The disenfranchisement of the willingly unwired

Ofcom logoReading this post – as good a round-up of the progress and the opportunities I’ve seen made me think about the OfCOM research, published earlier this week that indicated that 43% of ‘unwired adults’ are happy to stay that way.

There’s a parallel, I believe, with the push to create new participatory spaces. Like broadband, the assumption that we all want it, will all invest in working out how to use it, to game it, to let it become another one of the weapons in the armoury that we use to take on the world – is an unexamined assumption.

And then think where that leaves those people? Many of the ‘wired adults’ are using online tools without ever taking an interest in politics, democracy, or the participative options that exist to tackle the issues around them.

Shopping, chatting, watching missed TV programmes, gambling and other activities all trump ‘engagement’. Others (such as Kevin, for instance) can quantify just how little most people want to be oppressed by demands to engage, to participate, and to have your say, but the one conclusion that can safely be reached is this: Those who lionise the notion of active citizenship, and promote a more participatory politics massively over-estimate the appetite for it.

Have those ‘unwired’ adults ever told you that they’re happy to let the wired-up interfering busy-body do-gooders have a disproportionatly strong voice in the big decisions that effect their lives? I ask because I’ve never seen any evidence that such consent has been given.

And if it hasn’t, why is so much energy being put into encouraging people to participate in decision-making processes that effect us all?

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Participatory budgeting – radio programme

Here’s a radio programme about participatory budgeting in the UK. I’m not sure where it went out first (Tiago Peixoto pointed me towards it via Facebook).

It’s quite short and worth listening to just for the note of joy in a council officer’s voice when she says that people were asking for council tax increases once they had their demands pushed back on them.