The “Virtual Party” ?

This is an experiment. A comment casually dropped during a twitter conversation somehow became a meme and a stimulus to further thoughts.

“Virtual Party” – what do we mean by “Virtual”? – not real? insubstantial? How about “Party”? – all the rigmarole of candidates, elections? Well, maybe – or perhaps, “eventually” or “in good time”. You won’t find easy answers here, at least initially. What we’re hoping for is, as we said, an “experiment”.

The core idea is this. We are all familiar with the political system called “Democracy” as it is practised in much of the world, notably in the West. Democracy, especially the inclusive kind we currently practise, is, itself, a relatively young experiment. There are no guarantees it will survive. It is understandably unpopular with the elites, diluting their ability to mandate and requiring them to convince us that their power over us is good and should be supported.

We are also aware that the way the world communicates is changing rapidly and fundamentally. An exponential growth in the tools of information has meant, for the first time in human history, the vast majority of society can both inform themselves and inform others. We can get together in completely new ways. We can filter so we amplify some voices as we mute others. The planet is buzzing with our voices, much of the content inane, but some, totally profound and life-changing.

The Virtual Party seeks, in the first instance, to be a discussion on the opportunities presented by the intersection of these two ideas, the democractic process by which we organise ourselves as a society, and the potential of new information opportunities to enhance that very organisation. What happens when we stick universal communication and universal democracy together?

The potential is substantial. Democracy is unique in that it allows everyone a say, at least in theory. This is also one of its weaknesses as it requires all those “says” to be canvassed and collated regularly.

The Social Internet parallels the universality of Democracy by also allowing everyone a say. The Web allows everyone to both publish and consume commentary.

Inevitably, there are huge practical problems in allowing everyone exercising their right to have their say on every issue. So a mechanism is needed by which each person can allocate their vote to another person who would use the vote on their behalf, thereby allowing all voices to be represented and thus heard.

The person trusted with the vote acts as a delegate much as Members of Parliament do. In our current democracy, this processes happens every three years, on election day. Technology could allow a more frequent voice and more-nuanced profile of voting preferences by allowing people to support different delegates for different issues. Delegates could, in turn, delegate the votes they represent to further representatives. Of course votes could be both re-allocated and withdrawn at any time, further strengthening the flexibility people have in how their vote counts in overall policy directions.

This blog entry is little more than thoughts from one of the interested parties as he populates a web page in support of the experiment. Hopefully, much more erudite and illuminating content will join it as other like-minded individuals are encouraged to declare themselves and participate.

Democracy’s greatest weakness (that it “lets in the riff-raff”) is also it’s greatest strength (in representing everyone, including us, the riff-raff). To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ”Democracy is the worst political system – except for all the rest.” There’s just a chance that the wise application of the gift of communication that technology has provided us might make our democracy just that little bit better. In pursuit of that lofty goal, ”Long Live the Virtual Party!”

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