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EDEM 2010

2010 Conference on e-Democracy, Krems, Austria, 6-7 May 2010

Open Access to Scholarly Information

The final speakers in this EDEM 2010 session are Noella Edelmann and Peter Parycek, who begin by highlighting the importance of open access journals, and the mindshift amongst users who now expect to have open access to information.

Open access has caused a stir in the academic community by providing a different model for publication; it is still poorly understood, however: it does not necessarily change peer review processes, for example, though some open access projects do substantially change the approach to scholarly publication. It operationalises the advantages of publishing online by minimising costs and maximising distribution; in doing so, it also creates substantial benefits especially for disavantaged scholars (e.g. from developing countries).

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.

Open Access as Enabler for e-Democracy

The next keynote speaker at EDEM 2010 is Stevan Harnad, who shifts our focus to the question of open access to research - which is perhaps not a democratic issue in the strict sense of the word, but connects closely to questions of open government data, of course. The point of contention here is the unresolved question of how specialist knowledge connects with broad-based user-driven approaches to knowledge management - best examplified perhaps by Wikipedia. This is about user empowerment, but is not democratic in any traditional sense - and citizen engagement initiatives in e-democracy face similar challenges (especially in the context of complicated and controversially debated issues).

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.


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