… how to strengthen the connection between citizens and their elected representatives

By David Lazer (pronounced as if it were Lazar), Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University; Co-Director, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks; Director, Program on Networked Governance, Harvard University

The foundation of our democracy is the relationship between citizens and their elected representatives. The complexity of policy and the scale of legislative districts is a challenge to that relationship; however, the Internet in principle offers a means for energizing a reciprocal consultative process between representatives and represented. Unfortunately, to date this is still more potential than reality.

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2 thoughts on “… how to strengthen the connection between citizens and their elected representatives

  1. Mihaela Ulieru

    The digital environment is ‘at work’ addressing your “What-If” (in many ways) as I write this! Very soon (and unforgiving) the digital environment will act in full force through socio-technical infrastructures (such as the one depicted in the Figure – which aparently does not appear! :-)) changing legitimacies to address stringent complex, interdependent global-scale challenges such as sustainability and climate change.

    In his latest book ‘Radical Openness’, Don Tapscott spells out these transformational forces as the ‘ICT Revolution’ continues to act upon and transform our institutions and governance structures.This echoes David Cohen’s intervention below which underlines awareness of the increasing tensions between today’s instruments of governance and the emerging self-governance participatory ‘modes’ that become more and more powerful. As the digital environment will continue to evolve via the interweaving of humans and ICT to enable a kind of social network operating system with citizens as “players,” and “inputs” whose interactions use the “invisible hand” of democratic informed choice to make decisions, the ‘foundation of democracy’ to which you refer will shift towards self-governance as those elected are more and more exposed to citizen pressure. This pressure will implicitly enforce accountability on the side of those elected whose power will be undermined and ultimately dislocated by the power of democratic informed choice that the social network operating system enables.

    Reply
  2. Participation Cymru

    There’s an interesting blog on the BBC in Wales addressing this very issue (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-22115775) – the internet was used to address the issue, but there’s an interesting disconnect between citizen, council, politician and public service. It will be interesting to see how councillors in Wales seek to engage with people through social media in the future, which could potentially bridge this disconnect – well we’ll see!

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