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Emergent democracy

Emergent democracy

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Emergent democracy refers to the rise of political structures and behaviors without central planning and by the action of many individual participants, especially when mediated by the Internet. More recently, Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky is an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He has a joint appointment at New York University as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and Assistant Arts Professor in the New...

 has referred to this as "the power of organizing without organizations
Here Comes Everybody
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations is a book by Clay Shirky published by Penguin Press in 2008, which evaluates the effect of the Internet on modern group dynamics. The author considers examples such as Wikipedia and MySpace in his analysis...

." The term was coined to stand in contrast to more traditional forms of democracy, such as representational democracy and direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

. The phrase draws upon emergence
Emergence
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems....

 theory for the idea that the simple actions of individuals can collectively create complex and unpredictable results, as when the behavior of termites results in large, efficient nests beyond the comprehension of any individual participant.

In the paper that first drew attention to the term, Joi Ito
Joi Ito
is a Japanese activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and Director of the MIT Media Lab.Ito has received recognition for his role as an entrepreneur focused on Internet and technology companies and has founded, among other companies, PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan. He maintains...

 expresses a hope that the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, as a large and decentralized network, will enable innovative responses by citizens to highly complex problems. From its outset, emergent democracy has been seen arising most clearly among bloggers who, as a decentralized network of writers, can provide a fuller airing and development of ideas than can the relatively limited resources of traditional media. Supporters of the idea point to instances in which bloggers have brought about political change by posting about issues that mainstream media had not paid much attention to. The canonical example of emergent democracy was the December 2002 resignation of Trent Lott
Trent Lott
Chester Trent Lott, Sr. , is a former United States Senator from Mississippi and has served in numerous leadership positions in the House of Representatives and the Senate....

 as Senate
Senate
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature or parliament. There have been many such bodies in history, since senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class...

 majority leader
Majority leader
In U.S. politics, the majority floor leader is a partisan position in a legislative body.In the federal Congress, the role differs slightly in the two houses. In the House of Representatives, which chooses its own presiding officer, the leader of the majority party is elected the Speaker of the...

 after bloggers publicized his praising of Strom Thurmond
Strom Thurmond
James Strom Thurmond was an American politician who served as a United States Senator. He also ran for the Presidency of the United States in 1948 as the segregationist States Rights Democratic Party candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes...

's 1948 segregation
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

ist campaign for the presidency
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

.

History


Ito had been vocal about issues with Japanese democracy, and had spoken at Davos about how broken he felt Japanese democracy was. "Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues," he posted. "These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context."
He organized a group effort to discuss and document the emergent democracy concept, using a term initially coined by Ross Mayfield
Ross Mayfield
Ross Mayfield is co-founder, Chairman and President, and former CEO of Socialtext Incorporated, an enterprise social software company based in Palo Alto, California.He now is Vice President of Business Development of SlideShare...

. He announced meetings on his weblog, inviting his readers to attend a conference call
Conference call
A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party wishes to have more than one called party listen in to the audio portion of the call. The conference calls may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party...

 that was augmented by IRC
Internet Relay Chat
Internet Relay Chat is a protocol for real-time Internet text messaging or synchronous conferencing. It is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication via private message as well as chat and data transfer, including file...

 chat for posting realtime visual cues and backchannel conversation, and a wiki
Wiki
A wiki is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used collaboratively by multiple users. Examples include...

 for gathering notes from the call. This "multimodal" approach was called a "happening" by Ross Mayfield. The conversation resulted in Ito's online article that generated discussions about the potential for weblogs and other social software
Social software
Social software applications include communication tools and interactive tools. Communication tools typically handle the capturing, storing and presentation of communication, usually written but increasingly including audio and video as well. Interactive tools handle mediated interactions between a...

 tools to have an impact on participation in governance. The discussion and notes were captured in a paper that was placed on a wiki for collaborative editing and enhancement. Jon Lebkowsky
Jon Lebkowsky
Jon Lebkowsky is an web consultant/developer, author and activist who was cofounder of FringeWare, Inc. . FringeWare, an early attempt at ecommerce and online community, published a popular "magalog" called FringeWare Review, and a literary zine edited by Lebkowsky called Unshaved Truths...

 edited the wiki version, and published it as a chapter in the 2005 book Extreme Democracy. A "teach-in
Teach-in
A teach-in is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or an academic scope of the topic. Teach-ins...

" on that topic was held on February 9, 2004 as part of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. The emergent democracy paper was incubated within the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies framework along with Tim O'Reilly's "What is Web 2.0"; the two can be considered as seminal works that influenced the emergence of today's social web.

See also

  • List of politics-related topics
  • Direct democracy
    Direct democracy
    Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

  • E-democracy
    E-democracy
    E-democracy refers to the use of information technologies and communication technologies and strategies in political and governance processes...

  • Open source governance
    Open source governance
    Open-source governance is a political philosophy which advocates the application of the philosophies of the open-source and open-content movements to democratic principles in order to enable any interested citizen to add to the creation of policy, as with a wiki document. Legislation is...

  • Panarchy
    Panarchy
    Panarchy is a conceptual term first coined by the Belgian botanist and economist Paul Emile de Puydt in 1860, referring to a specific form of governance that would encompass all others. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the noun as "chiefly poetic" with the meaning "a universal realm," citing...

  • Second Superpower
    Second Superpower
    "Second Superpower" is a term used to conceptualize a global civil society as a world force comparable to or counterbalancing the United States...


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