We (Dan O'Sullivan, Tom Igoe, Patrick Dwyer and I) "soft launch" this Friday at the NYU Law School ITS Colloquium. Details and directions available at the Information Law Institute Website. RSVP required. For more information read on....
Tonight Esther Dyson mentioned a Chinese search engine called BaiDu where every search creates a discussion board for people to talk at that spot. Try it by typing an English search term! This is one of the features we've built into the Cairns prototype. You'll be able to create a blog or a comment on specific Cairns but also on searches of Cairns. This is designed to build community around common questions, problems and ideas.
Just back from Cambridge, MA. Sandy Heierbacher of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation convened a group of thought leaders from the worlds of democratic organizing and deliberation to engage around the Cairns Project. Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger of the Kennedy School of Government hosted us. Here's the list of illustrious participants who were willing to take the leap of faith and devote a day to talking about a not-yet-built piece of software and what it might do to forge a community among those people committed to participatory and democratic forms of practice. Wow! I am immensely grateful and energized by the conversation, which focused both on revising the taxonomy and on rethinking the design to engage those people with experience doing democracy (the uploaders) and those wishing to try out collaborative approaches for the first time (the downloaders). A full report to follow tomorrow. I'll also post some of the mindmaps and notes to the Cairns Project website.
In the Sedona, ArizonaRed Rocks, the dry, dusty, red, rocky terrain can be confusingly similar. I hiked up a mesa, forgetting to pay attention to where I ascended and my position relative to the horizon. An encounter with a wild coyote further distracted me from noticing the trail. Luckily, in the Western states, unlike what I've seen on East Coast trails, hikers make CAIRNS, or markers, to indicate the best path. By following these manmade stone mounds I found my way.
The Cairn represents democracy in action. Unknown climbers take the time to stop and mark trails using the tools of stones and twigs. They create these monuments for the members of the community of hikers. Even though they do not know who will follow in their footsteps, they feel themselves to be part of something, enough to go to this extra effort. New hikers come along and add to the Cairn, collaborating to solve the problem of finding the right path. These rocks are the shared object through which the community of hikers maintains its dialogue. Eventually, Cairns become art as well as monuments.
I have chosen the Cairn as a metaphor for the future of e-democracy, the subject matter of this blog.
The fundament of democratic life are the groups and communities who work together to deliberate, make decisions and solve problems. In a democracy, legitimacy derives from the participation of members of the community. E-democracy focuses on how groups and communities work in virtual space and how new technologies change the social life of groups. What are the tools and methods that enable collaboration in cyberspace? What are the prospects for participation in virtual spaces? In real space, democratic life is defined by activities such as voting, deliberation, dispute resolution, activism, revolution. Lots of groups work in ways that combine these activities. In cyberspace, because we have to program these practices into the code of the software, we can combine them in different ways than in real life. We can now have decisionmaking without deliberation or deliberation without decisionmaking. I am trying to understand the future of this "democratic bricolage." My goal is to promote the civic conversation that underlies democratic life.
The conversation I hope to cultivate here focuses on how technology changes the way communities cohere and how new technologies might help us to transform from private actors into public citizens.