Social Democratic Participation

Imagine this in New Zealand! A feed from the ReadWriteWeb blog this morning drew my attention to the latest innovation from the US White House. President Obama’s team have launched a new web site where anyone can submit and vote for their most important questions abut the economy and its impact on education, health, retirement, jobs etc. Obama is promising to read these submissions and respond in person in a regular broadcast each Thursday. As ReadWriteWeb point out – the White House has a Digg clone!

In New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has made a start with a website presence that includes YouTube presentations and Flickr photos, while his Facebook account does provide opportunities for personal interaction. But what about following the Obama example, and upping the ante on social participation with our own Digg clone??

I’m a fan of using the internet for social participation, and see great value in this sort of e-democracy. In Christchurch I’ve been following discussions in an e-democracy forum for some time now since my friend Dan Randow started it up as part of his work with http://onlinegroups.net/. A recent focus on the issue of boy racers in the city illustrates how citizens were able to engage in discussion on the topic, exposing a wide range of perspectives that included input from local politicians. The Christchurch group is part of a growing e-democracy network that includes groups in the UK and the US also.

Now imagine at the school level how we could create greater engagement in social issues if we managed to incorporate these sorts of opportunities – would certainly go a long way towards achieving the curriculum goal of developing young people who are confident, connected, actively involved, life-long learners!

3 thoughts on “Social Democratic Participation

  1. The trouble with Wiki’s ? I followed the link from this post to the e democracy network. The usual blend of freeware apps and content, without added front end skinning, makes it a little hard to tell what’s what for the first time visitor. Then I followed the wiki link in Pages which took me to a sort of search page and then out to here: http://pages.e-democracy.org/Special:Categories and saw NZ had one member but … actually no page had been made. I am not meaning to criticise Dan and the netwok here. Rather to highlight what has been my experience of the gap betwen the potentials of free and open applications with the realities of actually melding them into usable, meaningful spaces which work across a range of users. However, unlike struggling voluntary sectors, www. govt.nz might have access to skills and services to make such imagining real?

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  2. I do agree that the e-democracy wiki is a little difficult on first visit to navigate for a newcomer, something that is typical of many free and open applications – but I’m not sure where things have gone wrong for you in terms of the NZ page? When I click on the link I find a number of areas to go to where the activity is quite evident – for instance the canterbury Issues page.
    Apart from that, I do agree that there’s an opportunity for the resources of government to establish something that is robust and invites democratic participation. Of course, the big learning curve then will be for those who participate as the skills and dispositions required to involve ones-self in these sorts of forums are quite different from what occurs in bars and meeting rooms around the country where opinions are shared within groups that tend to be rather homogenous. This is where I see a great challenge and opportunity for educators working at the school level.

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  3. Wiki use by local forums on E-Democracy.Org is minimal, although we welcome its use. Our local life is clearly in our forums. Creating and maintaining wiki context can require extensive volunteer labour.

    We do use the wiki almost as a CMS to gather and edit content to help communities start new forums:
    http://pages.e-democracy.org/Start_A_Forum

    And for emergency gatherings of links to user generated content or for election and community links:
    35W
    Red_River_Flood
    Canterbury_and_Christchurch_elections_2007
    Brighton_and_Hove_community_links

    You need to add the pages.e-democracy URL since the anti-spam doesn’t like multiple links …

    Cheers,
    Steven Clift
    E-Democracy.Org

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