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[bb] John Palfrey

John Palfrey says we don’t know how the Internet might affect democracy, but there lots of possibilities. He lays them out. [I’m typing quickly trying to capture the outline. As always, I’m missing stuff and getting it wrong.]

First, it might affect participatory democracy by providing open information enviornments, making new networks, enabling tools for individual activists, a productivity tool for campaigners, and attracting new participants. On the other hand, it might provide too much information, it can fragment us (“The Daily Me”), the participation can be watered down, it limits participation to those with access, some states are instituting censorship (cf. the ONI project), and maybe we should be jumping to “postdemocratic” order. So, maybe we’ll see refinements; the context matters a lot and it depends “a ton on what baseline you choose.” That is, if you’re only asking if participatory culture makes demcoracy better, that’s an easy bar. But maybe we should be aiming higher.

Second, acadmics says that the real story is about economic democracy and the emergence of a stronger middle class, and Doc Searls’ “Vendor Relationship Management.”

Third, academics also talk about semiotic democracy, e.g., control of cultural goods, with meaning created by many, not by the few. More YouTube and Second Life, less Disney. But (he asks), will people participate? Will we just create the old structures online? And won’t new intermediaries emerge to decide what we see?

John lists takeaways:

The Web is about creativity, innovation, and greater power at the edges.

This is a global phenomenon.

Big media companies generally have no idea how to deal with participatory democracy.

The legal and political battle over the future of the Internet is where a lot of this will play out. The outcome is not assured.

This conference is about where theory meets practice.

Q: First, participatory culture and democracy are non-partisan. Second, someone has to tell us what’s true or else we’re liable to end up with fascism, racism, anti-semitism, etc.
A: Something to talk about this afternoon. [Tags: ]

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