Big gap

Michelle is pointing to the Tufts University ‘Digital Democracy’ course wiki.

On the plus side, as Michelle says, it’s a move that should be welcomed, and it’d be interesting to see how other Universities will approach such an open handed approach with their education programmes.

BUT, looking at that syllabus, it’s rather depressing the way that it reflects a good deal of the discussion around social media and democracy outside of the halls of academe. It mixes the laudable reflections on the disruptive potential of the technology in enabling pro-democracy movements within repressive societies with a series of rather abstract questions combining social theory with the observations of digital evangelists about how the growing influence of digital natives will change things.

But here it is again: The questions of representative democracy, how it will be effected by these disruptive changes – and the things that everybody needs to know (how does technology prove to be an asset to groups that hope to increase their social capital) seem to be absent.

This seems to be the ugly duckling at almost every party. I suspect that – if I were to look hard enough – I’d find a reference to this stuff somewhere.

But it’s lack of prominence here strikes me as somewhat lazy. A preference for abstraction.

Good job there’s a ‘Political Theory 2.0’ session in the offing at Barcamp tomorrow, eh?

(Hat tip: Demsoc)


How the Arts Council is showing no sign of learning it’s lesson

If ever there is an organisation that is perceived to have lost touch with almost all of it’s stakeholders (apart from the management consultants who decided how central government should assess their performance), it’s the Arts Council of England. Here, Ivan Pope outlines what they should be doing to re-connect.

That post includes a spot of profanity – but not too much. I’m only pointing to this in lieu of a post that I’ve been meaning to write about non-elected organisations have a good deal less legitimacy than elected ones, yet we demand more transparency and accountability from people who have been voted for.

I’d argue that this is the wrong way around. That the Arts Council can behave the way it has in recent years would suggest that I’m in a minority on this one….

Even Obama gets locked down

Subjecting politicians to excessive regulation discourages interactivity.

Subjecting politicians to excessive regulation discourages interactivity.

My friend Will has e-mailed this from the Washington Post to me – It may cheer Steph up a little to know that he’s not fighting a purely British problem….

“Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.”

Update: Steph’s results are up!

Douglas Carswell on Direct Democracy

Involve are doing a seminar on Direct Democracy tomorrow (early) evening. Details are here.

Here are two entirely neutral views on Direct Democracy:

“A direct democracy is where great thinkers are made to drink hemlock at the whim of the masses.”

That was my friend, Matt that said that.


“A direct democracy is worse that a fascist dictatorship: At least with the Nazis, you knew who was in charge.”

Bill Thompson said that, but sadly not anywhere that I can link to at the moment.

Social media, civic engagement, and the need for political leadership

Probably not as keen on encouraging his political grassroots to interact as he could be?

Peter Mandelson: Probably not as keen on encouraging his political grassroots to interact as he could be?

There’s a terrific post here, authored by Dave Briggs – brimming with positivity and enthusiasm as ever. It’s a really good round up, and a good introduction to what is possible for users that already have their heads in the right place.

I’d add a number of observations to it that I hope make sense.

Firstly, I’ve not found a good briefing anywhere that makes the basic moral case for interactivity – particularly aimed at local politicians and officers. This is really what we’re talking about here when we strip out the actual applications. Something that mirrors the biblical Parable of the Talents.

Continue reading

Died in a church and was buried along with her name … nobody came

The Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpool

The Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpool

Councils are burying more lonely people.


(Via Ingrid)

Should politicians blog?

Nicolo Machiavelli - a bit sceptical about all of this candour business

Niccolò Machiavelli - a bit sceptical about all of this 'candour' business

Shorter version: If you’re a politician, it may be a good idea to get into blogging. But do it under a pen-name! It’s safer that way, and it will make you better at your job.

This is an old-ish question nowadays. And as the big question around social media at the moment is ‘should everyone Twitter‘, I think it may be a good time to revisit the question of blogging – now that the one-note evangelism for the medium has died down.

I’m not convinced that most politicians should set up an official blog of their own, or formally blog in their own name. Annoyingly, this is not a common view. Daniel Hannan, a UK Conservative Party MEP says it’s a good idea.

The inestimable Shane McCracken of Gallomanor also thinks they should – indeed, he goes further and asks if leaders should blog (three different times – here, here and here).

Though my own conclusions are slightly different, I’ve been helping a few councillors to have a crack at it recently, and I suspect that a few of them will emerge from it very well.

Former Lewisham Councillor, Andrew Brown picked up (a while ago now) on a Centre for Policy Studies paper on how the internet is changing politics, and how it skews some biases that may already be there in terms of activism and influence. Continue reading