||This article needs attention from an expert on the subject. (October 2013)|
Interactive democracy is by its very nature 'interactive'. Accordingly, advocates of iDemocracy believe that change should happen at a number of levels and does not simply refer to one's ability to vote which does not in itself lead to a fair society. A true iDemocracy requires that people learn to think in a democratic way in all aspects of their lives - from the transactions they make, to the way in which they learn and relate to others. Th key mantra is: being interactively democratic means thinking and acting democratically!
iDemocracy recognises the potential importance of communications technologies which can be utilised to transform current power structures for the greater good by ensuring that people have more direct involvement in decision-making processes right across the political-economic, scientific-technological, social and cultural spectrum. Ideologically speaking, it has the potential to more readily reform the activities of, for example, existing dysfunctional government and corporate systems and other prevailing knowledge systems at the local, national, international and global levels if they are perceived to be not serving the interests of humanity at large.
Crucially, iDemocracy is distinct to eDemocracy in terms of who sets the agenda. Typically, with regards to eDemocracy, which advocates the use of such things as ePetitions, the agenda is for the most part set by the institutions of power and then presented to the people on the assumption they will respond according to the options they are given. By contrast, in an iDemocracy, in which a democratic attitude is more thoroughly embedded within the fabric of society, the reverse is true because the agenda is created by the people who then present it to the institutions of power in order to exert influence. This ensures that iDemocracy is built from the ground up, not imposed from the top down (which is un-democratic).
Professor Frank Hassard’s keynote address entitled: ‘iDemocracy: Towards a ‘New’ New World Order’ presented to the 32nd Anniversary Annual Meeting of The International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics (IIAS) at the 24th International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics (Baden-Baden, Germany, July 30 – Aug 3rd 2012) argued how a cartel of Western elites has sought to establish a New World Order based on financial oligarchy which has historically served to undermine democracy and contributed to the many economic, ecological and political challenges faced by humanity today.
Hassard further considered how emergent global communications technologies, and the resultant political consciousness, can enable people to transcend the failings of the modern democratic process and negotiate the current political impasse through a new transformative politics described by the term "interactive democracy" – iDemocracy. He suggested that this has the potential to shape a ‘new’ New World Order reflecting a new consensus founded on a positive and collaborative spirit and enacted through a global interactive network of the people, designed by the people, and in which only the people are truly sovereign.
Hassard’s ideas about iDemocracy build upon the concept of Idemology which he first introduced in his paper entitled: ‘Culture, Inheritance and Identity: towards an Idemological Perspective’
His use of the term Idemology is derived from the Latin word idem which, in the Oxford English dictionary, refers to: ‘the same’. The word ‘identity’ is derived from Late Latin identitas which is historically derived from idem. In Hassard’s usage idem is interpreted from a cultural perspective and refers to ‘shared’ or ‘common’ – such as a ‘common inheritance’ or, collectively, a ‘common identity’ or 'shared values'. From this foundation, iDemocracy can be understood as a political ‘offshoot’ of Idemology and reflects his belief that human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the kind of global political awakening which has emerged in recent times coinciding with the dawning of the Communication Age.
On another level, and more profoundly, Hassard understands iDemocracy as an integral part of a wider human-evolutionary necessity. In this connection, his Address to the 23rd International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics (Baden-Baden, Germany, August 1 – 5 2011) to the 1st Symposium on Art of Relational Living in the Communication Age opened in the following terms:
‘Imagine, if you will, a world in which all inhabitants enjoy a life of peace, prosperity, justice and harmony, nourished by a deep sense of meaning and purpose, framed within a secure and sustainable environment. I believe that such ideals are fundamental to human life, but the extent to which these aspirations are perceived by many as hopelessly naive is (perhaps) a measure of just how derailed human evolution has become. However, it must be conceded that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that we are today faced with significant global ecological challenges which need to be overcome if we are to secure any kind of positive future for life on Earth as we know it.’
Aspects of the process
- Any registered voter may propose a new law
- Any registered voter may propose a law amendment or revocation
- Registered voters can review proposals and debate alternative proposals
- Voters who agree can +1 the proposal and its alternatives
- Voters who disagree can -1 the proposal and its alternatives
- Proposals with significantly proportioned +1s must be reviewed by Parliament in order to create, amend or revoke law
- Proposals ideally will have at least 2/3 of registered voters cast a vote to ensure only popular proposals are considered
- Parliament must consider alternative proposals
- The proposal (with its alternatives) are presented to voters for ratification in a public vote or referendum
Other useful concepts
Instead of voting for politicians, which becomes a multi-faceted issue involving policies, characters and trust, Interactive democracy allows votes on single issues which may be more easily decided on.
Democracy as information processor
Each voter may be viewed as a discrete information processor making a judgement on each issue based not only on their intellect but their experience, morals, values and how the vote will affect their futures. Compared to the few hundred people involved in decisions in a parliamentary democracy, the thousands or millions of voters in interactive democracy, each with a wide diversity of life experiences, process far more information and may make much better decisions.
The security of the voting system is crucial for any form of democracy but the use of information technology adds new opportunities for fraud. All of the systems that are employed in Internet banking systems are proposed to ensure security in Interactive Democracy. However, there are also concerns that personal information and voting patterns open up the system to "Big Brother" style manipulation. Proponents of ID suggest that strong regulations supported by an independent judiciary and police force will be sufficient to prevent such threats.
Proponents of interactive democracy believe that the use of information technology is crucial in order to control the costs of so many public votes. Once the systems are established they can be used for all levels of democracy: National, regional, local. However, there must be easy access to terminals (mobile phones or computers) for everyone in society for the system to be fair. This may involve public access through libraries but others point out that personal computer use is increasing and soon almost no one will be without access.
All democracies rest on the freedom of the press and this is especially true for interactive democracy. Without media involvement in reporting on proposals and votes the system may not generate enough interest and involvement from the electorate. Though ID offers the media a ready-made interactive story line, there are also issues of potential bias which may need to be legislated for.
ID and Parliament
Interactive democracy recognises the importance of parliamentary parties and government. It is seen as an extension of these political systems and recognises that government is essential for implementing new laws and policies and that parliament must oversee the system and clarify proposals so that they work as laws. However, some interactive democracy proponents do not see a role for the House of Lords.
Voting on the Web
The design of the web site on which people can cast their votes may have a large impact on the effectiveness of interactive democracy. Apart from instigating and supporting ePetitions and voting on referenda, the web site may facilitate debate in a number of ways: individuals may pose questions that others answer; they may add comments under the headings of positive, negative and interesting points; there may be calls for research; and government approved studies may be presented. The contributions made by MPs may be highlighted. The web site should also have a search facility that is unbiased and the facility to register voters complaints and suggestions for improvement. The web master must be held to account by Parliament.
- Hassard, F. (2009). ‘Culture, Inheritance and Identity: Towards an Idemological Perspective.’ In Art and Science Vol.6, edited by G. Lasker, H. Schinzel and K. Boullart. Proceedings of the 6th Special Focus Symposium on Art and Science held as part of The 21st International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics August 3–7, 2009 Baden-Baden, Germany. Published by the International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics (IIAS)
- Hassard. F. (2011). ‘The Art of Relational Living: A Transformative Process Sustained by Art, Culture and Communication’ in The Art of Relational Living in the Communication Age Volume I edited by Prof. G. Lasker, Prof. F. Hassard, Prof. A. Aydin, Prof. K. Hiwaki and Prof. T. Jere-Lazanski. Proceedings of the 1st Symposium and Panel on The Art of Relational Living in the Communication Age held as part of The 23rd International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics August 1–5, 2011 Baden-Baden, Germany. Published by the International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics (IIAS)