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Beware the Goverati: e-Democracy Processes in the Post-Industrial Age

Krems.
The second keynote speaker at EDEM 2010 is Ismail Peña-López, who begins from an economic perspective: he notes that in the orthodox view, the basic structure of the production system is that inputs (resources) are acted upon by labour and capital in the production process, generating outputs (products). Democratic processes are traditionally based and built upon this production process, too - scarcity of resources, transaction costs, and processes of intermediation are its fundamental delimiting elements,which democracy attempts to coordinate.

Towards Real Citizen Participation in e-Democracy

Krems.
I've now arrived at the 2010 Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010) in Krems, Austria. I'll present my paper on the g4c2c concept with Adam Swift later this afternoon, but we start today with a keynote by Andy Williamson. He begins by pointing to the relative youth of e-democracy projects, and says that there's a lot to learn from the interesting failures of many such projects to date. Indeed, there's a problem with the academic language of many of these projects (democracy is a disputable enough term as it is - sticking 'e' in front only makes it worse).

More Travel Coming Up: EDEM 2010

In a few days' time, I'll head off to Europe again, to present at this year's Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010). I really enjoyed the 2009 edition (see the coverage in this blog), and it's hard to believe a whole year has passed already - probably because it hasn't: EDEM 2009 was held in September...

Still, that's not stopped us from developing some new ideas on how to further the 'government 2.0' push which aims to utilise Web 2.0 technologies, social media models, and produsage processes in order to create better engagement and participation between governments and citizens. This year, I'm building on my observations with Jason Wilson about top-down and bottom-up forms of engagement, presented at EDEM 2009, to suggest (in a paper co-authored with Adam Swift) that neither the common government-to-citizen (g2c) nor citizen-to-citizen (c2c) initiatives in the government 2.0 space quite manage to find the right balance, and that we may need to explore the possibility for new, hybrid models in between these poles: we outline what we've called a g4c2c model in which government provides explicit support for, and gets involved in, citizen-to-citizen activities.

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government (EDEM 2010)

EDEM 2010

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government

Axel Bruns and Adam Swift

  • 6 May 2010 - 2010 Conference on Electronic Democracy, Krems, Austria

The recognition that Web 2.0 applications and social media sites will strengthen and improve interaction between governments and citizens has resulted in a global push into new e-democracy or Government 2.0 spaces. These typically follow government-to-citizen (g2c) or citizen-to-citizen (c2c) models, but both these approaches are problematic: g2c is often concerned more with service delivery to citizens as clients, or exists to make a show of 'listening to the public' rather than to genuinely source citizen ideas for government policy, while c2c often takes place without direct government participation and therefore cannot ensure that the outcomes of citizen deliberations are accepted into the government policy-making process. Building on recent examples of Australian Government 2.0 initiatives, we suggest a new approach based on government support for citizen-to-citizen engagement, or g4c2c, as a workable compromise, and suggest that public service broadcasters should play a key role in facilitating this model of citizen engagement.

Fighting the Cleanfeed Filter with Evidence of Its Futility

For a goverment which on its election made so much noise about making 'evidence-based' policy decisions (as opposed to the naked ideology of the previous mob, particularly in its declining years), Senator Conroy's decision to impose his 'cleanfeed' filter on the Australian Internet is a deeply disturbing sign. There's much that must - and will - be said about this pointless, futile, and undemocratic filter over the coming weeks and months, no doubt, and Catharine Lumby's piece in The Punch and Google Australia's statement today are a very good start.

Rather than adding my own expression of dismay and outrage at the sheer stupidity which Senator Conroy's decision represents, though, I'll simply point to the work of my colleagues in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. Authored by three of Australia's most eminent media and communication researchers, here's some actual evidence which provides a much better basis for policy-making than whatever misconceptions and flawed assumptions have led the Australian government to believe that Internet censorship should be a policy priority in a country whose communications policies have suffered more than a decade of complete neglect and incompetence under the previous government.

Please tweet, embed, bookmark, link, and otherwise share this document (available at Scribd) widely.

Two New Book Chapters on Produtzung

I haven't yet had a chance to note my latest two book chapters on produsage here - both in German, and following on from conferences in Germany which I spoke at in 2008 and 2009:

Prosumer Revisited

The reader Prosumer Revisited, from the Prosumer Revisited conference which I attended earlier this year, contains my chapter "Vom Prosumenten zum Produtzer", which argues that the 'prosumer' is no longer a useful term to describe the changes in participation and content creation which are occurring today, and provides a concise overview of produsage, or Produtzung, as an alternative. Probably a little more clearly than I did in my conference presentation itself!

Political Discourse from Truth to Truthiness

Milwaukee.
The final keynote of AoIR 2009 is by Megan Boler, editor of Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times. She begins by noting the shared sense of aporia at the conference. What do we do as we face the rapidly changing environments of social media - do we feel let down by the Internet, do we daily have to renegotiate the changing visage of the Internet? Megan is particularly interested in exploring this in the context of war, and especially the war on terror - so much especially of the material produced from critical perspectives is dismissed as noise here, so how do we make what we feel is important audible and visible? (To illustrate this, Megan shows a video compiling the repetitive use of certain keywords - September 11, Saddam Hussein, war on terror, terrorism - by US leaders.)

Governmentality, Digital Media, and Baseball

Milwaukee.
OK, I'm in the next session at AoIR 2009, and Michael Blanchard makes a start by introducing Foucault's idea of governmentality. He believes that Deleuze's statement that we now live in societies of control is problematic - the societies of discipline that Foucault has introduced have been replaced with societies of control, but there was never an idea that there was a clear succession from sovereignty to discipline to control; these three were always a triangle.

Digital media amplify disciplinary power; the use of digital media carves out the individual as a more identifiable reality, as is evident when we consider the use of databases. Governmentality, by contrast, pertains to a mode of power that produces populations, the body which it works over is more virtual. There is still a political anatomy of detail (which is what discipline is described as), but governing produces from this a very different body with a more virtual presence.

The Big Picture for e-Participation

Vienna.
For the final paper at EDEM 2009, we're on to Ursula Maier-Rabler, whose interest is in e-politics from administrative through to communicative democracy, and from individual citizens through to state institutions and parties. This creates a two-dimensional matrix: e-Government is administrative and driven by institutions, e-democracy communicative, but still driven by institutions; e-voting is administrative, but relies on the individual, and e-participation is individually driven and communicative.

e-Participation supports the empowerment of people oo integrate in bottom-up decision making, make informed decisions, and develop social and political responsibility - and to achieve this, it is necessary to start with young people in order to develop a participatory culture (which may be different in its specific shape from country to country). This ties into Web 2.0 and similar participatory platforms,and must be integrated also into general political education in order to create a new homo politicus in the online environment.

Increasing e-Participation from the Bottom Up

Vienna.
It's the final session of EDEM 2009, and we begin with a paper by Edith Maier, whose focus is on trying to increase participation in e-participatory efforts. This is in the context of Austrian bottom-up e-participation efforts in relation to globalisation and global solidarity projects.

The barriers to participation include lack of motivation of participants, of traceability of contributions, of transparency with regard to roles of participants, of opinion-mining across all participants to identify shared interests, and of feedback and political support for outcomes. There is an overall lack of impact, then, leading to a disenchantment amongst participants, thus to a negative attitude to those in power, and thence finally to low levels of use of official e-participation sites.

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