October 13, 2003

"Emergent democracy is not the same as direct democracy" -- Wanna bet?

Joi Ito, current transnational poster child for the "virtual community" set (Remember that one?), is powering his non-stop trans-global conventioneering by spreading the "meme" (Remember that one) of "emergent democracy" (Remember that one? No? It used to be called "direct democracy," but if Ito called it that he'd have no central schtick.)

But like all other tired and discredited ideas that tag something "emergent" in order to get a fresh lap around the track of credulous minds, Ito has a bit of a problem telling anyone the way in which "emergent democracy" is all that different from 'direct democracy." His effort today amounts to:

Emergent democracy IS NOT [Note: the use of all caps at the beginning of a definition of what something isn't is usually a pretty good clue that it is. -- ed] the same as using technology to scale direct democracy. Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots. [I have a sneaking suspicion that this used to be called Anarchism before it got a bad name by starting the First World War -- ed ] It's the difference between a couch potato clicking the vote button and a group of people starting their own Dean coalition group.[So that means that clicking a remote is different from clicking a link, right? Why? Because "the people' make the links? Who makes the TV channels? -- ed ]

That's the difference between the Dean Campaign and what just happened in California. They may both be symptoms of people unhappy with the current regime, but they are very different types of democracy.

[Joi Ito's Web]
And that difference would be... would be... that in the California election 10 million people got out of their chairs, went to a polling place, stood in line and cast their ballots, while in the Dean Campaign some tens of thousands (maybe) clicked around and made Paypal contributions while slamming up cloned web sites. Then they went to a rally.

Call us old-fashioned but the California election seems to be a lot more meaningful in terms of Democracy than a bunch of nerds sitting around typing, cutting and pasting for Dean.

Ito seems to be a pleasant enough chap -- full of enthusiasm for his "new ideas," and possessed of a couple of pallets of charm. He puts lots of pictures of "Nerds with the Need to Know," up on his site and seems to spend a lot of time just hanging with the semi-big dogs. But as far as his intellectual weight goes, it strikes us as being a 2003 do-over of the stuff John Perry Barlow used to afflict the world with. The main difference is that Barlow was a much more entertaining lunatic, and you had to go deeper to find out just how shallow he was. Posted by Vanderleun at October 13, 2003 3:20 PM

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