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Beyond the Public Sphere and Public Service Institutions

Hong Kong.
The next speaker at The Internet Turning 40 is Frank Webster, who shifts our focus from taking stock of existing research areas to exploring the future; his interest is in the future of the public sphere in the age of the Internet. He notes the existence of a Social Democratic consensus (certainly in Europe) that it is necessary for state agencies to intervene in the informational realm, because the market alone cannot be trusted to provide for an informed citizenry and is complicated by the growth of PR and corporate lobbying. So, state intervention aims to provide adequate information to the public, to ensure that democracy works effectively. This is legitimated by the concept of the public sphere, which is served by public service institutions.

Political Blogs and Transparency

The second speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Evgeniya Boklage, whose interest is in the impact of the political blogosphere on communicative transparency. Transparency is crucial for interpersonal communication; it is an existential prerequisite for deliberative processes, too. If we consider the public sphere as a communicative system, the key functions are transparency (input), validation (throughput), and orientation (output), and Evgeniya focusses on the first of these here.

Towards European Citizenship?

We're now starting the post-lunch session on this last day of EDEM 2010, and the first speaker is Alexander Balthasar. His fundamental question is what citizenship of the European Union may mean, following the recent treaty process. This is highlighted especially by the instrument of the European Citizens' Initiative, which has been positioned by European bodies as a kind of petition process, but could also become a much more powerful or flexible instrument rivaling proposals by the EU Council or Parliament. The obvious difference is that in order to launch an ECI, 'only' one million signatures are required, whereas Council or Parliament have a more clearly legitimated mandate to act.

Strategies for Strengthening e-Participation in Europe

The final speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, who examines the current status of e-participation in the European Union. All EU states have a relatively equal level of e-participation take-up, even in spite of their very different historical trajectories; that take-up is highly variable across local, national, and transnational levels, however.

The older European democracies are substantially more active at the local level, for example, while cross-border initiatives are generally limited (even in spite of European integration and strong cross-border ties in a number of regions). Indeed, the local level is generally best developed, with sophistication declining markedly towards the national and transnational levels. This is interesting also given that substantial public funding is coming from the EU and national levels, rather than from local public authorities.

New Opportunities for e-Enabled Parliaments

The next EDEM 2010 speaker is Aspasia Papaloi, who begins by exploring the meaning of the parliamentary institution - its various roles in democratic society. Today, in addition to conventional national parliaments, there are also a range of additional parliament-style initiatives - such as age-group (e.g. youth) parliaments, social parliaments (e.g. defined by specific socioeconomic factors), thematic parliaments (around specific issues), or other alternative parliaments.

Župa: Making Democratic Society Machine-Readable

The next session at EDEM 2010 starts with Alois Paulin, who introduces the problem of modern government as being controlled by representatives and bureaucrats. if they are good, they are inefficient and expensive; if they are bad, they're corrupt. To solve that problem, we need to substitute their tasks: the role of the representative would need to be replaced by a more direct form of democracy, while the role of the bureaucrat (who follows rules) would need to be replaced by a technological system.

Dashed Hopes? Citizen Engagement with the Obama Administration

We're about to start the second day of EDEM 2010 in Krems, with a keynote by Micah Sifry from Tech President. His starting point is the use of online media during the US presidential election, which created a significant expectation that in office, the Obama administration would similarly utilise new and social media to develop new models for governing. This has not happened quite as much as people might have expected, though.

Positioning Citizens as Agents of Governance: MyQ2

The final speaker in this session at EDEM 2010 is Matthew Allen, who examines the Queensland State Government's MyQ2 initiative. He notes that e-government is about government, citizens, political governance systems, and governmentality (through which we make sense of government). Additionally, we are talking both about the past in governance, the present moment of development, and our visions for the future. In e-government, then, there is both a structural quest for a model of connecting the four elements, and a rapid temporality that aims to move through the trajectory for development. This also mirrors our debates around the introduction of other technologies, from automobiles to television.

Building Issue-Based Social Networks in Europe

The next EDEM 2010 session starts with Francesco Molinari, who reflects on the outcomes of a component of the IDEAL-EU project: a multilingual social networking project involving Spain, France, and Italy which connected citizens and regional governments in order to discuss issues around climate change. Part of the question here was whether online interaction could be a valid extension of conventional face-to-face interaction; whether it could be of use to politicians and policymakers; and whether there were differences between the well-examined US approach to online participation, and more specific European approaches.

Political Activism through Facebook and Online Games in Singapore

The final speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Marko Skoric, who shifts our focus to Singapore and away from explicitly political spaces: rather, his interest is in investigating emerging platforms for online sociability and entertainment - like Facebook and (online) games. Such spaces constitute a third place for their users to gather.

Facebook has a substantial civic potential, and several studies have documented that potential, focussing both on everyday generic use of Facebook and on specific political pages within it. Similarly, various civic activities are happening in online games and immersive 3D environments; such games can also act as labs for practicing civic skills - through deliberately serious games but also through others.


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