Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

Whither Deliberation?

Imagine if I stood up at this professional meeting and said:

“If only Information Technology had been used to facilitate online dialogue and deliberation with the ENEMY, Al Queda, prior to 9.11, we might have resolved our differences. We might all have come to better understand the other sides’ point of view. We might have collaborated to find a better solution than mass murder.”

If I said such a thing, aside from thinking I was insane you probably would howl and hiss in a manner not often seen at such meetings. But, if instead I said:

“If only Information Technology could be better used to facilitate online dialogue and deliberation with the ENEMY, (say, Industry, Government, the environmentalists, Ralph Nader, or whomever), we might have resolved our differences. We might all have come to better understand the other sides’ point of view. We might have collaborated to find a better solution than, say, allowing a suboptimal dose of mercury pollution into our nation’s air that may ultimately harm or kill more people than died on September 11th, 2001.”

A few observers might endorse the second argument. Some would call it democracy’s technological cutting edge. That is, the potential in the United States for information technology and Internet-enhanced participation in the notice and comment process to become widely distributed, reflexive, transparent, information rich, asynchronous, low-cost, and meaningful. Others openly hope for a regulatory rulemaking system free of the exercise of power, intimidation, deception, single-mindedness, and other forms of even more commonplace treachery. In a word, the second argument is about transformation.

Read the full set of remarks

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