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 “democratize” national partisan punditry through blogs aimed at influencing mass media agendas, and whip up outrage through e-advocacy campaigns that fall into the electronic trash cans of Congress. Online news, campaigns, forums, blogs and other online social networks may appear public, but are ultimately privately controlled spaces where only the owner has real freedom.
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, democracy later” e-government projects. The generational challenge we face in designing democracy to survive (perhaps even thrive) online is to identify the incremental contributions 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.
Thanks to Steve for including Front Porch Forum as one of his examples.