Transparency, participation and our citzen’s obligation to make something out of it!

On behalf of the Bundeszetrale für politische Bildung I’ve hosted a livestream with Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of Sunlight Foundation, last thursday. In the up-run of the Bundeskongress Partizipation the Bundeszentrale will have more of such events. Their goal: to get a discussion going on the topics closely related to the event’s theme: participation.

  • What does participation mean?
  • What does it take?
  • Why should citizens participate?
  • What influence should they have?
  • What are existing examples?
  • How can we “learn” participation?

It was a pleasure to start this serie with Ellen Miller. She spans for more than 35 years the worlds of non-profit advocacy, grassroots activism and journalism out of Washington DC. She is a nationally recognized expert on transparency and the influence of money in politics.
Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit – dedicated to using the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency.

She gave us a brief introduction on Sunlight’s work and then we really had a lively discussion with the participants. A broad range of questions came up. You can watch the entire live stream here:

Tahrir Square teaches me a lot these days …

.. I wish more friends from Europe and US were here to support these proud people. They need it. And above all they deserve it!

What Tahrir Square (as a symbol for the entire country of Egypt) is teaching me these days is:

  • Why elections right now doesn’t make any sense at all, they simply would strengthen SCAF
  • Western governments still haven’t learnt how to handle the uprises in the Arab world – the are still supporting SCAF and they are lusting for elections! They still rely on systems they know …
  • Transition needs time. Just think about how long it took to re-unite East and West after the fall of the Berlin Wall (in peace). It took them decades to stand up against Mubarak, give them time and let them grow!
  • Building something new from the scratch can’t be done in a week, not even in a year. So build and support structures in which this new system can emerge! Think differently from what we’ve done in the past.
  • Let the people participate. Right from the beginning. It’s their country and they aren’t walking blind.
  • If Egypt will succeed, sooner or later the entire Arab world will follow.

    I’ve picked 2 picts from a serie of Egypt Protest photos, published on Cryptome.

    pray zone

    war zone

People aren’t walking blind …

Last night Egyptian actor Khalid Abdalla spoke to Al Jazeera English from Tahrir Square. This interview is so important and impressive because of quite a few reasons:

  • WE are facing the opportunity to rebuild this counry from the ground up WITHOUT the army imposing itsself upon us and killing, arresting and torturing people and wanting to be above all of us.
  • SCAF has no future in Egyptian government.
  • The pressure here is NOT coming from government but from the situation SCAF has created in the last 9 month.
  • WE have many alternatives for this important transition phase (names a couple …)
  • People know completely what they want … they want to see SCAF step down
  • People aren’t walking blind.
  • Elections NOW are a recognition of SCAF authority – this is why I am and many others are not going to vote! (A friend of mine told me these days “elections right now would be INHUMAN!)


David Weinberger on Reboot_D – Digital Democracy

In preparation for Reboot_D – Digital Democracy – I had a brief interview with David Weinberger yesterday. David will be SKYPED in at Reboot_D to continue the discussion …

Our topics – thanks to Martin Lindner have been:

“Transparency is the new Objectivity”

(1) You have coined the slogan “Transparency is the new Objectivity”, and added that the digital media are enabling us to lay open not only “objective results” but instead give us insight into a whole rich process that is leading to certain results, or political standpoints.
Could you explain that further?

(2) Your transparency-quote has been aimed at the claim for objectivity of the media. Beyond the media, what would be the consequences for a new web-driven “digital democracy” if we would try to design an ecosystem of web applications in that spirit?

(3) “Information Overload”
– But at the same time this principle of transparency seems to lead to a kind of “Information Overload”, as the never-ending RSS reader crisis of the web avant-gardists is constantly reminding us …

How do you think can a web-driven “Digital Democracy” save that problem? And not only for digitalliterates, but for the mainstream too?

– You once said something like: “The solution to Information Overload? More Information! (But in different forms and different channels.” How would that work? What would be the consequences for “citizen experience design” in Democracy 2.0-applications?

(4) Conversation, Voices, and the Crisis of Representation
– In Germany, we seem to have a crisis of representation. Citizens are not really feeling represented by politicians anymore. They don’t really know how to communicate. Can you envision new, technology-enabled forms of a “political conversation”?

(5) Third Places
– It has been said that the “Third Places” have been dying out, that is, all the places where would people would gather and informally meet between the workplace and the private home.

– Can the Web in some way take the function of these “Third Places”? Does it privide a space for the “Big Murmur” of the crowds that is a precondition of more specific democratic discourse and discussions?