Democracy in network is first and foremost a mindset, by @bernardosampa

“The political structures must change. But the replacement will emerge as people act and communicate in the present, not talking about the future.” The phrase is from the book Open Source Democracy, from Douglas Rushkoff, published in 2003. The global crisis has not only confirmed some Rushkoff intuitions or diagnoses on the expires of representative democracy. However, policy alternatives are less clear. Some speak of the mechanisms of direct democracy (popular initiatives, referendums…). Others insist on the path of participatory democracy. Liquid Democracy, based on delegates, not representatives, applied internally by the German Pirate Party, also getting higher. However, there is another concept that is gaining strength among groups, networks and thinkers: networked democracy.
Where is emerging a new model of democracy more in line with the network age? Where is cooking democracy in the network?

A preliminary step: remix the concept of ‘network state’ by Manuel Castells. This new state, according to Castells, has a “sovereignty of variable geometry” and was born as “political systems answer to the challenges of the globalization.” It is a superior and more flexible state. The good side of this theory would be “the transfer of national power to the local” the relax of the Vertical nation state. However, the dystopian side is frightening: supranational structures, political and economic erasing representative democracies of the States Nation. The Troika roadmap to Greece or Spain is the incarnation of dystopian side. Therefore, the network state remixed by Castells is more necessary than ever. A network state, yes, but linking with hyperlocal, which guarantees the distributed network topology and capillary to facilitate participation. A network state that fosters citizen empowerment and co-creation initiatives. A network state that weakens the influence of the financial and political superstructures.

Exists already a prototype network of state? Iceland is, undoubtedly, the most mentioned prototype. After the financial collapse, Iceland created a Constitutional Council consists of 25 randomly selected citizens to draft the constitution. The Icelandic way used wiki platforms and an ongoing dialogue on Facebook or Twitter. The whole process did streamings. All the information, always available in real time. The Icelandic participative wikicracia is an innovative prototype, no doubt. However, the sharing mechanism, in addition to not being perfect, can be valid for a country of 319,000 inhabitants as Iceland, but not for a larger one.

Photograph: Brynjar Gauti/AP

But just at the local, regional or micro is where prototypes are being born the most interesting network on democracy. Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation, in his article Towards the Partner State Model of Commons Governance, makes a brief look at some new prototypes of democracy. The text quotes the case of the French city of Brest, who created the Wiki-Brest project to revitalize the territory and citizen participation. The digital inertia reinforce territorial cohesion and are the citizens themselves, not the private sector, who cook the recipes with their governors. The commons -the collective, the common good- is the headlight model. Another case mentioned is the Austrian region of Linz, which has begun to call themselves Open Commons region, a mixture of open standards and software in their data, participation and decisions taken in benefit of the commons. The case of the City of Naples, which has a political post of mayor’s assistant commons, occupied by citizens, would be another beautiful inspiration. But perhaps the Digital Cabinet of the Government from Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, which is betting more for networked democracy. Their slogan is “Democracy in network”. It is no coincidence was born in Porto Alegre, where emerged the World Social Forum and the model of participative budgets. In all these cases, the state reinvents itself as Michel Bauwens called Partner State. A very different state from dreamed by neoliberals. A State which holds the welfare state and plays a vital role “in creating value by civil society.”

Digital Cabinet of Rio Grande do Sul was inspired, among other things, in some processes and tools from Spanish 15M. The Propongo of, in which citizens can submit policy proposals before being voted, was the prototype for creating the mechanism cabinet participation. Any citizen proposes initiatives. The Governor, Tarso Genro, studies the most votes. Some are carried out. In addition, there is a constant dialogue with the public through different tools. Can even be vote budgets through a mobile app.

The 15M movement, set of processes and methodologies, is also being quoted as a prototype network of democracy by many thinkers. Assemblies registered in real time, open documents (usually in TitanPad or PiratePad), collaboration and networking, cross connections between different assemblies, groups and nodes… Its Virtual Assembly is now investigating new directions in technopols participation. The initiative Demo4Punto0 found a hybrid parliamentary voting method to balance the votes of the deputies with citizen participation. The neighborhoods assemblies as researcher Adolfo Estalella says, turn the city into a file, a hardware, a method.

Photo: REUTERS/Félix Ordoñez

However, at the moment, the 15M has not crystallized into a structure that can replace representative democracy. The new democracy in network will not be born from a consensus decision of the Sol Assembly. But much less from the current model of parliamentary representation. The reality is neither vertical nor horizontal, but rather oblique. Democracy in network will be born in an inclusive space, with network methodologies, with involving representatives (or delegates) and citizens, with open and hybrid mechanisms. A recent working doc (a TitanPad) from a group linked to 15M raises interesting questions: “What mechanisms can add the best of the physical and virtual interaction?”.

There are more questions than answers. But the Spanish political class lives perched on the myth of the transition.  Democracy in network is first and foremost a mindset.

Author: @bernardosampa

Translated from spanish by @acampadabcn_int

Original version:

One Trackback to “Democracy in network is first and foremost a mindset, by @bernardosampa”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: