We’re at democracy’s inflection point. Democracy is where the web was in 1993 and we can shape it any way we like. Broadcast politics seems vulnerable and the key to political power is to let go of the illusion that politicians, governments, campaigns and political parties are in charge of the voice (power) of the people (polis).
It’s the governance, stupid! But the means to effect better governance will arise only from politicians and stakeholders dissatisfied with governance as usual.
This is an outline of some obvious thoughts about specific ways that politics might be affected by Internet technologies. Historically, every campaign is an echo chamber striving to become a megaphone for its master’s voice. The Internet allows the echo chamber to expand to include millions of voices mastering the politicians.
I had not realized until recently that the voices outside an Internet-powered campaign must drown out the voices within. The Internet clue is that any campaign is assured of victory if it can inspire a smart mob to use the right tools to organize itself into a viral, loose hierarchy. Until the constituents build their own bridges and form their own hierarchies of influence, every campaign’s echo chamber is sound and fury signifying not quite enough.
Strategy: Leverage the individual campaigns’ urgency
Like the tech industry, emergent democracy needs critical deadlines to make urgent the deliverables that we might otherwise express as theories. Primaries and elections provide those deadliness and change agents must embrace that urgency. Change needs a series of galvanizing conferences and enterprises to develop the next generation of tools to assemble broad but powerful constituencies.
We should not assume that this public-spirited activity has no ROI. As the Republicans have demonstrated, the payoff from winning is to influence the $1.7 trillion annual budget. To those without extraordinary access and influence, the elimination of special interests is as profitable as was the gaining of influence by the current holders.
The Web-based Electorate