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[liberationtech] Looking for local public space online example tied to Arab Spring

Steven Clift clift at e-democracy.org
Fri Aug 31 04:56:42 PDT 2012


I am looking for an example of a post-revolution online public space for
democratic participation that has an agenda-setting impact on things like
the local media, area elected officials, etc.

This could be a Facebook Group, Facebook Page, a unique twitter hashtag, a
web forum, an e-mail list, and civic news site with lots of active
discussion features, etc.

The spaces would be at least somewhat politically competitive and not tied
to a party or strong advocacy cause (other than for democratic
participation).

"Declared" spaces might be for example created to cover the geography of a
parliamentary district in Tunisia or a city in Libya or a neighborhood in
Cairo.

The key is that the new centers of power recognize the online public space
as connecting the voters or active citizens they represent as a "public"
worth at least monitoring, hopefully informing, and ideally worth
attempting to influence or being influenced by the public dialogue/opinion
being generated in the online space.

A key aspect of such online spaces is that those now in power can
reasonably say "these are my voters" and would take seriously attempts by
members of the public to hold them accountable in these spaces. They would
also see ideas and proposals being generated by the public as an authentic
form of legitimate democratic participation by their constituents ...
something they could embrace or at least should take note of should the
momentum on ideas or priorities run counter to their own.

So anyone have some examples that fit this?

I'd like to collect some for a future speech and articles:
clift at e-democracy.org http://stevenclift.com/contact

It is my view that declared online public spaces within or tied to
political representation boundaries are the marker for sustained online
democratic engagement in representative *governance*. It embraces the
notion that "all politics is local." While you can move people nationally
online in large protests against an existing power structure, the minute
you shift to elections with local/regional districts or post-election into
governance you need online public squares defined by those boundaries with
critical mass public and political/media class participation. You need a
more or less neutral public convenor be it an individual, media outlet, or
civil society organization or in the case of Twitter hashtags a movement of
adoption for that local geo political tag.

So while the action in the U.S. is below the radar at the neighborhood
level in community life (for example neighbors using online spaces to
organize bulk purchase of political yard signs) with some very small areas
attracting 25% or more household participation. We also have local online
news commenting with some influence (but with aliases being the norm, the
lack of civility/accountability has mostly killed the collective power of
online expression). I do wonder what kind of influence a series of Facebook
Pages and/or Groups created "neutrally" for each new (swing?) House
district for voter debate might do before the election (and then
afterwards).

But what about developing or emergent democracies, what are local people
doing online to live democracy in a new way using these new tools to build
a new society?

Steven Clift
clift at e-democracy.org  - +1 612 234 7072
http://stevenclift.com - @democracy
http://e-democracy.org - @edemo
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