on computer screens or over the Web. and our . The Center for Individual and Institutional Renewal focuses on changing the way people think so as to change the way we act collectively and influence institutions. The greatest influence of 21st century technologies on the democratic process has taken place in the hearts and minds of individuals. to keep pace by inserting interactive themes and opportunities for viewer engagement. They have sold us on these issues. We must then change how they act. Changing the Way We Think The values of a world bogged down by television broadcasting. rarely lead. and mass production leave a lot to be desired by Millennials.

I understand that these personal choices reflect the value of our times for young people and the opportunity costs of participating in a political system that is broken. Innate to this structure are concepts such as the wisdom of the crowd. Young . The sheer size and networked structure of the Internet and its manyto-many communications platform changes the dominant culture of top-down. I do not think it is a coincidence that these values resonate with Millennials as both personal values and ones we hope to see in our leaders. we are simply making a decision as to where our time is more valuable and needed. We feel a greater sense of self worth and empowerment as our thoughts. As voter participation has sunk. we are seeing increasing rates of social entrepreneurship. and horizontal communications. collaboration. and ideas are published alongside those of older generations. The Internet reinforces the Millennials’ view that inclusion of all voices helps us find solutions to collective problems. The Millennial Generation participates in community service at a higher rate than any past generation. hierarchical chains of command. permanent innovative processes. the dominant values of the Internet include (but are certainly not limited to): transparency. and respect for the notion that each individual holds a part of the larger truth. and this is mostly due to the instant gratification and tangible results that come from these actions. Contrary to the opinion of others. talents. Smith n  elected officials have found themselves in the basement in terms of approval ratings and voter participation. Again. We are not apathetic. worthiness of varying views. Changing the Way We Act We crave instant gratification in all areas of our lives. militaristic. We value individual opinion and listen to our peers at a much higher rate than older generations. celebrity culture and materialism run rampant in our streets. Contrary to broadcast media. openness.David B.

 n A M I L L e n nI A L U P G R A D e n F o R A M e R I C A n D e M o C R A C Y leaders are stepping forward and starting non-profit organizations and creating socially conscious business ventures. propose solutions.0 empowers citizens to identify problems facing our nation.0.org and its extended network. There is a disconnect between our own needs and those of our elected officials. and ultimately to institutionalize. they decided to move their conversation from complaining to action and formed TRAIN. Together. the best solutions for their communities. and actively implement these solutions in our communities. there are additional costs that make internships impractical and unaffordable for many students. We have a nearly complete loss in faith in our political institutions. working directly on solving our community’s problems. while others were unable to take an internship due to the costs associated with them. and a member of a community think tank. shareholder. Changing Our Institutions We need to upgrade our system of government to Democracy 2. These citizen-led programs provide pilot projects for local governments that will then be able to evaluate. Some had interned previously and had to go into debt to pay for simple things like transportation to and from their jobs. This deliberative democracy format engages citizens in civic problem solving and social entrepreneurship. Even with programs that provide college credit for which you can receive student loans. This effort began when a group of college students from around the country began discussing their difficulties affording a summer internship. This process leads to a much more informed and engaged citizenry where the citizen is part resource. Our time is best spent. a term coined by Mobilize. expert. The students began with a service learning approach and researched . Democracy 2. we believe. One example of this process is the recent launch of TRAIN (TRansportation Assistance for INterns).

they took direct action and hosted TRAIN happy hours. we can further refine these ideas.org. .0 world. include more voices in the process. About the Author David B. most citizen-led approaches culminate in elected officials still needing to be convinced of the merit of the proposed solution.David B. Next. online petitions. and web forums. Using wiki technology. Smith n  the best practices and lessons learned from cities around the country and the world. they were quickly and easily able to reach out to hundreds of supporters. Using dialogue and deliberation techniques in combination with new technology. We can also use e-mail advocacy. Using online social networks. and is now the Executive Director of The National Conference on Citizenship. we can achieve joint decision-making and policy recommendations. and needs of communities. and create agreed-upon language to present to our decision-making bodies. Smith is the Founder of Mobilize. The happy hours served as a public education opportunities as well as fundraisers. The actual power of community voices is still minimal and requires old-school community organizing techniques to support the truth that the wisdom of the crowd has greater merit than professional lobbyists and single-issue constituency groups.0 remnants to a Democracy 2. principles. The funds raised during these events provide travel stipends to a limited number of students. Using interactive keypad voting and 21st-century town hall meetings. we can explore the shared values. TRAIN also connects students with non-profits and government agencies to find ways to support interns. and advocates with the public transportation providers to reduce the cost to these individuals. Still. online dialogues. and text messaging as a means of further organizing a greater part of the population to learn about and support this community-created solution. This is the major upgrade that has to happen to move us from Democracy 1.

.

Also known as a blog swarm. There are also many products on the Web that are said to be in “perpetual beta. using feedback from the beta users to make changes. Microsoft released a public beta of its Windows Vista platform in January 2005. manufacturability and overall consumer reaction to the new product.  . the blogosphere created a “swarm” that brought to light the mistakes in Dan Rather’s reporting of President Bush’s national guard service. Beta The preliminary or testing stage of a new software or hardware product. For instance. Gmail is an example of a perpetual beta. Blog (see Web Log) Blogosphere The collection of all blogs that creates an ecosystem or community of bloggers who link to one another’s entries and can often create a group or “swarm” that serves to illuminate or advocate for a position or issue. industry trade associations. created and/or funded by corporations. and political interests or public relations firms. Blogstorm When a large amount of activity. These are generally PR firms bankrolled by corporations that are trying to shape public opinion to push favorable state or federal legislation through. information and opinion erupts around a particular subject or controversy in the blogosphere.GL ossA R Y Astroturf Groups Apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived.” meaning people can use them but they are continuously changing. Windows Vista was released as an official product in 2006. Beta versions test the supportability.

but the President can veto that law. . Each branch has its own jobs to fulfill. ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission within this “closed” space. but each branch has the ability to keep the others in check. cell phones and MP3s. Digital Divide The gap between people who have access to digital and information technology and those without access to it. the Internet. Cybercitizen (see Netizen) Data-mining The process of sorting through large amounts of data and picking out relevant information. Data-mining programs allow users to analyze data from many different dimensions or angles. services. housing. For example: Congress can pass a law. Young people. and Judicial (the Courts). Digital Native A person who has grown up with digital technology such a computers. Craigslist has classifieds and forums for 567 cities in over 50 countries worldwide.8 n GL o s s A R Y Checks and Balances The government is divided into three areas of power (also known as separation of powers): Executive (the president). Legislative (the Congress). but then Congress (with a 2/3rd vote) can override the President’s veto. local activities and even romance. Echo Chambers Online communities of like-minded people in which information. categorize it. are often called digital natives. Craigslist An online network of communities that offers local classified advertisements in areas such as jobs. Digital Immigrant A person who grew up without digital technology but was able to learn and adapt to it. and summarize the relationships identified. also known as GenY or Millennials. cars. Another example: the President can appoint judges to the Supreme Court but the Senate must approve them. ages 15-29.

James Madison and John Jay under the pseudonym “Publius. but is now open to anyone 13 years of age or older. Facebook users can create and customize their own profiles with photos. and information about themselves. By using a ‘#’ before a word or phrase it automatically links this ‘hashtag’ or keyword to a website that compiles all of these tags with links to the original feed. repeated. Mindshare The development of consumer awareness and popularity that is used in advertising and promoting a product. Federalist Papers Written by Alexander Hamilton. Kleenex and BandAid are two examples. Facebook A social networking website that was originally designed for college students. videos.html. Government agencies are required to disclose the requested records unless they can be lawfully withheld under nine exceptions.GL o s s A R Y n  Echo Chamber Effect When a piece of information is passed between many like-minded people. overheard and repeated again until most people assume that the newer (more extreme) variation of the story is true. Hashtag (term of use on Twitter) Used on Twitter to tag certain feeds.” the Federalist Papers are a group of 85 articles advocating for the ratification of the United States Constitution. Marketers try to popularize their product so that the brand can be associated with the whole line of product.techterms. See more at http://www.gov/oip/index. The echo chamber effect can become a massive game of telephone on the Internet. Millenial Generation Also known as Generation Y these are the group of people born from around 1980 to 1995. .usdoj. See more at http://www.com/definition/facebook. Friends can browse the profiles of other friends and write messages on their pages. Freedom of Information Act A federal government law that allows for citizens to request the disclosure of documents from federal agencies.

the workplace.” It works to show young people how their lives are impacted by public policy and in turn. blogs. Open-source Software Software created with an open source code available to anybody. music and videos. user-created network of friends. empowering. Six Degrees of Separation The idea that if a person is one step away from each person he or she knows and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows. . healthcare and civic/political life. communities.S.org Formerly Mobilizing America’s Youth is an “all-partisan network dedicated to educating. how they can impact public policy. This type of software is freely distributed and permits users to use.0 n GL o s s A R Y Mobilize. families. then everyone is an average of six “steps” away from each person on Earth. or wasteful. photos. spending by the U. schools. and energizing young people to increase our civic engagement and political participation. MySpace A popular social networking site open to anyone that features an interactive. Congress. personal profiles. groups. Netizen (also known as a Cybercitizen) A person actively involved in online communities. Pew Internet and American Life Project A non-profit organization that explores the impact of the Internet on children. It exemplifes a way for busy but concerned citizens to find their political voice in a system dominated by big money and big media. MoveOn.org MoveOn is a non-profit public advocacy group that focuses on supporting Democratic Party candidates and causes. change and improve the software and then redistribute the modified or unmodified form. Porkbusters An effort led by mostly conservative and libertarian bloggers to cut pork barrel.

likes. The only way to respond to a poke is to poke back. A superpoke is basically anything you want. .” “tickle.” and even “drop kick.” Swiftboating Political jargon created in the 2004 presidential campaign used as a strong derogatory or belittling description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue. dislikes or biographical data). which describes the item and allows for keywordbased classification and search of information. frequent answers to the question: What are you doing? YouTube A video-sharing website that allows users to easily upload.GL o s s A R Y n  Social Networking Website A site that provides a virtual community for people interested in a particular subject or just to “hang out.). view and share video clips. Twitter A free social networking tool that allows families. Superpoking An extension application to the native “poke” option on Facebook.” “cuddle. a video clip etc. A poke is a very simple application that enables Facebook users to in effect “tap” another person. Examples of such sites are Facebook and MySpace.” Members create a profile in which they can list as many or as few personal attributes as they choose (including photos. Skype A computer program that allows you to make calls from your computer—free to other people on Skype and cheap to landlines and cell phones around the world. friends and co-workers to stay connected through the exchange of quick.” “high five.” “hug. a blog entry. a geographic map. including “dance with. Tagging A keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (a picture.

Wiki A single page or collection of web pages designed to enable anyone to contribute or modify joint projects like reports or lists or research data. Wikis are used to create collaborative and community websites. n GL o s s A R Y Webcast A media file distributed over the internet that can be accessed by many users at once. or other media such as graphics or video. . descriptions of events. The best known wiki is Wikipedia. a webcast can be distributed live or recorded. It can contain interests. an online encyclopedia. Web Log (often shortened to Blog) A website that is usually maintained by an individual with regular entries listed in reverse chronological order. Like a TV broadcast.

2006).com. Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (Jossey-Bass/Wiley. an award-winning  . She is a prolific writer and her articles have been published in the Boston Globe. a website and annual conference that covers the ways technology is changing politics. “Social Citizens(beta)” about the ways that young people are using social media for social change was released in May 2008 by The Case Foundation. Inc. She is also a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.O.E. and The Huffington Post. from 1992-2004 and the C. She is a Senior Fellow on the Democracy Team at Demos: A Network for Change and Action in New York City. was the winner of the Terry McAdams National Book Award and the Axiom Business Book Award. Sifry is co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum. and a Senior Editor at the Personal Democracy Forum. Her first book. and TechPresident. Her paper. Fine was the Founder and Executive Director of Innovation Network. Micah L. San Jose Mercury Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.A BoU t t He eDI toRs Allison Fine is a successful social entrepreneur and writer dedicated to understanding the intersection between social change efforts and social media. of The E-Volve Foundation in 2004-2006.

2002) and co-edited The Iraq War Reader (Touchstone. 2003) and The Gulf War Reader (Times Books. Andrew Rasiej is a social entrepreneur. 2004). and Founder of Personal Democracy Forum.” His personal blog is at micah. he worked closely with Public Campaign. and how voter generated content (a term he coined) is affecting the campaign. Prior to that. an award winning group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the web. running in the Democratic primary on a platform to bring low cost wireless Internet access to all New Yorkers. where he teaches a course called “Writing Politics. a nonprofit. 1991). From 1997-2006. campaigns. he consults on how political organizations. He co-writes a bi weekly column for Politico. futurist. He is also the co-founder of techPresident. author of Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (Routledge. as its senior analyst. In addition to organizing the annual Personal Democracy Forum conference with his partner Andrew Rasiej. an annual conference and community website about the intersection of politics and technology.sifry.com. non-profits and media entities can adapt to and thrive in a networked world. He is the co-author with Nancy Watzman of Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day (John Wiley & Sons. Sifry was an editor and writer with The Nation magazine for thirteen years. n A B o U t t H e e DI t o R s group blog on how the American presidential candidates are using the web and how the web is using them. In that capacity.com and he appears . In the 2004 presidential race he served as Chairman of the Howard Dean Technology Advisory Council. non-partisan organization focused on comprehensive campaign finance reform. In 2005 he ran a highly visible campaign for Public Advocate of New York City. he has been a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation since its founding in 2006. He is also an adjunct professor at the Political Science Department of the City University of New York/Graduate Center.

He is a graduate of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and past recipient of the . MOUSE trains students in public schools to provide technology support for their schools. Rasiej is a member of the Board of Directors of the social innovation conference Pop!Tech. Currently. based organization that focuses on using technology to expose corruption in Congress and facilitates citizen engagement and oversight.A B o U t t H e e DI t o R s n  regularly on CNN. which is a Beirut based news service which translates opinion pieces from newspapers in all 22 Arab countries. and educational institutions.C. NPR. teachers. and fellow students. now called NetGuard. was approved in a bill by the US Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and is now being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. Soon after. Iran. he proposed the creation of a National Tech Corps that would augment the National Guard and provide emergency technical.MOUSE.com. media. Rasiej is a co-founder of Mideastwire. communication. Rasiej helped organize local technology professionals to provide relief and recovery to small businesses and schools in lower Manhattan. MOUSE is active in over 100 public schools in New York City and has programs based on its student led tech support model operating in over 20 countries around the world. and other major news outlets as a commentator on technology and politics. and database support in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist strike. This idea. Rasiej is the founder of www. In the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy. corporations. Rasiej maintains the position of senior technology adviser for the Sunlight Foundation. an educational non-profit organization started in 1997 to connect public schools to the Internet. and the Arab media Diaspora and makes them available over the Web to English speaking governments. a Washington D.org (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education). ABC.

He lives and works in New York City. NPR. ABC News. and a blogger whose analysis has been featured in the New York Times. n A B o U t t H e e DI t o R s prestigious David Rockefeller Fellowship Program administered by the New York City Partnership. Joshua Levy is a writer and web strategist whose work explores the intersections of technology. Levy is a frequent commentator on the use of the Web in the 2008 election and social activism. AOL Politics. politics. Sky News. . two sites that cover how technology is changing politics. He is Associate Editor of techPresident and Personal Democracy Forum. a filmmaker exploring the nature of social action in virtual worlds. the CBC. Salon. and activism. and XM Radio. He has an MFA in nonfiction media from Hunter College in New York. the Huffington Post. He is a podcaster for NPR’s Sunday Soapbox series. the Washington Post.

journalism. Keynoters in past years have included: Google CEO Eric Schmidt. the Christian Coalition’s Ralph Reed. a group blog on how the candidates are using the web and how the web is using them. Matt Stoller. Arianna Huffington. political strategist Joe Trippi. Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) has become the seminal gathering place for the growing community of leaders and activists from the increasingly interconnected worlds of technology. Sifry. Started in 2003 by Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. and Josh Marshall. Elizabeth Edwards. PdF is also the home of techPresident. and bloggers Markos Moulitsas.com. Jane Hamsher. which was launched in February 2007. and advocacy who want to make sure they stay on top of what’s coming next.com) that covers how technology and the Internet are changing politics. Hugh Hewitt. online  P .com covers the gamut of online campaign activities: from campaign websites. Stanford University Professor Larry Lessig.personaldemocracy.A BoU t PeRson A L DeMoCR AC Y F oRUM ersonal Democracy Forum is an annual conference and online community (www. The annual Personal Democracy Forum conference is a cross-partisan event. blogging. politics. SEIU President Andy Stern. Craig Newmark of Craigslist. TechPresident. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

bloggers and activists who are watching how voter-generated content is changing the contours of the electoral process. and are learning how to adapt and thrive in this new world. TechPresident’s “Daily Digest” e-mail newsletter has become a must-read for the many journalists. In September 2007. TechPresident won the prestigious Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism. .8 n ABoU t PeRsonA L DeMoCR ACY FoRUM advertising and e-mail lists to video postings on YouTube and who’s got the fastest growing group of friends on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

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