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John Stephens, University of North Carolina and I led a conference session at nbt09

Tech ethics: The values questions raised in a digital democracy
Many attribute the dramatic increase in youth engagement to shifts in the way democracy worked in this past presidential election, particularly the Obama campaign’s more technological orientation.

Workshop Goal:
This session will examine timeless questions – who controls information, who participates in policy making, how do we ensure equal voice and opportunity, what happens when we skip the relationship-building aspect of strengthening public life – in a new, techno-democracy.

Co-leaders
Taylor Willingham, Texas Forums
John Stephens, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

OUTLINE

1.    Five lines of questions/topics – as part of introductions, please identify which ones are of interest to you.

A.     What does the dramatic increase in youth engagement (heavily tilted toward online and new communication media) mean for face-to-face democracy-building?
B.    Where are the digital divides – age, economic disparity, language – and how do we overcome them?
C.    Who controls information exchange? Extremes: no control, free expression and flame wars, “unfair” claims OK  vs. Need general rules for the road, and OK for content creators to retain some/significant control over flow of information
D.    New media, journalism, and the tension between accountability and openness/privacy. Recent example: Iran protests and Western journalists inability to confirm images/reports as accurate, but went ahead and used them.
E.    Are the technology advocates in sync with the deliberative democracy advocates?

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Workshop Description

The shifts in local democracy, the development of online media, and the economic realities facing media outlets today all portend great changes in the way journalists are educated and employed. How can we assess these factors and envision new roles for journalists in 21st Century democracy? Do colleges and universities have an expanded role to play as providers of high-quality, up-to-date information? How can journalism support deliberative democracy, both on and off campus? David Ryfe’s catalyst paper* on journalism will help to set up this session.

  • David Ryfe, University of Nevada at Reno
  • Cynthia Simmons, University of Washington

Check out the resources that David Ryfe compiled!

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I am currently in this session at the No Better Time Conference.

Community organizing and deliberative democracy: How do they relate?

Description: From the beginning, deliberation projects borrowed a number of tactics from the field of community organizing. Meanwhile, community organizing has evolved and diversified tremendously. The line between these two approaches to social change seems increasingly blurry. What are the similarities and differences? In what ways can they compliment each other and learn from one another?

  • Mark Linder, City of Cupertino, California, and vice chair, Democratic Governance Panel of the National League of Cities
  • Ian Bautista, United Neighborhood Centers of America
  • Wendy Willis, Policy Consensus Initiative
  • Alma Couverthie, Lawrence CommunityWorks

The session began with stories from field that were inspiring to hear.

Danielle Atkinson with Michigan Voices described the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-MI) that is dedicated to winning improved conditions and raising industry standards for all Detroit metro restaurant workers.

Paul Alexander, Director of the Institute on the Common Ground at Regis University: When we began holding community dialogues, no one would come so we had to get into the community and engage in community organizing. Getting people to the table was only part of the issue; we also had to address power to make dialogue work.

Heidi Klein at the Snelling Center for Government in VT: We are doing deliberation first and then organizing later. In Vermont, several organizations are interested in transportation – providers, user, environmental concerns. We are using deliberation to help them develop principles for transporting the public – to find some agreement. They have 10 principles that they can use to organize. For example, environmentalists have their own talking points, but they go into the community to organize with an understanding of the needs and difficulties that seniors face in transportation.

Nugget:

There are tools that the deliberative democracy and community organizing field need to share – we are two tools in the same belt.

Defining

Community Organizing: Capacity and community leadership building in a community. Very action-oriented, short or long-term and includes stakeholders. In society there are three forces at work market, government and civic. Per Mark Linder, we need to civic side because the other two sides are running amok. We have an imperfect union by becoming consumers rather than citizens. Bringing the resources, talents and skills of people together to transform their world.

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From July 8-11, 2009, I am attending the Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, a  national conference at the University of New Hampshire.

Background of the Democracy Imperative:

A couple of years ago, Bruce Mallory and Nancy Thomas convened a meeting of higher education folks to address the question: Is there a need for those of us concerned with the role of higher education in deliberative democracy to join forces and share knowledge and resources? The answer has been a resounding YES as is evident by the number of people participating here this week – 270 antitipated and judging from the limited number of open seats. The guest list reads like a who’s who in higher education and deliberation / service learning / community development & organizing. In addition, there are a number of representatives from non-profits.

To get a really good idea of who is here, David Campt is leading us through a keypad poll using Turning Point keypads. Here are the results:

  • 1/3 have used keypads, and 1/3 are new.
  • 60% are female
  • 41% are 40-55, but we do have 7% below 24 years and hopeful for more in the future!
  • 73% white again confirming that diversity is an ongoing challenge for this field
  • we are primarily from U.S., but we have 20% from outside of North America representing important perspectives for us to have in the room.
  • very good representation from around the country with the bulk (38%) from the northeast where the conference is taking place.
  • As far as the two issues that drew people to the field:
    • collaborative governance
    • justice and equity issues
  • Given lots of options about who we wanted to meet at this conference, the bulk answered “the person sitting next to me” (although Sarah Palin’s media advisor got a few hits proving that even academics have a sense of humor and, like me I will confess, can’t take their eyes off a train wreck!)

In just a couple of hours, I will be co-facilitiating a session with colleague John Stephens from the University of North Carolina on: Tech Ethics: The Values questions raised in a digital democracy.

I’ll check in throughout the week as I get time and have something worthwhile to say – or not!

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