Visions of the ideal

August 15, 2010

When discussing e-democracy the academic literature is full of visions of the ideal state. Some such material has been presented at the 4th Annual Conference on Online Deliberation (OD 2010). I received an invitation at some stage and suppose with it being on my relative doorstep in Leeds, I could have attended, if I didn’t have to earn a few peanuts as an IT Manager.

Dan Jellinek reproduced a paper from there in issue 317 of the E-Government Bulletin entitled “The Future of Citizenship: Loudest Shout or Best Argument?”. In these instances I always have to remind myself that we live in a representative democracy, which isn’t really built for anyone outside the anointed host to have an affect upon decision-making. The person in the street gave away their opportunity to make an impact when they voted. They may be able to shout at their elected representatives, send them emails, write letters, deliver petitions and perform many other tasks; but in the end it’s the a combination of the full-time officials and the politicians that come up with the goods.

This opinion isn’t overruled by statements in the piece in the E-Government Bulletin which includes phrases such as “the limited role assigned to citizens in the political process”, “the views of citizens remain largely invisible” and “the Internet is a potential space for the creation of a more deliberative democracy”. In my own view the Town Hall is a potential space for the creation of a more deliberative democracy and once the changes are agreed there, the Internet as it is for everything else, can be used to facilitate them…

Or am I being too negative?