ARTS3091 Blog 7 -Transparency & True Democracy

May 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Can the ubiquitous way in which data is stored, manipulated and accessed help create a ‘true’ or at least a ‘truer’ democracy?

In Australia we have a representative democracy; a model analogous to a pyramid, where everyday people give input at the bottom of the pyramid, which is then passed to the top, where decisions are made.

I think it is important to look at transparency in two separate ways: – The transparency of function and the transparency of communication.

Make the functions visible

As Catherine Styles (2009) discusses in her blog, the first step to a ‘truer’ democracy is to make the functions of democracy clearly visible. Making information available keeps people accountable, and as discussed in ‘Open Gov the Movie’ it also makes people more involved. As Jake Brewer of Open Gov states, “If we knew everyday how many lobbying dollars were being contributed on the healthcare debate… it would change the debate… people would be so much more aware and so much more participatory than they are now”.

Brewer also discusses the possibility of ‘real-time democracy’ in which we can see the decisions made by politicians instantaneously. In my opinion, the idea of real-time and naked transparency of functions may be utopic and unrealistic, however should be something we strive for to create a ‘truer’ democracy. By making the functions visible we are keeping the pyramid model, however it is a more ‘visible’ pyramid, this is representative of a traditional notion of transparency.

Make communication transparent

As the function of government becomes more transparent, there is a growing possibility to change the current pyramid model on which government is built. That is, rather than having communication from everyday people to decision makers travel through several conduits, regular people can be closer to the decision making process; more similar to a funnel than a pyramid. This presents some technical difficulties, as discussed in ‘open gov the movie’ one of the largest problems of this funnel model is converging data from potentially hundreds of thousands of people, into a format that can be navigated by less than 10.

There is no denying that each new innovation will bring new problems, and this funnel model would be no exception.

I think further research could be conducted into forms of social media which deal with massive amounts of traffic and content, such as twitter, facebook, pinterest and reddit, and then applying these means of content and traffic management into potential funnel models of government.

 References

Styles, Catherine (2009) ‘A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’ <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>

Quigley, Chris (2010) Open Gov the Movie <http://www.delib.co.uk/opengov>

 

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