Context : OnDemocracy


Paper :

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Wiki :

Dee Hock (ChaordicOrganization) says :

Also discussed on this wiki :

Most recently I've been wondering what Emergent Democracy could offer the anti-war movement. (EmergentDemocracyAndTheAntiWarMovement) This is a long post with some interesting feedback. Worth reading.

What is the SecondSuperpower?


Richard Bennet thinks it's (Smart)Mob rule. And that Plato argued against it :

My Sporadic Thoughts

  • So, EmergentDemocracy looks at ways ideas (IdeaViruses, Memes) are born, discussed and propagate through the web. And sees this as a kind of bottom up decision making which could compete with traditional democratic structures.
  • Of course, new ideas and decisions can come about this way ... but

** What's to think that it's better than representative democracy?

** It's a bit like a market, but markets have problems and blind spots.

** It's a bit like Popper's TheOpenSociety, but the extra twist in Popper is that he redefines what politics is for. He doesn't claim that this produces good decisions, just that it's a defensive move which allows bad decisions to be identified and corrected (Though see GenerateAndTestInParallel, Popper in general. Maybe that's the best we have. The goodness of decisions arising from networked conversations will be discussed more in NetworkEpistemology)

** I can't help thinking that the real result of this is NetoCracy rather than any democracy :

*** Precisely because of the PowerLaws thing, ideas which perculate up to the political level will be from well connected cliques. The arguments against power laws don't work at this scale

*** and because access to networks is not a right like voting is

  • On the other hand, what's the argument for representative democracy? It tempers mob rule with an individual conscience of the representative. What reasons to think it's flaws are better than a flawed netocracy?

** Well, because people are guaranteed a right to vote,

** so imagine a combination. An emergent democracy which raises issues plans, combined with a statutory right for all citizens to vote on them. How come this sounds so unappealing?

RossMayfield thinks that certain hubs (Mavens? Connectors? Sneezers?) are individual people who act as an interface between the small scale social and creative networks; and the power law following political network. (Sounds Sounds) like these are gatekeepers, responsible to their own conscience, but also have a potential for corruption. If I create an idea in a social network, I have to win the patronage from one of these hubs for my ideas to bubble up into the political. It's exactly TheCourtOfKingBlog.

My comment to Ross :

Ross, this idea that there will be gatekeepers or hubs who move ideas up from the social networks to the political one gives the lie to the idea that Emergent Democracy is a democracy at all. I'm starting to feel this discussion is misleadingly named.

Either we have a netocracy which is a network of connections, and power and influence belong to those who know the right people. Or we have a democracy where everyone has some kind of right to influence what goes on. But we can't pretend one is the other.

I moved the discussion here :

though you need to be a member to read.

I said : I believe in NetoCracy ("the networking aspects of legislation and coalition-building will be influenced in some way by the tools and techniques of electronic networking.") I think that it's coming. My concern is that this isn't altogether a good thing. And the fear I've started having about the "emergent democracy" conversation is that it's helping to obscure the debate, because it's muddying the terms.

Update April 2005. DocSearles gave a good talk to Les Blogs. But this slide strikes me. The internet can't be both a meritocracy and democracy at the same time. The two ideas are exclusive :

Problem of consistency

Added to the Emergent Democracy wiki :

It seems that no-one's talking about the bigger problem of direct democracy, that some decisions are necessarily interdependent (eg. taxation and government spending) The finer the granularity of the direct involvement, the more chance there is that the things being decided are interdependent, and the greater the possibility that the electorate choose inconsistent policies (low taxes and high government spending). One of the justifications for indirect democracy is (or should be) that representatives combine policies into consistent packages.

Maybe to reproduce this in a more direct way, we'd need referendum software which highlighted the constraints : perhaps like Touch Graph, showing them as elastic connections between different policy decisions. Or an Amazon recommendation system ("citizens who voted for low taxation also voted for low government spending." :-)

(PoliticalSimulation might help.)

Miscellaneous Quickies

  • Meatball:VotingIsEvil

I don't like the term Emergent Democracy. When you look at democracy from the historical perspective you see that democracy was an emergent behaviour. So that term is a pleonasm.


Also see RealDemocracy, LivingDemocracy, etc. or for those who have given up on anything called "democracy" fulfilling the dream, see ConSensus, AnArchy, NonViolence, etc.

Liberal Theory of Power :

CategoryInformationalism, CategoryPolitics