Goverati: An alternative to representative democracy?

Yesterday I spoke at the Jornadas sobre redes y cultura compartida: De la cultura distribuida a la transformación del conocimiento (Conference on networks and shared culture: from distributed culture to the transformation of knowledge).

I had been asked to answer this question: could we, thanks to the Internet, forget about political parties and let people express their own opinions, debate and vote their representatives directly?

An initial answer to the question would be: well, yes, why not? But, should we?

Instead of providing such an answer — or any answer at all — I tried instead to:

  1. explain that some dire (socioeconomic) changes were taking place,
  2. focus on why these socioeconomic changes were taking place and
  3. infer, from this, what conditions shall take place in the future for
  4. another wave of changes to happen.

In other words:

  1. we have shifted from an Industrial Society to an Information Society (and what each concept means),
  2. that this has been because of digitization and Information and Communication Technologies (and other aspects, all of which led to second order factors, etc.) and
  3. that we should really be aware of digital competences, the digital divide and the unbalances of power
  4. for full e-Democracy to happen.

[click here to enlarge]

As can be seen in the presentation, I showed and explained almost 20 cases which I consider either successful or revolutionary or both, cases that have been replicated and will inspire many others.

But I also devoted plenty of time at showing, with real data, that these initiatives are mostly piloted by a tiny minority, my caveat being that we should try and bring more people in — by fighting the aforementioned barriers — instead of keeping on exploring new territories. The reason being that we could find ourselves having replaced a democracy by a digital aristocracy.

I admit that (One of) the bad point(s) in my approach is that it is very economy-focussed, instead of being politics/government based and thus leaving aside many aspects tied to the nature of the subject. On the other hand, I think that the good point is that it makes it easy to go back to the reasons, the whys, and not just the hows. Indeed, the approach is equally useful (as I did yesterday) to explain some changes in education or media.

During the questions & answers session, I really got clever feedback from the audience, while also giving me a second chance to clarify some aspects. Here they go:

  • The main aspect to address to achieve good e-Democracy is not the “e-” part, but the “Democracy” part. Difference, for instance, in the USA and European e-politics are more related with the political system rather than the different rates of Internet adoption or digital literacy (which are not that significantly different, by the way)
  • Information overload is a problem, which has to be addressed (among other things) with information literacy. Urgently.
  • New media literacies will be required too as we learnt to tell true from false when watching TV or FX-intensive movies.
  • Editors should be, in my opinion, a keystone in the new Information Society. The problem is that journalists/editors are more concerned about selling audiences to their advertisers or paper to their readers, rather than creating/editing good information and finding out how to get paid for it.
If you can’t see this video, please visit http://ictlogy.net/?p=3314

Credits: horitzoTV

More information

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “Goverati: An alternative to representative democracy?” In ICTlogy, #77, February 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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  1. Pingback: ICTlogy » SociedadRed » Medios y Sociedad de la Información. De la economía de papel a la economía digital

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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. During 2014 I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.