The future of e-participation

An Israeli company has set up a downloadable desktop application (‘Megaphone’) to track and coordinate responses to on-line polls and forums ensuring that the pro-Israel side of things is heard. Already the supporters of the Palestinians have hacked together their own version…

Think that’s bad: what’ll it be like when the opponents of the Aberdeen Western Bypass get hold of it…?

More seriously, if participation can be automated and coordinated like this, it makes the whole process even more vulnerable to manipulation by smallish groups of committed activists. In the end, I worry that the only option may be to ignore on-line ‘debates’ altogether because:

  • You don’t know where the participants are from (it’s easy to spoof location)
  • You don’t know how many real people are involved
  • The contributions will be polarised between the committed campaigners with the tools, squeezing out room for debate in the middle

…or at least, there will have to be a more activist role for the debate moderator to mitigate these factors.

[Source: the Register – http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/06/giyus_megaphone/]

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    About Peter Cruickshank

    Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
    This entry was posted in Daily Links, e-participation, thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

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