Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems

Drinking the Koolaid: "Light and Love Delusion" as the new jingoism

Micah Sifry quoted this in his post about the IntenseDebate deployment on Change.Gov:
""I just wanted to say thank you for giving us a place to make our thoughts and comment heard. It's about time the government provide a centralized place for citizens to express their opinions where they feel they will be heard." [Emphasis by him there.]

My response to him on Twitter was this:
"With 3.7K / 53 pages of comments (and the thread closed), you say ID on Change.Gov is a place people can go to be heard?! #koolaid"
In effect, this says that standing in a crowd with 3,699 other people and holding up a placard is a brave step forward for engaged democracy.
That's non-sense ... and worse: it leads to complacent self-delusion, entirely antithetical to the drive for innovation.

Sidebar: I noticed that Sifry has blocked me on Twitter ...
... to that, I tweeted this: " Well, after years of cold-shoulder I finally got a reaction: blocked by none other than @Mlsif, the high-priest of democracy. #borg #matrix "

The ironies are ripe ... and entirely keeping with what might seem a cynical appraisal on my part: those who are charged with the responsibility of applauding the Emperor's new clothes are doing just that.
Such behavior has consequences.
Most immediately ... well, most immediately is that folk like Micah Sifry are not charged to new levels of aggression rather than deniable disdain and silent contempt. (I notice my login failed at ... that's Sifry's bully pulpit. He wouldn't do that, would he? That would be positively Soviet.)
Almost as immediately: folk are lulled (or cowed) into mute appreciation. Unless they join the cheering.

Here's what I added to a discussion about ID on Change.Gov:
“ I like the IntenseDebate crew and project ... but the system is basically a Web2.0 version of 1997 functionality for threading comments. (HyperNews comes to mind ... Daniel LaLiberte's project)

Folk who don't think we need better don't realize the real challenge civil society is facing.
I think we need more ... and I think the Transition Team and the Obama Administration deserve better. We all do.

Adding a few lines on what becomes page 27 of 53 isn't "participatory deliberation" ... it isn't anywhere close to "Democracy 2.0".

It took me 28 years to derive a design ... Jurgen Habermas' "discourse ethics" combined with John Willinsky's "OpenAccess" ... but I can't get a hearing.

Until and unless we recognize the problems there will be no substantive change ... Spin2.0 is still just spin.
And nobody wants to settle for that.

p.s. a note on communications (I was SigInt BTW):
I've sent Feedback a number of notes saying that the footer here breaks in FireFox.
Each time I did, my note was blocked because the form doesn't accept the postal code we use in Canada. The form says it does, but it doesn't. It only works with US ZIP. I use the one for the WhiteHouse (and make a point of saying so).
The footer here still breaks in FireFox ...
... and the form still doesn't accept Canadian Postal Code.

God's in the details, ehh whot? ”

I'm sure that such thinking will mark me as an enemy to those who flock to High Priests such as Micah Sifry.
Which goes to show how techne is controlled by social dynamics. Lawrence Lessig was right: moneyed opinions are privileged in decision making, and that needs to be changed. But I say again: that's only part of the picture.
When the oligarchs' partiality is exercised through gross wealth it can be seen and tracked, if not always easily.
When the oligarchs' partiality is manifest through the activity of middle-men, in effect a fifth column, then the common understanding is degraded and the dominant paradigm wins by default. (Read: opportunistic careerists will rationalize the most abominable outrages.)

Unlike the flat/linear format of ID which swamps the vast majority of voices (deniably, which makes the effect only more dangerous for being insidious) what's needed is a method that promotes no individual utterance ... one that proceeds by quality of its content ... one that manifests something of Hesse's glasperlenspiel.
That, IMNSHO, is the need.

But where's the market pull?
Flash ... buzz ... fun ... appearance.

Have some koolaid ... I'm sure Sifry's got pitcher full of it on his office desk.

p.s. about an hour ago I had an Eureka moment ... that makes ?what? maybe 3 in 54 years. I was yet again going over my theory concerning taxonomy / ontology, tags and categories, topics and subjects, and on and on ... going back over what I've implemented, all the way back to '75 and the resources library database (cards with holes punched along their edges, to be sorted with knitting needles. I adore that!) ... and for no real good reason OLAP came to mind ... OLAP cube ... maybe I visualized a Rubik's cube, I'm not sure ... but it fell into place. has legs!

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Comment by Daniel LaLiberte on July 5, 2009 at 1:10
It's good to see you here. I only discovered this network just now.

I've come to realize the need for ways to support the emergence of Global Consensus, and I am still scouting around looking for supporting systems.

You are quite right in your observation that individual voices merely added to an indefinitely long list is just a meaningless pile of voices. And it is worse for giving false hopes to those with otherwise hopeful outlooks. The only benefit is if it gets people to say something rather than nothing, which might be better than what we have had before. And the only benefit for that is if it leads to more communicating with others down the road. But the pace seems way too slow to address our needs at this time.

While I see the value in structured dialogs, elucidating all the various arguments and counter-arguments, this can also end in a tangled mess of confusion, unless it is constantly cleaned and organized, but at whose prerogative?

My attraction to "consensus" is that, if a decision is not mostly clear one way or another, then it deserves more debate, but for those things that ARE mostly clear, let's get moving on making it happen. And we have several very clear directives, obvious to almost everyone, such as getting ourselves off our addiction to oil, and all fossil fuels, stop dumping waste into our water and air, stop war, generally stop destroying ourselves, etc.

So my inclination is to find or develop a system which allows us, at a global level, and every level more locally, to express these obvious points of agreement, making it clear to ourselves and our elected representatives that we do in fact agree, and then find ways to act on those agreements.

Where we don't quite agree, yes, we need to find ways to work through the disagreements, which mostly amount to misunderstandings, in my experience. There are many cases of people acting in their own self-interest, or many other cases where the facts are just not well-enough known to move the discussion beyond speculations and opinions. Whatever the case, all needs to be expressed and worked out, but this obviously takes more time.

I am hopeful that the most significant things that we need to do are also the most obvious things that we can agree on, at least in part. And the more obvious they become, the more significant they are also, so they reinforce each other. So it is just a matter of getting our collective power together to make things happen, rather than continue to be controlled by a few misinformed, self-interested elite.
Comment by Ben Tremblay on July 5, 2009 at 17:55
Dan - Credit to your experience as well as your clear thinking on the matter, you've hit a number of nails on the head here. As some sort of expedient let me here point you to my /gnodal/overview.html ... 5 years old this month. (BTW I use Hesse's glasperlenspiel as a still point and ideal; to have the ability to refer in short form to some matter that has been well and near-exhaustively treated ... something to be wished for, I think, and something I have come near to achieving.)

On this fine Sunday morning let me essay on one of your points, ie disagreement. What I have as yet not managed to deply is a way to explore the bases on which these rest. As you say, usually due to misunderstanding. But I appreciate how the more substantial of these actually rest on different world views, as though energized by different first principles, as though rooted in different tectonic plates. It's that scenario in the domain of public policy decisions that has moved me all these years, since I first engaged the material in 1975.

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