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September 18, 2004

Citizen Deliberative Councils

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Posted by Ross Mayfield

This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Future Salon alongside Zack Rosen and Tom Atlee on the Tao of Extreme Democracy, a wonderful fusion of tools, practices and political activism.

Zack demoed CivicSpace, a funded continuation of DeanSpace, and showed how it was empowering Music For America to get 1 million voters registered organized by a staff of 10. He also demoed Progressive Pipes, which aggregates activist mailing lists.

Tom is the author of the Tao of Democracy and an expert in methodologies of dialogue and deliberation. He proposes that Citizen Deliberative Councils (CDCs) could be a significant feature of Extreme Democracy, to help fulfill something Joi said: "social technologies have emerged that enable citizens to self-organize more easily. These technologies may eventually enable democracies to scale and become more adaptable and direct."

Tom highlights some potential differences (which reads like Yin is to wikis as Yang is to blogs, but most ED chapters focus on blogs):

Characteristic Features of Extreme Democracy

  • dynamic interactivity
  • competitive, empowers partisans and interest groups
  • distributed network intelligence
  • participatory

Characteristic Features of Co-intelligent Democracy

  • wisdom-generation
  • integral, empower an inclusive We the People
  • whole field intelligence
  • holographic

Tom provided examples of how CDCs have worked in Canada (.PDF), Denmark and British Columbia (.PartOfCanada). Deliberative Polling has been a facet of Emergent Democracy, recognizing the strength of diverse groups to make decisions over individuals. Tom suggests broader applicability of facilitating dialog and deliberation between common and diverse participants to inform political decision making.

Social Software can address the problems inherent in CDCs today: cost, publicity and the need for self-organization to lessen the effect of framing by organizers. If you have ever had an interest in Emergent Democracy, I encourage you to contribute to the wiki page where Tom has shared his talk and deep thoughts on how to converge these practices and tools -- and consider how we can foster democratic participation after the election.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. Steven Clift on September 20, 2004 11:48 AM writes...

At http://E-Democracy.Org we have a number of active citizen-to-citizen participatory spaces online. Our model strengthened considerably when we went local in 1998. While blogs represent an important yet mostly individualistic form of "speaker's corner," we've found facilitated e-mail lists to build the most reciprocity and greater equality among participants. See the link a top this post for more information.

For those with "social software" knowledge and development time, we invite you to join our all volunteer effort. One of our goals is to better combine e-lists with the web - see:

If anyone would like to start a local E-Democracy chapter/Issues Forum in their town, you are invited to join our network.

Steven Clift
Board Chair, E-Democracy.Org

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2. Bill Seitz on September 20, 2004 3:31 PM writes...

I increasingly agree that trying to change the top-down structures may be less productive than building bottom-up alternative arrangements.

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3. Jo Ma on September 23, 2004 6:01 PM writes...

Ito et. al. aren't interested in democracy, self-rule, they are interested in majoritarianism. His desire to scale up the size of political units using ITC is designed to disempower as many as possible by lumping all dissidents into one group, one large minority that is out of power, rather than allow them to hold power in localities.

Worse, CDCs aren't about deliberation, they are about indoctrination, as in Canada, Denmark etc. They fail to understand the effects of information cascades which dumb down societies, or the unanimous fallacy where sunk-cost effects lead groups to cling to failing systems rather than risk the loss of unanimity they paid so much to achieve.

These groups aren't the vanguard of modern democracy, they are reactionaries seeking to control societies. These are the bad old guys whose ideas lead to ugly societies that collapse in fatigue followed by nihilism.

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