Forums, mail lists, news-groups, IRC, blog agglomeration sites … many people talking to many people. Or to themselves? Sometimes, to nobody at all.My career has been inspired and fired by the line, “Data, data everywhere, and not a thought to think!”
My name is Ben Tremblay and I started doing “computer mediated communications” in the early 70s. (Think “teletype” … that’s the era) While studying CS in the late 70s (APL on MTS!) I got into a discussion with a group of anthropologists in the bar (where else?) and ended up proposing what is now called “e-democracy”.
The battle isn’t always to the brave, and the race doesn’t always go to the swift. We learn that life is only sometimes fair. We don’t all learn that there’s a logic to it all, so we act as though we can get by just along with the slick talk used by those who win battles and races by trickery and manipulation. Did you ever lose an argument and later wonder how because you realized that you were right? Sometimes that’s just by accident, but most often it’s because you lost to someone who knows how to use rhetoric and sophistry.
Our lives and our world matter too much to lose it all just because it’s easier to go along with the hucksters and the bullies than it is to stand up for ourselves. But the only way to get along with things otherwise is for us to stand up together, all of us for each of us, as though democracy really means something, as though democracy really works.
Since I left the military in September of 1973 I’ve tried to find a way of dealing with the malevolence and malice and manipulation that underlies most of our public policy. Around 1978 I started thinking that “e-democracy” in some form was the only hope. It took me 25 years to find a form, a set of methods and process … “Web2.0” and “AJAX” and all that, wikis and blogs and forums, all bundled together, for one thing: for folk to talk about why they feel the way they do about why we do what we do.
First we talk about what we’re doing, then we talk about why it matters to us the way it does. It’s called “discourse”.