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Oct 22 / thomas.krafft

How it all got started…

Here’s a copy of the original email I sent to someone who had started an online bulletin board (precursor to forums, wikis, blogs and tweets) on the topics of eDemocracy and other participatory projects. He had to copy my email into his webpage manually, and responded as such making duplicates of every communication. I’m so glad to see technology has improved, but sad to see that most of the websites that were originally part of this effort and have long since passed away.

Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 13:02:21 -0800
From: “Thomas W. Krafft”
Organization: California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo
Subject: e-democracy

I’m not sure if I am at the proper starting point.. but I’d like to contribute ideas about political reformation and/or participation via the Internet.

I am an American student of politics and government. The concept of the Internet as a facilitator of democratic change is incredibly interesting, and will be as equally difficult to achieve without first making some distinctions:

There are literally millions of people, or “e-citizens” who have opinions related to government and politics. If this medium is to be used as a tool for any reformation, however, there will have to be a separation of these opinions from true, unbiased and accurate facts.

Yes, …EVERYONE is supposed to be involved in democratic processes

But, only SOME are capable of working together to compose new treatises for the reformation of any existing system.

For example: All of the American colonialists were interested in the subjects of democracy and change – and there were just as many separate opinions with regard to HOW to achieve these things (most would have probably preferred to keep things the way they were). …But it was a small group of individuals, many with substantive backgrounds in political science – intellectuals, and those with a great sense of history – who came together in a Convention to write the new treatises. Change came about as a result of this small group’s capacity to see the truth, and the answers necessary for political change.

Yes, was a flawed process, with historically well-known conflicts, but it is a situation which relates well to our modern-day questions.

It would appear to me, that at present, the Internet has several resources for the general discussion of politically-related subjects – but NO area for the refined postulation of viable reforms. Perhaps what is needed is a “Philadelphia Convention” of sorts … a site which is an interactive collective of the world’s true “thinkers” (intellectuals with a capacity to work together to produce answers to some of our questions – in an unbiased, informed and coherent manner).

In that I am a student of political science, I would like to participate in such a project, BUT (and this is the key) I MUST recognize my own intellectual limits; accept the fact that I am not yet disciplined enough to be of any significant contribution; and acquiesce my desire to be the author of these new treatises, to simply observing (or perhaps, occassionally offering some suggestions to) the creation of the new global political framework – by some of the most esteemed and prolific political scientists of our day.

Nothing will change, with current conditions on the Internet, for this simple reason: Millions of desparate voices are simply colliding (electronically), with each proposing some opinion or observation, with no coherant system of organization or collection.

While it is true that the current sites are allowing people to expand their knowledge of the world, politics and governments – there is no place (such as a Philadelphia Convention) where the most focused and informed of these voices can create new treatises on politics and human rights.

Best regards in your endevours,
Thomas W. Krafft

To: “Thomas W. Krafft”
From: (michael macpherson)
Subject: Re: e-democracy

Dear Thomas Krafft,

Thank you for your letter which was i think the first direct reply to my “guest home page” at John Gotze’s town-planning project. How did you stumble across it?

Whether we like it or not the information revolution and computer networks will (already happened in some places) lead to voters being better informed and so better able to monitor their representatives’ performance, elect on a more substantial base of knowledge and make proposals which get a public hearing, therefore exercise increased influence on politics.

I’m certainly in favour of more “deliberated” participation so share your reservation about attempts to organise mass decision-making which may not be well informed. Maybe you would find James Fishkin’s book on Deliberative Democracy (see my Home Page for ref.) helpful here.

I wonder if you would be interested in the Dutch project which aims to offer all adult citizens the chance to increase their knowledge and amount of participation — I refer to that and give URL in the appended material (M. Bullinga’s project). (ADDED NOTE: this URL is to be found above, see “Bullinga”.)

Michael Macpherson.

p.s. I append copies of a recent leter from Jean Lloyd-Jones and my reply.