Recent EU Referendum in UK had a relatively high turnout and showed people’s appetite for direct democracy. On 18th October, Cybersalon.org jointly with Digital Liberties organised an event examining new approaches to One Man One Vote or at least One Voice for future political process. The debate was opened by Richard Barbrook from University of Westminster’s Centre for Study of Democracy and with an encouraging message from John McDonnel.
Colin Megill opened the debate by saying that most AI and data is used by government for surveillance, understanding things we don’t want them to understand.
His platform, pol.is allows people to debate and discuss several points of debate and arguments, and arrive at a common conclusion.
On of the conversations carried it was surrounding minimum wage conversation Seattle. People could make statements of what they want and discuss several points of interest. The platform would essentially create a survey of a wide range of individuals and their opinion surrounding a topic in order to generate a more accurate representation of what people wanted.
The people of Taiwan on the other hand debated the use and regulation of UberX. There was a general disagreement on the safety and legality of the service but there was a consensus on the ease of the service.
The different voices generate a graph in which the disagreements and different ideas are clearly visible rather than just readable. Visualising the consensus allows to educate and illustrate the idea better.
Colin pointed out that a way of visualising and reprensenting a variety of different voices would make it easier to develop ideas and put them in motion. In government ideas and regulations can take years to be put in motion in an attempt to arrive at a general agreement. But a representation of what people want would allow to develop those ideas further and quicker.
The technology involved in this platform is also open source, it is by the people for the people. It was made like this with the idea that if it can be used and understood freely it will be understood better and developed much quicker.
Paolo Gerbaudo opened with pointing out the mass decision making moments that are developing democracy and change in Spain and Italy.
Online mass decision making would potentially accurately represent the country as each person with their own voice would represent one vote. An accurate distribution of online community would be that 1% are organisers, 9% are contributors and participants the rest are passive. And the best way forward is to mobilise them in order to represent society better.
People distrust politics because they feel they have no breach between themselves and politics. The intervention can bring a more systematic process with “e-democracy”. E-voting and online referendum not only give people the vote but also allow them to participate in politics and the development of their country in a way that they haven’t been able to before.
Giving people a wider reach voice would aid in their participation and a development of a more representative democracy.
Alena Ivanonva from Momentum – Tower Hamlets discussed the potential in such open platforms not only for participation purposes but also for organisation and development of political communities.
Momentum is a movement for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in 2015 evolving in to a larger group. Involvement of a new set of people into the Labour party. It’s anchored in the Labour party. Within the group there is a drive for openness and transparency and leading the conversation.
There are 20K members of Momentum nationally and these members are not connected or represent by one single platform and there is no way of reaching all members and communicating together.
People are directed to local Momentum group upon joining, it can take up to several months to get in touch with them and start to get them to actively participate. Monthly meetings follow the format of a party meeting. There is also a variety of Whatsapp threads that tackle different issues. Topics for discussion are proposed and then a discussion is open outside of a meeting. Within these groups people are surprisingly open about having their opinion changed.
The discussions surround local issues but also need to build a movement to educate campaigners. Tackle national ideas and solutions, and international problems. There needs to be a way of harnessing that movement to educate members and other people.
There will be people with most time, most experience that will have their voices amplified. To have people heard and trace how peoples opinions are shifting and see trajectory of opinion, is an amazing opportunity that needs to be explored. In Digital Democracy – objection comes in terms of easiness of use and the availability of technology. Kids now will be voting in next GE and they need to be educated and involved in the conversation, and it’s not going to happen entirely traditionally as kids are digital creatures. Our own Eva Pascoe already highlighted this in a Huffington Post article. The conversation has to be had where they reside. For example Tower Hamlets is ethnically diverse, communities organize on different principles. You can’t necessarily capture their opinions through traditional party meetings. So we need to find a way to hear what they have to say as people are unlikely to come to a meeting. Bringing in people who are not participating is important in order to have a diverse conversation. But at the moment Alena said that currently she “just has a whatsapp chat that has taken over her life”
You can watch the full talks from the event below