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The state of Emergent Democracy and political blogging in Europe Wiki page & collaborative work started by [WWW]Loïc Le Meur (Thanks Joi for another wiki page ;=)

I am trying to put together a document that gathers most European experiences in Emergent Democracy and political blogging.

This document MAY serve as a basis for a European contribution to the O'Reilly book on Emergent Democracy Jon Lebkowsky is coordinating with contributions from our friends shaping the Emergent Democracy, but there is also a very high chance I do not meet the schedule (or the standards of the book ;=)

Britt Blaser and Jon Lebkowsky asked me if I could put together a chapter about Europe for this book as an emergency. Of course I take the challenge but I say MAY serve as a basis because if I do not make the deadline, this work will not be used for the book but if that would be the case we may still use it for other purposes. Thank you Britt and Jon for inviting me to contribute, I will try to meet the standards and the deadline.

Here are some public work in progress (or finalized) notes that the book:

[WWW]Some notes on emergent democracy by Ratcliffe Blog

Europe is large and it would be great if as many people from as many european countries as possible could write the experiences they know or had from their countries so if you can find the time to contribute to this, I really appreciate. This is both politicians blogging or using emergent democracy tools and citizens using them to have a political influence that can be local or nationwide (Europe wide ?)

If you want to participate, please insert your country and write the experiences you know.

This wiki page will hopefully grow and be corrected as we progress. It looks as a diary of political blogs right now but I will add my comments on the experience they made and will interview most of them (or invite them to write directly on the wiki).

Feel free to make any suggestions on my own notes, even on my french-english of course if you like ;=)

Thanks in advance for your help. -Loic Le Meur

Some comments & suggestions on this page and how to use it

Thanks for being so quick in helping this work grow, I suggest everybody add his name at the end of what they wrote so that we know who wrote it like this -Loic

I am trying to be very neutral on this text, independently from my own ideas. By the way I note that I cannot quote a single example in France of an extreme left or right party blogging or using edemocracy tools, do you know any in France or other European countries ? I guess the comments would be very high...

Please do not delete text, but feel free to add comments at the end of it, that may then be eventually integrated into the original text.

Also, let's write below the list of contributors (please add your name if you contributed to the wiki, thanks !):

[WWW]Loïc Le Meur

[WWW]Scott Hanson

[WWW]George N. Dafermos

[WWW]Allan Engelhardt

[WWW]Phil Wolff, [WWW]East Bay Kerry and [WWW]Blogcount.com

[WWW]Brieuc-Yves Cadat

[WWW]Víctor R. Ruiz

[WWW]Lida Liberopoulou

comments, clarifications, questions

Loic - "I will try to meet the standards and the deadline" - I hope it's not Sunday again ;)

But to ask the most important question in this respect is: What are the standards of the book? I mean this is all predominantly brain-storming, mind-mapping with quotes and foot-notes.

I think the main question would be if this should be merely a (printed!) list of blogs of note with respect to national European polities or the European emerging polity ;) or if there is a uniquely European perspective to the main questions that Mitch Ratcliffe mentions in his brief about the book's intentions.

I like David Held, I once attended one of his seminars at the LSE. He asks (some of) the right questions - but let me assure you - after a term of trying to get out of the Hobbesian traps in a theoretically valid way, we had lots of intriguing ideas about "rethinking the modern polity", not too much about the polity, though.

I believe - on a very abstract level - blogs (or digital technology widely socially applied) change the economics of social interaction on both fundamental levels: production costs and transaction costs. Currently the first issue is receiving far more attention than the latter - wrongly so, in my opinion (and in your's apparently, too, as your wiki article is only concerned with the latter). This latter does indeed entail the possibility to change the contractual nature of politics, make it less hierarchical. But no one knows yet how many people will react to new forms of social coordination. Many will resist change, and some rationally so - I remember Joi mentioned this in his paper: Direct democracy doesn't skale. The fundamental question we are now looking into therefore is - does it now, or at least, to which extent can it scale better? And all this is deeply intertwined with the fundamental questions regarding the future of division of labour in information age societies in which intellectual property rights are only semi-excludable at best.

There are various levels to approach this question, maybe the first step should be to decide how we should do it? What is being written about in the other chapters? Should the fundamental issues be addressed from a European perspective - eg the emerging EU public sphere /blogosphere within the/being driven by the US discourse?

Tobias - oh, PS: "we have more than twenty people on-line in France..." - are you sure? ;)

[] [] Ludovic - There is a lot about blogging in this page, but there is much more in emergent democracy. For example initiatives like http://www.expression-publique.com are worth mentioning.

Why politicians should have blogs

To get closer to their audience, their supporters

There are not many ways you can currently talk to a politician leader. You can probably listen to him doing a speech somewhere or on mainstream media, on TV, but interacting with him is difficult. He is usually not accessible, his diary looks terrible, when he walks in a market place he is always surrounded by many people. Difficult to get your message to him and even more difficult to start a discussion with him. When he starts blogging and of course if he leaves his comments open, anybody can post a note on his blog, react to his ideas, start their own discussions.

To create a permanent open debate with them

The reason why discussions on blogs are different is that they are public. It is like in a political meeting, if you can finally manage to get your voice heard and the politician is on stage, your question is public. It makes a big difference. If there are many people in the room, he has to answer. Here is another big difference to stay on this policital conference questions analogy. Most of the time, there are so many people in the room that you are lucky to get the right to ask one question, he has to answer, but then it stops there, they move to another question and for sure, you had more things to say, many people in the room had also probably comments to make on the question you raised. You had an opportunity to start a discussion not only with the politician, but with the whole room, but it will not start because mainly of time. On blogs, there are no space or time issues, the discussion can run for ever and remains always public, so it gets more interesting. If the debate gets hot, the leader will have to come back on the comments and say something, otherwise just saying nothing can be seen as not having any answer or comment about it.

André Santini, one of the leaders of the central-right UDF party in France, has been using Emergent Democracy tools for a long time in France, forums, chats [WWW]a chat example, sms and wikis with his team. Of course, André Santini also has a weblog [WWW]André Santini's blog but looking at his [WWW]Internet website and [WWW]regional campaign website that I are quite institutional, the weblog is hidden in a submenu and André Santini does not post very regularly yet on it, without asking many questions to bloggers and readers. The result is a weblog with few comments for the time being and few discussions starting on it.

-I heard many discussions around André Santini's ideas started in standard forums, but I could not find them, anybody know where they are ?

To test their ideas easily and quickly, to enrich them and get new ones

Blogging an idea for a political leader is a very fast way to get feedback. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former Ministery of Finance in France and one of the key leaders of the French Socialist Party (PS), posted a note on Arnold Schwarzenegger banning gay weddings in California recently and asked the French readers of his blog what they thought about it. DSK as we call him got more than one hundred comments on his blog bost from people in favor of gay weddings and people against it. They suggested him to read good press articles about it, expressed their views, started a discussion. By reading this for sure DSK's own ideas about it got richer, the feedback was immediate without any logistics involved. Of course one may argue that only the people using the Internet can react. That is right, but fortunately the penetration is getting higher and higher, we have more than twenty people on-line in France and France is one of the least Internet connected country in Europe (-Internet penetration in Nordic countries, anybody ?)

Nobody can pretend that they know everything one hundred people know about a subject, to get back to DSK's note example. The ideas get richer through permanent conversations and written comments even if these are against the original thoughts.

To switch the way they talk to people usually from institutional to more personal

Jean-François Copé who is the current French Government's spokesperson and right wing (UMP) candidate to the regional elections, started his blog by posting press releases. I could convince him to open the comments field and leave it open. He got flamed in the beginning quite strongly by bloggers and blog readers telling him he should not communicate this way. People do not want press releases on blogs. They want the politician's voice, exactly as if they were meeting him in person. They want his ideas, his feelings, his humour, his "Etats d'âme". It took some time, but Jean-François Copé and his team get it more and more, they started posting personal feelings, personal comments, and stopped posting institutional communication. This is very new. This is not about a political speech that has been reviewed by ten people, it is about what Jean-François Copé can actually write himself, directly, to the people who want to read him and start talking to him. You have to blog like you talk, otherwise it looks fake and bloggers notice it immediately.

To better understand the criticism of the people against their ideas

Jean-François Copé's blog is the blog that got the highest number of opponents commenting. My take is that he is both a candidate at the Regional elections and the Government spokesperson which does not help him much. He has been very courageous to leave the comments of the sharper criticisms online. I cannot quote any other experiment that is close to this. Wait a second, Jean-François Copé is a well known political leader and he helps his opponents by leaving their notes on his own blog ! This is courageous, but it would actually be better if he would answer them more, I guess this is a question of investing more time into the weblog and it will come. This is all very new in France. Reading the opponents' voice is actually very interesting, to understand them and better reply.

To spread their ideas easily if they are supported by many people, in a decentralized way

André Santini has a section on his campaign site called "Your Weblogs" and André Santini points to blogging solutions to encourage his readers to start their own. This is of course a good way of having supporters blog appearing and talking about his campaign, linking to his blog notes. Unfortunately, listing the friends blogs in a list we call blogrolling is not yet used very much and there are very few people in France for the time being that dare to expose in public their ideas to support a candidate. It will change. We will probably see hundreds of supporters weblogs like Howard Dean had for his campaign, but we are not quite there yet. The politician leaders blogs will link into them and get a lot of audience from them.

To raise funds for their cause, party or campaign

I do not know of any experience in Europe of successful political funds raising on the Internet. André Santini [WWW]has a page where he asks for donations but there is no online payment, it has to be done by paper cheque which is far from being online donations of course, mainly due to French law. This will change in the future.

"European friends, any experience of a major funds raising you know about ?"; -Loic

To reach a younger audience and help young people get more interested in politics

The Internet is the medium of the young, not only of course, but it is mostly used in Europe by less than 35 years old people. The trend in politics is that less and less young people are actually interested by politics just looking at the higher abstention rate. Giving them an opportunity to start discussions and participate rather than listen to a speech or a TV show gets them more interested into politics. I believe the future candidates who will get it will gather many new votes from them.

To create around them network effects

Blogs spread the word bottom-up, not top-down like traditional media. Information spreads fast only if it is interesting, otherwise it stays dead. Information spreads by bloggers linking into it (and standard Internet sites of course) and sending their audience where it originated. The tools that measure these network effects are new kind of search engines that measure the number of links either to a page or to a site. I have been watching on a permanent manner what Technorati, one of these search engines, calls the cosmos of the French politicians blogs. Anybody can measure very fast how authoritative a politician is through his blog and how fast his ideas spread.

Here is a ranking of the four political blogs in France by their Technorati Cosmos:

* André Santini: 10 links from 9 sources

* Dominique Strauss-Kahn: 53 links from 30 sources

* Jean-François Copé: 15 links from 12 sources

* Alain Rousset: 7 links from 6 sources

Another way of measuring network effects of a politician of course is his rankings in Google on some search words (his name, his ideas, his political party, etc). I am not going to give a ranking here but what is interesting is that in a search on these politicians names, the blogs of their most authoritative supporters or opponents appear very often on the first page, sometimes before their own site or blog.