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Democracy, is there an app for that?

2011/02/14

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics The Good Dr. Lent picks up a gauntlet thrown in Geek Cred in an “Economy of Meanings” Universe with Don’t Leave Home without It!. The greater theme of his post is Can social media support democratic nation building? and he responds to my comments about recent events in Egypt.

Today I learned that the Egyptian military is becoming more assertive. Note that, assertive. I do not know if they’re become more aggressive, more militant, and the best information I have so far is that they’ve become more assertive.

What does “more assertive” mean?

They’ve moved protesters and foreign reporters out of Tahrir Square. It is reported they’ve done lots of other stuff — dissolved parliament, suspending the constitution, promising elections — and the one thing I’m aware of that required obvious physical action was moving protesters and foreign reporters out of Tahrir Square.

This doesn’t surprise me. One of the first things a military is going to do is establish command, communication and control, also known as C3. Considering what they could have done and could be doing, moving protesters and foreign reporters out of Tahrir Square is pretty minor. And (again to the best of my knowledge) it was done pretty smoothly and peacefully. It is also reported that the military is talking with different protester groups to develop mutual solutions moving forward.

I’m calling this assertive. I’m not seeing blood streaming from crushed skulls, I’m not seeing guts in the street, I’m not hearing gunfire or other weaponry, thus assertive, not aggressive.

Is there an app for Democracy?

I was recently biographed by Emer Kirrane and commented in there

…the best use of any technology (my opinion) is to better who we are. To do that, we must first come to terms with who we are right now (and several NextStage tool users are dealing with that as they use the tools to learn about themselves). If one is kind, any technology will allow one to perform kind acts better.

But if one is deceitful to begin with, any technology will only help one be better at being deceitful. It won’t matter if the technology is a mobile device, a credit card or an automobile, each will be used (at some point) to perform deceitful acts better than if the technology were not available.
But realize deceitful tendencies exist and you’d rather they don’t? Then one can consciously decide to be not deceitful each time the opportunity for choice arises, and any technology will allow not deceitful choices to be made better and better each time.

From that excerpt you may realize that any downloadable “app for Democracy” is also going to cause individuals to act towards (what they believe is) their (neuro-, psycho-dynamic, etc.) economic advantage regarding a democratic movement.

Will an app create a democracy or cause one to occur? I doubt it. Will information distribution technologies enable democratic movements greater advantage?

Yes, definitely. I described the concepts involved in Quorum Sensing, basically that technology will allow people to know where to gather and how, what to bring, what to expect, etc., and this fits with what I wrote for Emer Kirrane’s biograph.

But read carefully and nothing in what I’ve previously written prevents anti-democratic groups from using the same technologies to know where pro-democratic people will gather, when, what to bring to break them up, to do damage, … Appealing to the obvious, Nazi Germany had an incredible propaganda machine that made use of the best technology of its day and in doing so did incredible damage (my opinion and yes, I know, an easy example. There have been several examples throughout history). It can be argued that the Berlin Wall fell because the Soviets, during the final days of the USSR and its satellites, closed down all communication lines save fax lines (I was told this) because the government in power preferred phones to faxes, therefore didn’t everyone? Therefore don’t pay attention to them as communication channels. The pro-democratic movement used those open fax lines to make change happen.

The difference fifty years brought about was the “democratization” (ahem) of technology. Information flux (a combination of control, volume (as in “amount”) and distribution direction) went from the few to the many (as discussed in Why Isn’t Marketing a Science, Part II).

So if there is an app for democracy, it exists and will exist in the hearts and minds of those who wish democracy to be. Apps, like any tool, won’t make the difference, they’ll only allow what’s already in people to manifest more easily.

My opinion, that.
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