Internet: Knowledge and Community

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The Internet as a Resource for Communities

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On page 174 of “The Internet and Democratic Citizenship” Coleman discusses a strategy for developing a place for the training of facilitators and the dissemination of those skills broadly for conducting public discourse. This is imagined to be accomplished by a new government agency that is also responsible for many other aspects of developing and implementing a new initiative towards greater public discourse and deliberative democracy. While I certainly agree with the need for a new paradigm of citizen led consideration of issues and governance based on that process, I do not see a government agency as the likely source of any widespread paradigm shifts.

From Wisdom Councils and Transition Towns to The World Cafe and The Coffee Party Movement, there are many developing practices of group based decision making that are being facilitated and organized by ordinary citizens for citizens. As advances in social networking continue to strengthen and build connections across great distances and within communities, it seems possible for more of these citizen led initiatives to grow and develop until some sort of hundredth monkey phenomenon can take place and a public ethic of deliberation and action can become common practice.

The challenge of an organic evolution of the paradigm of deliberation to develop any sway in the entrenched systems of decision making is gaining influence at the governmental level as more and more institutions are facing the power of the internet to mobilize people. The recent developments in Egypt remind us again that normal citizens do have the power to cause change in their government if they can organize themselves together. WikiLeaks, the Anonymous Group, and the past Iranian elections are all further examples of self motivated facilitators organizing and deploying the power of worldwide networked information to leverage the power of the people to command the attention of large influential organizations.

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