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Dr. Fahri Karakas


Democracy is an inherent component of the Canadian mind, heart, and soul. Very few countries in the world have succeeded in managing its internal relationships with minorities in such a peaceful and democratic way as Canada. We enjoy the international status as a peace-making nation resolving disputes and suspending conflicts. Canadians are blessed with tremendous civil, political, and democratic rights and freedom, which they take for granted. We are indeed fortunate to have a world-class multicultural democracy, a dynamic media sector, cutting edge digital and network technologies; globally competitive government agencies, universities, and media organizations; as well as diverse citizens.

However, this is not enough. There is a need for a) a more responsive parliamentary system, more agile and accountable government, and more diverse media, b) more diversity, debate, and dialog in the public realm, c) more participation instead of representation in democracy, d) more informed and conscious citizenship, e) improved public deliberation and participation through collective decision making, f) more issueoriented non-partisan social activism, g) digital civil mobilization and online civil society activism in Canada. The sky is the limit for Canadian democracy. However, there is a still long way to go. As Canadian youth, we must be more involved and work harder for the future of our democracy. This discussion paper explores the future vision of Canadian democracy.

The core competencies for advancing world-class social innovations in the areas of public policy, governance and democracy exist in Canada today. Capitalizing on our strengths, we can have a 21st century vision of democratic governance and public consultation enabled by media 2.0 capabilities. Let us dream about it: The prime minister invites Canadian citizens for a national digital brainstorm. Citizens will use libraries, community centers, universities, and schools to participate in discussions and create ideas to address a selected public issue. Canadian youth and citizens will be mobilized and engaged in the political process to improve their communities. There can be several versions of digital brainstorm: The world caf method, policy wikis, idea contests, or a 21st century virtual town hall meeting. What is important is the design of innovative democratic platforms and governance models that give voice to citizens through the use of cutting edge technologies and advanced meeting tools. These platforms will create safe and fair public spaces, foster authentic conversations, provide citizens dialogue opportunity with decision makers, and build public credibility.

As ubiquitous computing connects people and ideas; the Internet is becoming the most powerful force for globalization, democratization, and social innovation. The convergence of digital technologies and web 2.0 tools pose new opportunities for the future of democracy in Canada. The merging of community spirit and creative digital competencies can lead to a social innovation centered on representational democracy and citizen engagement. Consider the case of Barack Obamas Organizing for America victory, where the unprecedented online grassroots campaign led to active citizen involvement in the political process and inspired a new hope for change for the country. Digital network

technologies can indeed increase the quality of public policy, as better decisions will be taken as a result of the shared online consultation processes of politicians, public servants, policy makers, and citizens.

The world of Internet, media, and democracy is undergoing extensive transformations. I define the new emerging technological platform as Media 2.0, an interactive, hyper-connected, immersive, virtual, digital online ecosystem where citizens create and share knowledge (e.g. wikipedia), innovate together (e.g. Innocentive), interact or connect with each other (e.g. Linkedin, Facebook), write political blogs (e.g. blogger), make creative films (e.g. Youtube), develop projects (e.g. wikis or Google docs), and express themselves to the world. Media 2.0 is radically different from the world as we know it: The blogosphere is doubling in size every six months. Social networks, virtual reality worlds, and multiplayer on-line games attract millions of participants. Avatars play, shop, entertain, and interact with each other on immersive digital environments, 3D virtual worlds and metaverses.

Our lifestyles have also been changing radically: Canadians now act and feel as global citizens and participants of a virtual technology and knowledge platform. More than half of today's teenagers (The Net Generation) are mobile data users and a great majority of them are using social networking sites or web 2.0 portals. The young members of this global platform have been referred to as Net-Geners, millennials, Generation Y, or digital natives; who are characterized by having high digital literacy, using online social networks, having multitasking capabilities, operating at twitch speed, socializing and learning on the

Net, and consuming and producing digital information1. This new generation can now use cyber-skills to create collaborative change in digital platforms.

We have entered a new era of collaboration. The new art and science of collaboration has been called wikinomics, where millions of connected people participate in social innovation using web 2.0 tools2. The knowledge, brains, and resources of millions of people online worldwide are self-organizing into a massive collective force; which is denoted as the global brain3 . Never before has collaboration across time and space been so fast, easy and cheap. We can call this paradigm shift as mass collaboration, smart mobs, or crowd wisdom. This paradigm shift has been the cover story of Time Magazine in 2006, where the person of the year has been announced as you- referring to the collaboration revolution on the web and the new digital democracy and citizen activism enabled by the small contributions of millions of people on the Net4. Thus, millions of Canadian citizens can now actively collaborate to advance politics, democracy, and public policy.

Media 2.0 has huge implications for the future of democracy in Canada in the 21st century. Media 2.0 can be used as an open interactive political platform where citizens share political suggestions and creative ideas with other citizens and policy makers. This is possible through citizen journalism. Media 2.0 can also be used by social movements to educate, organize, communicate, lobby, protest, fundraise, democratize information and increase social awareness. This is possible through online social activism. One recent example is the Free Hugs Campaign, where blogs, online videos, and social networks were widely used to organize a wide-spread grass-roots movement that captured global

attention. One defining feature of such online movements is the formation of global online communities or virtual communities where widely dispersed, but like-minded citizens come together in cyberspace based on similar civic goals; transcending geographical and social boundaries.

The concept of Media 2.0 provides Canadian citizens a fresh perspective and an integrative vision of the 21st century democracy. This new form of democracy is Democracy 2.0. Democracy 2.0 can be defined as citizen centered public policy and decision making processes constructed through inquiry-based, networked conversations and enabled by Web 2.0 applications in collaborative virtual environments. Democracy 2.0 concerns how citizens interact with each other and with the government to make better decisions, to lead social innovation, and to make positive change in their communities. 21st century democratic environments will be designed as living experiments of continuous learning, creative thinking, collective visioning, open innovating, and collaborative working.

Democracy 2.0 platforms are citizen-centered virtual community platforms that are socially rich, communally innovative, egalitarian, dynamic and interactive. In a holistic vision of Democracy 2.0, the essential ingredients are: a) curious, knowledgeable, questioning citizens from all over the country, b) positive progress platforms based on shared idealism, respect for diversity, and dialog, c) continuous updated activity by citizens, d) an architecture of participation which entails cross-disciplinary digital collaboration and e) services that actively leverage the first four ingredients.

Democracy 2.0 thrives on the concept of collective intelligence, or wisdom of the crowds, which acknowledges that when working cooperatively and sharing ideas, citizens can be significantly productive and creative. The basic assumption here is that the government is only as effective as the sum of its citizens. Governmental institutions, therefore, utilize ideagoras (vibrant democratic ecosystems and online platforms for public consultation and social innovation) to form trust-based long term relationships with citizens5. The ultimate objective here is to engage citizens to come up with creative solutions addressing 21st century social, political, and ecological challenges. The social innovation case of Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) illustrates the effectiveness of Democracy 2.0. As TTC began to face problems of increasing rider frustration, aging infrastructure, and communication breakdown; TTC officials Chairman and Giambrone participated in TransitCamp, a self-organizing digital brainstorm utilizing real-time web 2.0 collaboration tools. During the one-day TransitCamp, social activists, visual artists, riders, designers, engineers, and web developers worked together to produce creative solutions across disciplines with the ultimate aim of reforming riders experience 6. The result was a successful reform of a huge transportation system through innovative open-source problem-solving and online citizen activism. This democracy 2.0 experiment demonstrates the potential of technology-supported models for supporting civic empowerment and social innovation. Democracy 2.0 builds on our humanity and Canadian democratic ideals, such as transparency, accountability, policy consultation, and citizen participation in the digital age. Imagine technology and democracy uniting to overcome distance and time; bringing participation, deliberation, and choice to citizens at the time and place of their choice.

Democracy 2.0 creates exciting new potential for better government, for stronger communities, and more participatory citizens in Canada. As a nation, we have tools now to collaborate to develop our ideas faster than ever before. We can design flexible, positive, virtual platforms so that citizens from different backgrounds can collaborate and have conversations in a respectful and safe atmosphere. We can come up with solutions that bridge distance, language, and culture barriers. We can tap into the creative skills and talents of the brightest minds in the nation. A national talent pool operating in a wellconnected synergistic platform can revolutionize Canada. When every citizen feels that they are part of an extraordinary country, the passion and accomplishments of our country will attract even more talented people. The result will be a vibrant Canada where talented citizens are supporting each other and using group genius to come up with breakthrough innovations to solve complex problems.

Democracy is an evolving dynamic project. Its time we upgrade. It is our responsibility to use web 2.0 to upgrade democracy, political engagement and civic participation. Democracy 2.0 represents the social innovation capacities that can be utilized for envisioning integral and sustainable solutions to the complex challenges of our country in the 21st century. This is the right time for Canada to be a world leader in digital democracy. Best creative minds and connected hearts forming up the Canadian soul. More egalitarian, humanist, free-spirited, democratic, diverse, and authentic voices in Canadian media. Idealist media professionals and citizen journalists driving positive change. Visionary governmental leaders implementing social innovation. Authentic conversations envisioning our common good in virtual platforms. Collaborative communities and high

quality connections supporting Canadian democracy and multiculturalism. A new spirit of community and collaboration. Public participation and deliberation at its best. This is the big picture of passionate citizen engagement and democracy in the 21st century. This is our idealist and humanist democracy manifesto. This is our collective opportunity to create a world class democracy in Canada. This is a Canadian dream for the 21st century. As Canadian youth, we will strive and work until we realize this dream.

Notes and Bibliography


Twenge, Jean M., Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive,

Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before, Free Press, 2007.

Tapscott, Don, and Williams, Anthony D., Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes

Everything, New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Tapscott, Don, and Williams, Anthony D., Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes

everything, New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Grossman, Lev, Times Person of the Year: You, Time Magazine, Dec. 25, 2006.

Tapscott, Don, and Williams, Anthony D., Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes

Everything, New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Kuznicki, Mark, Singer, Eli, and Goldman, Jay, Sick Transit Gloria, Harvard Business Review,

February 2008.