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Re: <nettime> No evidence of digital wrong-doing...
tbyfield on Mon, 28 Jan 2019 17:03:37 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> No evidence of digital wrong-doing...


I'd like to know more about the recent history of Citizens' Assemblies, in part because that context would probably dampen any tendency to treat them as yet another panacea in the medicine cabinet of utopianism. The idea of a random group selected to become temporary experts convened as a stage in some momentous state action is hardly new. Exhibit A: the jury. In that sense CAs seem a bit sketchy, somehow old and yet...not old. They're like a wolpertinger[1] made up of bits of juries, focus groups, and reality TV shows.

	[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolpertinger

The odd thing is the role of sortition, that is, the more or less random selection of participants. That technique for defeating or circumventing influence networks may not invest the process with positive legitimacy, but at least it aims to divest it of one obvious form of illegitimacy: corruption. But sortition is one of those latinate nouns that serves to mask agency: who or what is doing this (what's the verb?) 'sortiting'? The state of course. In societies where the state is widely seen as legitimate and functional, CAs would tend to work better; but in societies where society and the state are at each other's throats — say, the UK in the throes of Brexit debates — they're likely to be seen more in terms of reality TV shows than as juries.

'Transparency' is the conventional way to address that problem nowadays, but it's another panacea from the same medicine cabinet. Feel like your governance process is out of sorts? Try Transparency™! Unfortunately, huge swaths of The Spectacle now (if I may use that term) are devoted to perverse forms of transparency. Artificial TV dramas that lay bare the ins and outs of group dynamics, tell-all memoirs about participants' experiences in some huge fiasco, even meta-debates about how viral stuff spreads on social media — these are all subgenres concerned more or less with dissecting *how* decisions were made in the past tense.

In that respect, the only maybe useful thing I have to add about Brexit in particular is how asymmetric and alienated the debates seem to be. A lot of pro-Bexit rhetoric is cast in a 'historical' perspective, as if the speakers were standing outside it all and looking back on it all retrospectively. In many cases they *are* — moving their businesses abroad, lining up papers in other countries, etc. In contrast, a lot of Remain rhetoric is grounded in concrete benefits here and now and how to extend them — for example, to the next generations.


Cheers,
Ted

On 28 Jan 2019, at 8:55, Felix Stalder wrote:

As far as I know from the German Pirate Party, the use of liquid
democracy has been pretty problematic, to say the least. But anyway,
these are different things, as David said, no either or.

Citizens' Assemblies are for a smaller number of citizens coming
together multiple times over longer period of times (say one year),
discussing, in depth and with experts, contentious issues. The
advantages of a small number is that you can be more clear with the
selection process (ensuring a minimum of diversity) and you can
materially suppor the participants (again, important is you want to
include people who canno affort "free labor".).

The advantage of such assemblies really lies in the qualitative
dimension, people from different backgrounds being forced to listen to
each other, respond face-to-face to each other, and seeing where
agreements can be reached and were disagreement might be rephrased to
change the question into something more productive.

This is really hard to replicate electroncially and with large number of
participants.

But to iniate this process now for Brexit, it's really too late. This
takes a long time, and it would mean, in effect, to day inside the EU
until the process is finished, and then we will see again, depending on
the outcome of the process.

What I've always wondered by Labor hasn't come up with their version of
Brexit and then called for a new elections to make sure they have the
majority to bring it through parliament. At least, then people could
vote, even indirectly, for their prefered version of the thing, without having to re-do the vote, which would be problematic, to say the least.
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