What is it about?

However attractive it may seem, the idea of moving democracy to the Internet is a bad idea. It's not feasible but, more importantly, it's not even desirable. It can even be dangerous as it distracts people from the essential issue — the precarious status of democracy itself. The article is a response to an article that asserts that replacing of democracy with an internet-based democracy is necessary. It reduces democracy to a collection of services, such as vote counting, and ignores its deep importance.

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Why is it important?

Democracy is a powerful, rich, and radical idea. How people in democratic societies come together and make decisions is incredibly important and incredibly imperiled. While it's true that technology can be made to serve democracy, it will be a complex social and well as technological task. If democracy is going to succeed it is because people want it to succeed and they work to make it succeed. It is not merely an issue of convenience, although, of course, removing barriers to participation is important.


Democracy degrades when people it is supposed to serve don't participate or are prevented from participating. When democracy is seemingly not working, people come to the conclusion that it is the fault of "democracy" and lose faith in democracy as a system of public problem-solving. That also is a time when innovators rush in to "save" it with some simple fix. While some "simple fixes" will be useful, such as establishing non-partisan committees to draw legislative boundaries, voting by mail, and restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people, the "solution" to the problem is increasing the quantity and quality of engagement. It will take work and it will never be perfect.

Douglas Schuler
Evergreen State College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Counterpoint, Communications of the ACM, July 2018, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery),
DOI: 10.1145/3231050.
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