Social Media and Government: With the Australian Budget being handed down yesterday, I got to thinking again about civic crowdfunding and how it probably will be the future whether the Government allows it or not. Let’s have a look at

  • some basic democratic activities and then
  • compare it to social media funding, civic crowdsourcing and peer to peer industries

Step by Step to diminishing the Vote-And-Forget abuse cycle:

  1. Slactivism & social distribution (Like, retweet, subscribe, share)
  2. Petitions online  (sign, vote, agree)
  3. Demonstrations (walk the talk)
  4. Crowdfunding (put your $$ where you tax money isn’t going)
  5. Collaborative projects (FixMyStreets, wiki policies, social regulatory affairs)
  6. No Gov – complete Big Society community activism, ditch Gov
  7. BIGGEST ISSUE: Education lets us down…

Warning: This version of social media and online community call to actions is so far to the Right that it becomes Left again. A completely free market where both companies/capitalism AND the public sector are removed – an interesting concept no?

First Things First, let’s get the grownup stuff out of the way. If you are a student or simply interested in academic papers, here’s Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place by Rodrigo Davies (2014). If Kickstarter had a category called just “Civic” it would be the LARGEST (beating Entertainment). Interesting stuff.

Crowdfunding, the raising of capital from a large and diverse pool of donors via on- line platforms, has grown exponentially in the past five years, spurred by the rise of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. While legislative attention in the US has turned to the potential to use crowdfunding as a means of raising capital for companies, less attention has been paid to the use of crowdfunding for civic projects – projects involving either directly or indirectly, the use of government funds, assets or sponsorship, which may include the development of public assets. This project analyzes the subgenre of civic crowdfunding from three perspectives. First, it provides a comprehensive quantitative overview of the subgenre of civic crowdfunding, its most common project types and its geographic distribution. Second, it describes three edge cases, projects that, while uncommon, demonstrate the current limits, aspirations and potential future path of the subgenre. Third, it analyzes the historical and intellectual paradigms within which civic crowdfunding projects and platforms are operating: whether they are best located within the historical context of community fundraising, participatory planning, entrepreneurial culture or a combination of the three. In addressing these questions, the thesis will explore the potential benefits and challenges of using crowdfunding as a means of executing community-oriented projects in the built environment, and offer proposals for how public and non-profit institutions can engage with crowdfunding to realize civic outcomes.

Representational Democracy vs…

Representational democracy is where one person is selected by the community to represent the community. This doesn’t really exist anymore – the idea that putting mediators or filters in the way of direct democracy is kinda on the out. Look at the process: Nominating an candidate, getting local votes, filtering that vote into a bigger group, then up through the Houses, eventually to some kind of policy is very industrial revolution and not very information/digital revolution. Ditto taxpayers money – filtered through all sorts of bodies – but we are informed through The Budget each year.

So what we end up with is mandate democracy.

…vs Mandate Democracy

Ever heard a politican say “I was voted in, therefore I will talk to the people every day to make sure I do their will”? No? Thought not. More likely you hear, “we just won an election – the people have spoken. Come back in 3 years(Australia) or 4(America), you gave us a mandate Mandate in their eyes means: I can do what I want, f**k off, I’ll woo you say from July 2016 until 18 January 2017 but before then no calls, no flowers, no courting. (Timeline for next Australian Federal Election)

 

representational democracy means electing your preferred dicatator

 

Why do you stay in the abusive relationship hmmm? 😛

Mandate democracy doesn’t work with Representational Democracy – as @MrSeanKelly says in the TheMonthly:

Canberra is a city fuelled by secrets. In a place where people are paid well but rarely as much as they are worth, information is the real currency. It can buy you access, influence and power. In much the same way that wealth dictates glamour and hierarchy in other cities, the information you hold determines where in the pecking order you sit in Canberra. Prime ministers and their cabinets are up top, above an eclectic mix of senior journalists, bureaucrats and political staffers – mostly in that order.

Secrets are kinda anti-democracy. Well, they work well with the “you voted us in now f**k off” version we have today but not with participatory democracy. I’m not talking Wikileaks here, I’m talking about our Government doing a secret deal called TPP with the world’s biggest companies which force Australia to comply with what the companies want. The first thing to go will be ban on cigarette advertising (Australia has very strong packaging laws vs other countries). Tobacco companies will force Australia to accept reduced packaging/advertising laws. Still think government represents the individuals best interests? Never mind, some Australians will do very well from big Finance initiatives… and the Budget is full of secrets, there is NO transparency there, just a “handed down from on high” approach to funding.

In case I’m being too oblique, I’m talking about ministers and prime ministers that remove Press (our informants) from critical democratic discussions, who ignore demonstrations and petitions,  who fund Big Pharma through increased medical research  monies while removing basic health care for the very poor with out explaining why…

Direct Democracy

Imagine if you could vote on every issue in society – refugees, climate, research, education, health – would you do it? Are you prepared to be a fully participatory citizen? Is Direct Democracy viable?

The answer is yes and no. No we’re not ready, and yes, too bad, it’s going to happen anyway. In the same way we weren’t ready to take the reporting of news, in depth analysis and opinion and embedded research of traditional media, but we did it anyway. And many bloggers in Syria have been killed because of it, and deep throat citizen reporters from within the judiciary and hospital systems have lost their jobs and been arrested, irrelevant, we have got on with systematically destroying the traditional reporting hierarchies on one hand & building new media channels on the other. Unless you think the 17% year on year drop of newspaper readership and tv viewership is sustainable….?

Crowd Activism ie. Direct Democracy Steps:

1. Social Distribution or Slactivism

When you click “share” or “retweet” on an awareness campaign, you are doing the most basic job you could possibly do – forwarding on the information to someone who might care more. Which is fine, you cared enough to forward on, but not enough to get involved. Media after all means “mediums” or “distribution channels”. You are doing more than just reading the info and then moving on, you are actively forwarding the information to someone who might care. By the way, in fundraising, every $5 donation that is shared to 6 people pulls in another $8. Simply forwarding someone else’s call to action, helps that process.

It’s not really slacktivism then is it? You are raising awareness, helping to mobilise outside of the Gov the masses. Keep watching those YouTube videos and liking and tweeting those images and updates! And read Courage Campaign.

2.. Petitions

Have a look at petition sites e.g. GetUp.org, SumOfUs, Change.org and so on:

Getup.org social media ABC crowdfunding

The problem with petitions is that no-one seems to pay them no never mind, but I assume really large numbers of signatures must force our glorious voted-in representatives a moment of thought. Unfortunately not more than a moment: they will be required to fall on their sword if it comes to a show down between voters armed with signatures and “government interests”.

The UK Government is really working on Direct Democracy – have a look at their UK Gov Direct ePetitions site. The US Government ditto. The WhiteHouse has an epetition site called We The People.

whitehouse petition social media

Barack Obama has personally responded to some of the petitions on there. On the other hand, Australia has…

At present the House of Representatives does not accept petitions in electronic form. Petitions must be on paper with original signatures. (here)

In other words, we don’t want any of your millions of signatures gathered online bullshit. Supermarkets on Saturday morning only, thankyou. You should be really angry about that, Australia.

3. Demonstrations – March in May, March in March, #Occupy etc

There’s a lot more to Occupy and March in May than ferals in the town square. Demonstrations bring people out, sloganeering with hand held signs. Does it work? Sometimes, think back to the Vietnam War.

Social Media just takes this age-old pitchforks in the village street and puts it in the Global Village. Large numbers, larger pitchforks 😛

Thanks to Aija Rae for the reminder!

4. Crowd fundraising instead of taxes

When our current Prime Minister Tony Abbot removed the $1.6  million of tax payers money to the Climate Change Commission, effectively closing it’s doors, the Climate Commission Head, Tim Flannery, created a crowdfunding campaign and made the money back in 72 hours through CommunityRun.org for the newly renamed Climate Council.  Government removes tax money, taxpayers turn around and fund it anyway…. interesting future ahead.

community run social media crowdfunding

The biggest issue here is the wealth divide. Those with money can crowdfund (and do, even before the tools were available online) outcomes suitable for them. Those without money get to watch. Which is no fun. By the way did you the original Athenian democracy was representatives-by-choosing-a-straw. No lobbying then, I guess?

There’s also something very old worlde about dumping a few bucks onto a cause and walking away. Caring but not committed. I did a bit, that’s enough.

5. Participatory Government

Rather than signatures to find the will of the people, or seeing where the money flows, how about participating in issues. Actual connection between the will of the people (petitions & money) to Gov outcomes.

In the UK the government has brought out the Big Society initiative – direct democracy. Worth reading wikipedia (and better yet, the links at the bottom). The UK Gov investment of £100 million+ in peer to peer loans

The US Government has followed up with peer to peer banking deregulation to promote JOBS (Jump On Business Startup). Zopa, Prosper, Google’s bank, Lending Circle etc. are leading the way internationally.

Here in Australia we have one kinda, sorta, not really peer to peer bank and lots and lots of regulation. And no change on the horizon. Department of Communications, Broadband and Digital Economy leading the way? Not so much.

6. Social Activism.

Let’s do it ourselves. Don’t like the current policy on funding solar panels? JoinMosaic and crowdfund solar panels.

Are the energy companies too much in Gov pockets? Never mind, create a crowdsourced non-regulated energy competitor from the Village. This one BMRenew is down the road from me – shops agree with investors to use the solar panel power, investors fund the solar panels and then reap the “electricity” bills. Farewell Energy Australia…

energy social media crowdsourced

There are of course thousands of examples of crowd activism. You are doing it every day without realising it. But I will say one final point.

The biggest biggest weakness here…

… is Education. Education became popular during the industrial revolution to prepare people for capitalism, for work, for the cube factory called an office. School teaches you how to read reports, and punch time clocks. Education needs to change to support participatory government. Stop telling our kids their values don’t matter, not to get upset about things they can’t change, not to fight town hall. Because that is their destiny. Fighting town hall. Teach them instead how to debate online, choose projects, support through willingly giving up part of their pocket  money, to participate in decision making.

By the way, World of Warcraft is good for teaching that…