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June 30, 2007

"Politics 2.0"

Mother Jones' latest issue is on "Politics 2.0".

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 6:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

The Problem is Ours

People applauded the concept that the problem of poverty among the black is not the leader’s problem. It’s our problem.

This is a call to more involvement in the democratic process. It’s a vindication to deliberative approaches to democracy.

The problems are too big, too complex to be left to anyone but the people.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Genetic lottery in this country?

In short, people who start with money have a better chance of being even wealthier.

Whether this is true or not, it reminded of a game I played as a manager in IBM many years ago.

A group of managers were randomly given a set of colored chips. The chips had different values. The rules of the game were to trade them. While I’ve forgotten the rules of the game. It became clear that the outcome dependent not upon your skill at using the rules of the game to win, but what you were given at the games beginning.

I was very competitive at that time and I wanted to win every game I played – sports, cards or business. I still remember how badly I felt, and how frustrated I was. It was not pleasant. And, it was only a simple game…

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Orleans

The money for the rebuilding of New Orleans should go to the people of New Orleans. What a novel idea. Teach them the skills to rebuild their own city and then give them to money to do it. Keep the money from international corporations.

Let’s see, what was that old saying? Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, and…

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Small Group Discussion at LBJ Library

What strategies would you support to aid low-income families in improving themselves financially? What factors are important to you in supporting a strategy?

At the beginning of the discussion, the group had great difficulty selecting a question from the several placed on the table. The questions seemed to be related but different. Ten minutes to address an issue as fundamental as these is not sufficient time.

The question selected was, “What strategies would you support to aid low-income families in improving themselves financially? What factors are important to you in supporting a strategy?” The question was too complex for the people to get their minds around.

The group started off on an issue not related to the fundamental aspect of the question. The conversation started with consideration of low income people have gotten in debt.

“Not getting them off the hook, but teaching them personal responsibility”, suggested one participant.

“No it’s not responsibility”, responded another. “It’s financial literacy. Responsibility is an emotional issue. It implies that the poor have no responsibility.”

“Poor that do not exhibit responsibility get locked up. I believe that responsibility goes up as wealth goes up. Financial planning is not necessarily the solution.”

“Financial literacy is different than planning. Without literacy you can’t plan. No money is no money. You can’t pay debts without resources.”

Another voice chimed in. “I see it differently. We have an ethic in the country now: we purchase things we can’t afford.”

“Y and if you have some money you can get credit. It’s not just the poor that get into debt. How many people with college education have gotten themselves into debt?”

“Unfortunately in this culture you are measured by what you have not who you are.”

“The ethic should be: If you can’t afford it, you can’t buy it.”

A quiet moment.

“What do you do if you need the basics?”

A suggestion, “Low interest loans at the lower end of the scale.”

“No, responsibility is not the right way to go.”

Another voice, “It’s important to differentiate between responsibility and literacy.”

One of the participants linked back to an earlier thread, “There is tremendous pressure to buy. Our whole purpose is to be consumers.”

Another jump to an earlier thread. “We give low interest loans to foreign countries. Why not give low interest loans to back the development of the poor.”

“Yes. Skills. Education.”

“Make that a low or non interest loan.”

“You know not just the poor need financial literacy”, suggested one. “It should be part of school. You know, basic financial concepts. The people who are in poverty don’t have basics. What we’ve been talking about is way above poverty.”

“For the poor, they are asked: Why are you poor? Why do you stay poor?”

“The people in poverty must learn that ‘It’s not your fault that you are poor’. We have to Change our view about poverty. We have to shift to how get every body employed – housing – health care etc.’

“Maybe it’s basic education…”

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Watershed Event?

I think that I may have participated in a watershed event in the development of the concept of extreme democracy last night. I blogged the Presidential Forum Watch Party live last night at the LBJ Library for Texas Forums and the Media Bloggers Association. It was extraordinarily frustrating. However, ultimately, I think the experience provided me with some insight,

Here was the design of the evening. PBS hosted the 1 ½ hour forum live from 8 to 9:30 CDT. The audience at the LBJ Library viewed the broadcast together. It ended with a group discussion of what people heard.

Preceding the broadcast, an hour was devoted to small and large group discussion. I was assigned a table for the small group discussion along with about six other bloggers. We were to report the discussion of the citizens of big issue questions prepared on topics like poverty, equality, etc.

Unfortunately what it boiled down to is that we only had ten minutes to discuss one of many big questions at the table. The group I was with took a lot of time trying to select the question, and then didn’t really get to the meat of the issue until about 8 minutes into the discussion.

The forum suffered from the same problem – big questions and too little time. The time each of the democratic candidates had to answer a question started at one minute, quickly went to 30 seconds, and finally on the last question to 15 seconds. Sound bites. And, this was PBS.

Why do I think this was a watershed event for extreme democracy? I believe it demonstrated the utter futility of mass media to handle national issues. And, locally it demonstrated the futility of having far too little time for the participants to get into any kind of deliberation. And, I don’t believe that we can realistically expect people to be able to give more time. This evening was already a three hour event.

This election may be a watershed event just because of its nature. Every thinking person in this country agrees that we have some very big fundamental problems. I believe there are more problems and more agreement that the problems are important than any presidential election in my memory, And, perhaps less agreement on solutions or even how to go about solving the problems.

Not coincidently, we also have the largest number candidates in my memory as well. There are, depending on who you count, 8 democrats and 11 republicans, according to the PBS News Hour web site.

We really need a completely functional extreme democracy system in place right now, with technology and issues literacy for at least the majority of Americans. And, we don’t. For me, this is likely to be a very frustrating election. But, maybe things will be different in four years.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2007

Wrapping up

Mike's asking what everybody thought about the debate. The sense of the room is that this debate spoke more and better to the African American community. But are they going to turn around and skirt the issues when it comes to a broader audience? And they'd like to know whether the Republicans are going to have the same kind of forum? Ask them the same questions... no change.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 7:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Forum or debate?

Seems odd that we're calling this a forum, when it's clearly a standard presidential debate. There have been some good responses, but on the whole it seems a bit forced, and (as usual) I find myself wishing they would have a discussion, not structured debate.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 6:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A sense of the room

Here at Carver, we're paying close attention to the openings statements from the candidates...bits of quiet conversation and laughter in the room. Actually quieter for Kucinich than Obama. He just got a good laugh with the remark about "pull you up by hour bootstraps... then steal your boots." His comments about education are getting a positive response.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 6:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


When the candidates showed up, we had some debate about whether certain ones were winners. Already thinking about thinning the crowd.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 6:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Group at Carver Library


Photo by Mike Aaron

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 5:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Children and society

(Blogging parts of the conversation here...)

A lot of the crimes that young men and women go to prison for, others can get off because they can afford a good lawyer. "How much justice can you afford?"

What's the definition of rehabilitation? If your background doesn't afford you the kind of educational prep, or if you commit a crime, you can't go to college.

Here in Texas, we don't focus on rehabilitation, we focus on incarceration.

We have kids raising kids; there's a question of maturity.

What part is the social program's responsibility? The teacher's? The school's or the teacher's? Or the parents? Ultimately it's the parents' responsibility, but as a society our concern should be the child, and the child might not be getting adequate parenting.

It takes a village to raise a child... you can't just blame parents. It's a community issue. Kids at risk might have a better chance if the community assumes part of the responsibility. We can't just consider our own children... we should be attentive to all kids.

The Bible says that parent is the most important role in your life. If you don't want to assume that role, don't take it on. It would never cross my mind to ask you to help me take care of my children. Some made it and some don't. That's not right - I shouldn't have had 'em in the first place. When you have a baby, that's the most important individual.

If you care about children, don't oppose abortion. Help prevent unwanted pregancies.

It takes a village to raise a child, this is true, but it has to start at home... and many mamas are too young to be mamas.

Counselor from Austin Independent School District: the child is your responsibility. The village is available, but many people won't let the village touch their children... that's what I saw in the public school.

Richard: The way I train young men is to teach them what came before. The village also needs to understand that children are being raised by media now. What the boys are girls are up against: the imagery they find in media and online. Talking to a young man who is angry because a woman on an elevator was afraid of her because of something she saw on television. Instead of being angry, be personable, and the fear and hostility will give way.

Is this society built on capital? Or education? AISD has a program that begins with kindergarten kids to get financially ready for Austin.

There's another program where high school students can earn college credits. Students in the alternative schools have a similar program. We need to let parents know about this to empower them.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 5:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Business and Finance

Do black people do business with black people?

Blogging the conversation in the room...

Deciding where to shop: do we shop black businesses? Do we shop locally? Do we buy American? Would we buy from Walmart because it's cheaper, though the money doesn't stay in town? I.e. to what extent do we, or can we, make economic decisions based on factors that aren't purely economic?

Do we invest in ourselves to create the things that we spend money on? How can you buy from a black-owned business, when there's so few of them? The reality is that it's hard for you to invest in yourself, if you're black.

A black financial advisor finds it hard to get other blacks to work with him because they don't trust him, as a financial advisor, as readily as they might white advisor.

Another commenter: If a black people really wants to do business with other blacks, they need to go out and find them.

We need to set the right kind of expectations. The book doesn't talk about the abject poverty in our community, and it's a poverty of the spirit as well as a poverty of means. Children have the ability to create a positive world, but not if you tell them they're in a box and they can't get out. You have to tell them that they can be creative.

Positive reinforcement starts at home: if they don't get it at home, it's going to be hard for them to get it anywhere else.

Race is a factor in this, but individuality is a factor as well... it's a combination. You can't assess based on race alone... it's a combination of humanity, race, and drive.

Blacks are only 12% of the country, and 9% of Austin's population. White people may not work together all that well or that much, but there's a larger pool of them.

(The people in the room just formed a circle, so they could see who's speaking.)

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 5:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging from Austin

People are just gathering at the Carver Library in Austin (we're in meeting room 4) for the forum. I'm at a table with Mike Aaron and Tom Moran and our laptops. After brief technical angst (wifi was down when we arrived), we're all set; Mike's in front now explaining what we're up to... a live blogging experiment coordinated by Texas Forums with PBS. We'll be the online voice of the room. Mike's going to set up another computer so that others in the room can blog. We're meeting everybody in the room.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 4:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Extreme Democracy at Presidential Forums

Jon Lebkowsky and Paul Schumann will be blogging tonight's All-American Presidential Forums (broadcast on PBS and webcast at PBS.org) from the LBJ Library and Carver Library in Austin, Texas. We'll blog discussion prior to the forum, as well as the live forum event and local reactions.

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Emergence, Emergent Democracy & the Emerging Second Super Power

Date: July 9 2007
Time: 7:00p.m. to 8:00 CDT
Where: Texas Forums Virtual Room
Cost: Free
Topic: Emergence, Emergent Democracy & the Emerging Second Super Power

Discussion of the following essays:

Two Ways to Emerge, and How to Tell the Difference Between Them, by
Steven Johnson

The Dead Hand of Modern Democracy: Lessons for Emergent Post-Modern
Democrats, by Ken White

Emergent Democracy, by Joichi Ito

The Second Superpower Rears Its Beautiful Head, by James Moore

This is the third of twelve part discussion series on Extreme Democracy co-sponsored by the Central Texas World Future Society and Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

The purpose of these discussions is to explore the principles and technologies of Extreme Democracies, and to explore how these concepts and technologies are affecting our own social change efforts, our democracy, and the upcoming election. These discussions will take place online synchronously in the Texas Forums Virtual Room on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Participants are encouraged to also participate in an asynchronous dialogue about the readings for the week on the Extreme Democracy Blog.

You do not have to commit to every session in order to participate. Those who are unavailable for the Monday evening session are encouraged to read the essays, listen to an archive of the discussion, and add their commentary to the blog. The links to each essay and the comment location are provided in the reading list. Most people will prefer to purchase the book. These discussions are free and open to everyone.

Your guides for this journey are:

• Paul Schumann, Founder Central Texas World Future Society
• Taylor Willingham, Founder Texas Forums
• Jon Lebkowsky, Editor Extreme Democracy

For more information about this series including a schedule of events and hardware/software requirements for participation in the series, visit the Texas Forum blog. Read the syllabus here. It includes a description of how to use the virtual meeting room.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Interview with Jon Lebkowsky

The second program in the Extreme Democracy discussion series was held on June 25th. The following are some discussion questions:

It has been my experience that an innovation must be supported by more than one driving force for change in order to receive widespread acceptance. Of the six major driving forces for change (economic, societal, political, environmental, democratic, technological) what’s driving the need for extreme democracy besides technology?

Using traditional mass media measurements, average blog readership (1 to 3 readers per blog) would indicate that there is a problem with blogs. Why is this not true?

The term extreme democracy came from the concept of extreme programming. The basic idea of extreme programming is that programmers worked directly with the people who needed the program. Is the concept of crowd sourcing a metaphor for the group collaboration that is part of extreme democracy?

What is the role of citizen journalism in extreme democracy?

It seems that one of the weaknesses of the Internet is the difficulty of gathering diverse people together to have a conversation. It’s very good at fostering affinity groups. How are we going to be able to have conversations virtually with groups who do not share the same values and knowledge? Is Synanim a prototype of a tool that might be useful?

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Great Turning

Oliver Markley hosted a discussion of the concepts in this book last night in Austin. It prompted an interesting discussion about the problems of American society and democracy. I'd be interested in any comments you may have about this book if you've read it.

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten, Berrett-Koehler, 2006

The following are excerpts from documents prepared by Oliver Markley:

SYNOPSIS OF THE ARGUMENT (selections from pp. 18 - 22)

The human species is entering a period of dramatic and potentially devastating change as the result of forces of our own creation that are now largely beyond our control. It is within our means, however, to shape a positive outcome if we choose to embrace the resulting crisis as an op¬portunity to lift ourselves to a new level of species maturity and potential.

THE CULTURAL TURNING. The Great Turning begins with a cultural and spiritual awakening. Economic and political turning can only follow a turning in cultural values from money and material excess to life and spiritual fulfillment, from relationships of domination to relationships of partnership, from a belief in our limitations to a belief in our possi¬bilities, and from fearing our differences to rejoicing in our diversity.

THE ECONOMIC TURNING. The values shift of the cultural turning calls us to turn from measuring well-being by the size of our yachts and bank accounts to measuring well-being by the health of our families, communities, and natural environment. It leads us from economic policies that raise those at the top to policies that raise those at the bot¬tom, from economic plutocracy to economic democracy, from hoarding to sharing, and from the rights of ownership to the responsibilities of stewardship.

THE POLITICAL TURNING. The economic turning creates the neces¬sary conditions for a turn from a democracy of money to a democracy of people, from passive to active citizenship, from competition for in¬dividual advantage to cooperation for mutual advantage, from retribu¬tive justice to restorative justice, and from social order by coercion to social order by mutual responsibility and accountability.

The outcome will depend in large measure on the prevailing stories that shape our understanding of the traumatic time at hand—its causes and its possibilities. Perhaps the most difficult and yet essential aspect of this work is to change our stories. …

The power of the institutions of economic and political domination depends on their ability to perpetuate a falsified and inauthentic cultural trance based on beliefs and values at odds with reality. Break the trance, replace the values of an inauthentic culture with the values of an authentic cul¬ture grounded in a love of life rather than a love of money, and people will realign their life energy and bring forth the life-serving institutions of a new era. The key is to change the stories by which we define ourselves. It is easier said than done, but I have found it to be a powerful strategic insight. [Emphasis added.]

Posted by Paul Schumann at 9:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

Extreme Democracy on Attendr

[cross posted from Texas Forums Blog

We are encouraging the participants in our Extreme Democracy discussion group to sign up on Attendr so we can see where everyone is located and get to know each other better. This tool allows you to add people you know to your network and then to map relationships. So far our numbers are small and Austin-centric, but we know that we have had participants from Pennsylvania, Colorado and California.

Extreme Democracy Attendr Map

If you want to participate in this discussion group, add your information to our Extreme Democracy Attendr map and download our discussion guide. We're taking next week off for the fourth of July, but will be back on July 9. Paul Schumann will be off for some quality family time so yours truly and Rod Reyna will pinch hit as discussion leaders for that night.


Posted by Taylor Willingham at 2:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Libraries and Extreme Democracy

This is an excerpt from a proposal on how 2.0 technology could be applied to deliberative forums. It was developed as part of an American Library Association Workshop on Library 2.0 in May 2006. The implementation of this far exceeded the capacity of the class, but this proposal is still relevant and is an example of existing organizational structures could support extreme democracy, facilitating both the in-person and online interaction and consensus-building.

Project Proposal for Group 5
How Can 2.0 Technology be Used to Facilitate Collaboration Around the Framing of Library Issues?

“Every one of us leads a life with conflict. It is everywhere: from organizations that are divided about their strategy and roles to local communities that are divided by race, economics, religion, or politics.”


Libraries are places where people can come together to discuss issues – as are associations. Unfortunately, there are too few opportunities for communities and association members to struggle through complex issues that are often framed in ways that divide us. Can ALA and libraries use 2.0 technologies to frame issues (association issues, library issues, social issues, public policy issues, community issues) in a way that will encourage open deliberation and create common ground?

Three of the project team members have been involved with the National Issues Forums Institute, a network of citizens and organizations (including a growing number of libraries) across the country with affiliates around the world. NIFI grew out of the Kettering Foundation’s research agenda, “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” One component of the answer has been to develop town hall discussion guides (frameworks) that encourage thoughtful deliberation of “hot” issues that the media and policy-makers often cast in divisive language. But the lack of civil discourse is not just limited to public issues in the world “out there.” Within associations and organizations, there are tough decisions to be made or at least issues that are difficult to discuss. Association committees can appear, often with good cause, secretive and exclusive. With e-mail as the primary tool, communication is “closed and controlled” and there is no shared record of the conversation, much less a public record.

In its twenty-five year history of researching practices in deliberative democracy, the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute have developed effective practices for framing issues in public terms that reflect people’s deeply held values, hopes, and concerns. Framing for deliberative dialogue is the process of identifying various perspectives on complex and potentially divisive issues in a way that does not reinforce typical divisions (e.g., left vs. right), authentically reflects the concerns of the people involved or affected by the issue, and promotes deliberation that can lead to a shared understanding of the problem, common ground and the ability to work together.

Hundreds of individuals and organizations across the country conduct workshops, and convene, moderate and report on forums on topics such as “Life and Death Decisions”, “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role,” “Americans’ Role in the World,” and “Health Care”. Many of these workshops and forums are taking place in libraries in California, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania, just to name a few.

Recently libraries have taken their role as civic centers to heart and have worked with their communities to frame local issues for public deliberation. From Education Reform in Johnson County Kansas to Redevelopment in Virginia Beach to Global Warming in Ohio (o.k. so some of the issues are not confined to the local community!) librarians are facilitating community problem solving through civil discourse and in some cases, serving as catalytic change agents for the good of the community.

Statement of Need

ALA is an association with diverse membership and needs. Together, members develop standards, positions, and best practices for librarianship. They also shape the future of the organization and their profession. Even though members share many common values, our perspectives and opinions often differ. Sometimes when we come together to make choices, we struggle to gain consensus on how to approach to and solve a problem. And when we do agree, our colleagues may criticize our process for reaching conclusions as well as the outcome we recommend. The result: a win/lose proposition that undermines our ability to concert as an organization. Instead of marching together toward a perceived goal when approaching contentious issues, we frequently enter into rancorous debate that can result in alienation, tension, and disillusionment. How can we find a better way to encourage open participation and free expression that fosters deliberative and civil dialogue, and enhances ALA's ability to make sound choices that affect our collective futures? And how can we apply this learning to the libraries and communities in which we live? In short, how can we use new technologies to develop different ways to frame and discuss issues so we can find common ground rather than foster conflict?

While a number of individuals and organizations have made great strides in framing issues for deliberation, barriers exist that can possibly be addressed by 2.0 technologies. First, most organizations, communities and libraries do not have the resources or expertise of organizations like of the Kettering Foundation and NIFI. Face-to-face meetings of the issue framing team, focus groups and individual interviews, analysis of soft data and other typical issue framing activities can be costly, time-consuming, and labor intensive. This is particularly true when tackling an issue that impacts a large dispersed community, such as an association like ALA.

Second, 2.0 technologies can help address the gap in expertise by creating a learning community of experienced issue framers partnered with new practitioners. Technology can help overcome some of the impediments to the deliberative democracy movement. Third, social networking software can increase participation in Association efforts and decrease the time it takes to convene in-person dialogue. Fourth, we can consider how to use these technologies to foster civil dialogue about issues once we have a more participatory framing process.


A number of clients will benefit from our project. We will focus on the process knowing that this project may support teams of issue framers throughout the country and abroad. The applications we develop and the lessons we learn will be useful to members of ALA and librarians and library workers throughout the country, as well as people in the NIFI network unfamiliar with 2.0 possibilities for their work. Members of the team represent different ALA constituents along with organizations in their own communities that will benefit from this project. Some examples include a public library in Kansas, Texas Forums--an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library, the ALA Literacy Committee, Pennsylvania public forums, the ALA membership, and participants in the ALA Fostering Community Engagement Membership Initiative Group.

External Possibilities:
How does ALA attract younger librarians who function in a 2.0 environment and include them in framing important association issues as well as encourage their involvement with a the growing number of libraries involved in framing public issues?

How can libraries, members of the NIFI network and other practitioners of deliberative dialogue use 2.0 technologies to name, frame, and discuss issues?

Internal Opportunities:
How does ALA apply a different process to framing issues before they are weighted and then involve 2.0 librarians in the actual framing process? How does ALA encourage those who are not 2.0 librarians to be part of the framing as well as subsequent discussions of issues?

How can libraries use 2.0 technologies to help communities
frame local issues?

Overview of the Project

For our project, we will determine potential uses of 2.0 technologies to accomplish the steps in framing an issue for deliberative dialogue. We will conduct experiments using a mock issue and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of those various technologies in framing the issue.

Description of Issue Framing Process

The steps to framing an issue for deliberation are:

1. Select an issue based on certain characteristics that distinguish an issue from a simple topic
2. Identify fundamental concerns people have about the issue based on interviews, surveys and other instruments
3. List the concerns
4. Group these concerns according to the underlying value
5. Find the common thread that knits these groups together which may lead to a redefined definition of what is really at issue for people
6. Write a summary of the framework – the overview of the issue
7. Develop 3-4 approaches about what might be done according to the underlying values identified in the clustering exercise
8. Test the framework in a forum
9. Revise the framework as needed

We have customized this framing process to reflect how librarians might frame issues within their own association.

For each step, we will suggest and test different technologies such as blogging, podcasts, wikis, tagging, synchronous text and audio chat, asynchronous threaded discussions just to name a few.

Description of the Proposed Research Process

The steps we will take to achieve this project are:

1. Identify the technologies that would be useful to the various steps in the framing process and the benefits and drawbacks of each
2. Conduct some mini experiments with the different technologies to test our assumptions about the advantages and disadvantages
3. Determine a mock issue (perhaps an issue that has already been framed so that we can test the results of doing a framing in 2.0 vs. the traditional results)
4. Invite experienced colleagues to join us in our mock framing (while these colleagues are easily recruited, this may prove to be unreasonable with our time frame)
5. Walk through a mock framing
6. Write an evaluation and make recommendations for future research and experimentation

Advantages of this Process

In an online campfire chat, we determined the following benefits of applying 2.0 technologies to issue framing:

• Facilitate communication
• Lead to more effective communication
• Enable framing that will involve people from across the country in a low cost manner
• Keep a record of the framing process
• Include more people in naming and framing an issue than is possible with face-to-face framing sessions
• Create more transparency around the framing process
• Foster more engagement and participation
• Provide an opportunity for more sustained participation
• Allow multitasking
• Create a process that is person to person and does not depend on one leader
• Benefit busy librarians – they can drop in when it’s convenient
• Build relationships
• Participate virtually, from anywhere
• Allow openness
• Create a learning community
• Allow more informed discussion by including resources available to all participants with quick access to those resources
• Allow synchronous as well as asynchronous dialogue
• Observe a process that went into developing a framework for discussion
-- demonstrate a trustworthy process for framing issues
• Provide a central repository for information about the framing process
• Offer people who are framing other issues a view of how it has been done
• Contribute to a learning network
• Encourage brainstorming and participation beyond the strict boundaries of ALA or library users for communities
• Level the playing field for everyone
• Create a safe space
• Engage young people who are comfortable with these technologies – they can become the experts guiding the process and participate in a different way
• Teach a useful technique for collaborative problem solving as well as using the technology

Posted by Taylor Willingham at 4:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

Open Thread: Texas Forums Discussion #1

Open thread for followup discussion from the first Texas Forums discussion of Extreme Democracy. The audio archive will be available soon. In the meantime, here is a link to the slides used for session #1.

Discussion Questions
First Democracy
How many of the principles of first democracy do we have in America today?
Are we losing or gaining ground with respect to those principles?
Could we adopt these principles in America now?
What would we have to do to be able to adopt these principles?

Democracy in America
What is the basis for equality in America now?
Do we have a tyranny of the majority now? How about a fear of the tyranny of the majority? Is this why elections are so close and power so diffuse?
How are we balancing liberty, freedom, democracy and equality now? Does this need to change?

The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Do we look at democracy, capitalism and pluralism as a system now?
How balanced are these three elements of our system now?
What forces are attempting to change the balance?
Should we be concerned about attempts to change the balance?

Posted by Jon Lebkowsky at 6:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Extreme Democracy Discussion Series Survey

To participate in a survey on the future of America’s democracy, click on the link below. The information from this survey will be used to foster discussion in the last program of the extreme democracy discussion series on September 17, 2007.

You may take this survey at any time during this period. You can return to the survey at any time before the survey is closed to change or add to your comments.
Click Here to take survey

A SWOT analysis is a way to utilize the existing knowledge of a team to produce a framework for the development of strategies. It is quick, low cost and can be effective if managed correctly. For small businesses or teams, repeated application of a SWOT analysis may be the only type of strategic analysis required. For larger companies, organizations or highly complex projects, a SWOT analysis is a good way to start a strategic analysis and strategy development project. It can identify the gaps and uncertainties in the existing knowledge base.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths/Weaknesses are internal. Opportunities/Threats are external.

For more information about SWOT analysis
click here.

Posted by Paul Schumann at 1:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2007

Democracy in America

In Democracy in America, published in 1835, Tocqueville wrote of the New World and its burgeoning democratic order. Observing from the perspective of a detached social scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through America in the early 19th century when the market revolution, Western expansion, and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the fabric of American life. He saw democracy as an equation that balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as the community.

“Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations…In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all others.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“In Democracy in America, published in 1835, Tocqueville wrote of the New World and its burgeoning democratic order. Observing from the perspective of a detached social scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through America in the early 19th century when the market revolution, Western expansion, and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the fabric of American life. He saw democracy as an equation that balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as the community. A critic of individualism, Tocqueville thought that association, the coming together of people for common purpose, would bind Americans to an idea of nation larger than selfish desires, thus making a civil society which wasn't exclusively dependent on the state.

Tocqueville's penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American civic life. In describing America, he agreed with thinkers such as Aristotle, James Harrington and Montesquieu that the balance of property determined the balance of political power, but his conclusions after that differed radically from those of his predecessors.

The uniquely American mores and opinions, Tocqueville argued, lay in the origins of American society and derived from the peculiar social conditions that had welcomed colonists in prior centuries. Unlike Europe, venturers to America found a vast expanse of open land. Any and all who arrived could own their own land and cultivate an independent life. Sparse elites and a number of landed aristocrats existed, but, according to Tocqueville, these few stood no chance against the rapidly developing values bred by such vast land ownership. With such an open society, layered with so much opportunity, men of all sorts began working their way up in the world: industriousness became a dominant ethic, and "middling" values began taking root.” Wikipedia

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a classic. His penetrating insights into the nature of American society and our form of democracy enabled him to make predictions about its future, many of which are still valid today. This work is credited at inventing sociology.

Looking back at the history of America’s development Heffner points out that, “…our early leaders, even the Jeffersonians, were themselves far from equalitarian in outlook. They believed in government of and for the people, but not by the people. And, more important, they were much too dedicated to the principles of individual liberty and freedom ever to equate them necessarily and irrevocably with equality and democracy.” When Tocqueville was studying America, a democratization process was underway through Jackson. He questioned ,”…whether American’s older concern for individual differences and freedom, could long survive their new penchant for equality and democracy. For as conditions became more equal, Americans seemed more and more to take pride not in their individuality, in their personal liberties, in their freedom, but rather in their sameness. So that as Tocqueville wrote: ‘…every citizen being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd, and nothing stands conspicuous but the great imposing image of the people at large.’”

“Through out history”, writes Heffner, “kings and princely rules had sought without success to control human thought, that most elusive and invisible power of all. Yet where absolute monarchs had failed, democracy succeeds, for the strength of the majority is unlimited and all-pervasive, and the doctrines of equality and majority rule have substituted for the tyranny of the few over the many the more absolute, imperious and widely accepted tyranny of the many over the few.”

The concept of equality was so important to Tocqueville’s analysis, and to our consideration of the future of democracy, that the history of the concepts’ development is worth repeating. And, since I can’t improve on his writing, bear with me as I allow him to trace the history. “…when the territory was divided amongst a small number of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by which man could act on man; and landed property was the sole source of power. Soon, however, the political power of the clergy was founded, and began to increase: the clergy opened their ranks to all classes, to the poor and the rich, the vassal and the lord; through the Church, equality penetrated into the Government, and he who as a serf must have vegetated in perpetual bondage took his place as a priest in the midst of nobles, and not infrequently above the heads of kings.

The different relations of men with each other became more complicated and numerous as society gradually became more stable and civilized. Hence the want of civil laws was felt; and the ministers of law soon rose from the obscurity of the tribunals and their dusty chambers, to appear at the court of the monarch, by the side of the feudal barons clothed in their ermine and their mail. Whilst the kings were ruining themselves by their great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources by private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by commerce. The influence of money began to be perceptible in state affairs. The transactions of business opened a new road to power, and the financier rose to a station of political influence in which he was at once flattered and despised.

Gradually the diffusion of intelligence, and the increasing taste for literature and art, caused learning and talent to become a means of government; mental ability led to social power, and the man of letters took a part in the affairs of the state. The value attached to high birth declined just as fast as new avenues to power were discovered. In the eleventh century, nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth, it might be purchased. Nobility was first conferred by gift in 1270; and equality was thus introduced into the government by the aristocracy itself.

In the course of these seven hundred years, it sometimes happened that the nobles, in order to resist the authority of the crown, or to diminish the power of their rivals, granted some political influence to the common people. Or, more frequently, the king permitted the lower orders to have a share in the government, with the intention of depressing the aristocracy. In France, the kings have always been the most active and the most constant of levelers. When they were strong and ambitious, they spared no pains to raise the people to the level of the nobles; when they were temperate and feeble, they allowed the people to rise above themselves. Some assisted the democracy by their talents, others by their vices. Louis XI and Louis XIV reduced all ranks to the same degree of subjection; and, finally Louis XV descended, himself and all his court, into the dust.

As soon as land began to be held on any other than a feudal tenure, and personal property in its turn became able to confer influence and power, every discovery in the arts, every improvement in commerce or manufactures, created so many new elements of equality among men. Henceforward every new invention, every new want which it occasioned, and every new desire which craved satisfaction, was a step towards a general leveling. The taste for luxury, the love of war, the empire of fashion, and the most superficial as well as the deepest passions of the human heart, seemed to co-operate to enrich the poor and to impoverish the rich.

From the time when the exercise of the intellect became a source of strength and of wealth, we see that every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every new idea became a germ of power placed within the reach of the people. Poetry, eloquence, and memory, the grace of the mind, the glow of imagination, depth of thought, and all the gifts which Heaven scatters at a venture, turned to the advantage of the democracy; and even when they were in the possession of its adversaries, they still served its cause by throwing into bold relief the natural greatness of man. Its conquests spread, therefore, with those of civilization and knowledge; and literature became an arsenal open to all, where the poor and the weak daily resorted for arms.

In running over the pages of our history for seven hundred years, we shall scarcely find a single great event which has not promoted equality of condition. The Crusades and the English wars decimated the nobles and divided their possessions: the municipal corporations introduced democratic liberty into the bosom of feudal monarchy; the invention of fire-arms equalized the vassal and the noble on the field of battle; the art of printing opened the same resources to the minds of all classes; the post-office brought knowledge alike to the door of the cottage and to the gate of the palace; and Protestantism proclaimed that all men are alike able to find the road to heaven. The discovery of America opened a thousand new paths to fortune, and led obscure adventurers to wealth and power.”

And, here we are now with new tools that level the playing field, and value, not in the land, but in ideas growing. Both coming together to open the possibility of new type of democracy. Tocqueville concludes, “…that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future…” of history.

Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville
Edited and abridged by Richard Heffner
Signet Classic, 1984

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The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

This is an incredible work of scholarship and insight. It is not an easy read, but a read filled with insights almost on every page. The magnitude of the task to identify and explain the spirit of democratic capitalism that gives the form energy and success is formidable. Michael Novak is almost uniquely qualified to take on this task.

This is an incredible work of scholarship and insight. It is not an easy read, but a read filled with insights almost on every page. The magnitude of the task to identify and explain the spirit of democratic capitalism that gives the form energy and success is formidable. Michael Novak is almost uniquely qualified to take on this task. He is a theologian, deeply steeped in the Catholic tradition, a history, philosopher and an economist. The Wall Street Journal gave the book high praise when it published that the book was “The most remarkable and original treatise on the roots of modern capitalism to be published in many years.”

Many things, having full reference
To one consent, may work contrariously;
As many arrows, loosed several ways,
Fly to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
As many streams meet in one salt sea;
As many lines close in the dial’s center;
So may a thousand actions, once afoot,
End in one purpose, and be all well borne
Without defeat.

Shakespeare, King Henry V

Is there anything about human nature that Shakespeare didn’t touch?

Novak begins the book with, “This book is about the life of the spirit which makes democratic capitalism possible. It is about the theological presumptions, values and systemic intentions.

What do I mean by ‘democratic capitalism’? I mean three systems in one: a predominately market economy; a polity respectful of the rights the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by the ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, and economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is pluralistic and, in the largest sense, liberal.”

He argues that “…political democracy is compatible in practice only with a market economy. In turn, both systems nourish and are nourished by a pluralistic liberal culture.”

“The first of all moral obligations,” he admonishes, “is to think clearly. Societies are not like the weather, merely given, since human beings are responsible for their form. Social forms are constructs of the human spirit.”

Or, in religious terms, he writes, “The world as Adam faced it after the Garden of Eden left humankind in misery and hunger for millennia. Now that the secrets of sustained material progress have been decoded, the responsibility for reducing misery and hunger is no longer God’s but ours.”

The book is divided into three parts. “In Part One, I try to put into words the structural dynamic beliefs which suffuse democratic capitalism: its Geist, its living spirit. In Part Two, I examine briefly what is left of the socialist idea today, so as to glimpse, as if in a mirror, a view of democratic capitalism by contrast. In Part three, I try to supply at least the beginnings of a religious perspective on democratic capitalism.”

Novak comments in the introduction to the book that he was a democratic socialist. He know sees this a unworkable and the second part is devoted to discrediting the concept in theory and practice. As a result, I found Part Two of the book to be the least enjoyable or insightful. Part One provides to foundations of the concept of the trinity of democracy, capitalism and pluralism. Part Three is the most theoretical of the three sections and for me, was an indictment of widely held theological concepts that have kept areas like South America impoverished.

No short book review like this can do justice to this work. It is a work that needs to be studied and discussed in depth.

However, the one profound truth that emerges for me from these 460 pages is how delicate the balance is between democratic polity, capitalistic economy and a pluralistic society. And, any attempt to change this balance ought to be viewed with alarm, because I just believe that people in power are not thinking of our pluralistic, democratic, capitalistic system as a whole.

He does not cover the social technologies that extreme democracy covers. Almost in passing, he states, “…in a world of instantaneous, universal mass communications, the balance of power has shifted. Ideas, always a part of reality, have today acquired power greater that that of reality.”

Ideas are even more important now. And, we have tools beyond the mass communications he mentions. We are all responsible for the careful and thoughtful implementation of these tools to improving our pluralistic, democratic, capitalistic system.

The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
Michael Novak
Madison Books, 1991

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June 14, 2007

First Democracy

Democracy is government by and for the people. That is hardly a definition, but it will do for a start. As a next step, I shall propose that a government is a democracy insofar as it tries to express the seven ideas of this book: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education.”

I really enjoyed this book, and I want to thank Paul Woodruff for making this academic research accessible. I think we need a lot more of this right now. We are in a time period of radical change, when much of what we accepted as “truth” is shifting out from under our feet. During times of great change, it’s wise to relearn the basics. Who are we? What are we all about? And, where do we want to go?

Woodruff opens his introduction with, “Democracy is a beautiful idea – government by and for the people. Democracy promises us the freedom to exercise out highest capacities while it protects us from our worst tendencies. In democracy as it ought to be, all adults are free to chime in, to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together. And no one is left free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse.

Like many beautiful ideas, however, democracy travels through our minds shadowed by its doubles – bad ideas that are close enough to easily mistaken for the real thing. Democracy has many doubles, but the most seductive is majority rule, and this is not democracy. It is merely government by and for the majority.”

So Woodruff goes back to the first democracy – the ancient Athenians. He traces the development of the first democracy and describes its principles. Voting, majority rule, and elected representatives are generally accepted ideas in American democracy, but they were not part of the first democracy.

“These three doubles are not democracy. Voting is not, by itself, democratic. Majority rule is positively undemocratic. And, elected representation makes for serious problems in democracy. I have begun to say what democracy is not. Can I give a positive account?

Democracy is government by and for the people. That is hardly a definition, but it will do for a start. As a next step, I shall propose that a government is a democracy insofar as it tries to express the seven ideas of this book: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education.”

The tools of the first democracy are unique to the time, culture and size of Athens:

1. Legal system: No professional judges or prosecutors. Any citizen could bring charges against another, and any citizen could serve on panels of judges that correspond to both our judges and juries.
2. Governing body: The Assembly consisted of the first 6,000 men to arrive at the Pnyx (a hillside not far from the Acropolis)
3. Checks on majority rule: The powers of the assembly were limited by law.
4. Lottery: The lottery, chosen equally fro the ten tribes, was used for juries, for Council of the 500, and for the legislative panel.
5. Elections: Some important positions were filled by election, especially those that required expert knowledge in military or financial affairs.
6. Accountability: On leaving office, a magistrate would have his record examined in a process called euthunai (setting things straight)

Woodruff describes the progression of ideas that preceded the Athenian democracy. Then he devotes a chapter to each of principles of the first democracy:

1. Freedom from Tyranny: “Tyrant (tyrannos) was not always a fearful word, and freedom (eleutheria) was not always associated with democracy. The two shifts in ideas were gradual and simultaneous. By the time democracy was mature, Athenians at least knew what they meant by tyranny – a kind of rule to be avoided at all costs. And, in contract to that, they knew what they meant by freedom. These two ideas we have inherited. And they are priceless.” Woodruff writes. “No one sleeps well in tyranny,” he continues. “Because the tyrant knows no law, he is a terror to his people. And, he lives in terror of his people, because he has taught them to be lawless. The fear he instills in others is close cousin to the fear he must live with himself, for the violence by which he rules could easily be turned against him.” He warns that democracy itself can be come tyrannical, the tyranny of the majority, “…democracy could be come a tyranny of hoi polloi, literally, of the many.” In Athens this became to mean the poor who banded together, acting as tyrants, supporting the interests of the poor over the rich. This led to a two party system, as the rich banded together to form the party of the few (hoi oligoi), the oligarchs. “If the people’s party went too far towards tyranny, then the oligarchs plotted civil war. If the oligarchs succeeded in gaining power, then, the people’s party would withdraw to plot their own violent return.” The Athenians recognized this oscillation and came to agreements to limit the rise of tyranny.
2. Harmony: “Without harmony there is no democracy.” Woodson comments. “What would government FOR the people mean if the people are so badly divided that there is nothing they want together? Without harmony the government rules in the interests of one group at the expense of another. If harmony fails, many people have no reason to take part in government; others conclude that they must achieve their goals outside of democratic politics altogether; or, violence, or even the threat of terror.”
3. The Rule of Law (Nomos): “When law is the ruler, no one is above the law. This seems like an idea that everyone would welcome, but in truth if has had many enemies, and still does. Individuals are always looking for ways to put themselves or their government above the law. Big business seeks endless protections against the law, world leaders scoff at international law, and ordinary citizens see nothing wrong with obstructing justice.”
4. Natural Equality: “James Madison did not believe in the equality of the rich and poor, and so he and other founders of the United States Constitution made sure that the rich would have greater power than the poor. Voters would have to show that they enjoyed a certain level of wealth. Not so in democratic Athens. Penniless citizens – and there were many of these – insisted that they should be free to take part in their government. They went to battle for this. And they won.”
5. Citizen Wisdom: “In First Democracy, ordinary people were asked to use their wisdom to pass judgment on their leaders.” Woodruff concludes, “…the heart of democracy is the idea that ordinary people have the wisdom to govern themselves.”
6. Reasoning Without Knowledge: “Reasoning without knowledge is essential in government,” he writes. “Doing it well requires open debate. Doing it poorly is the fault of leaders who silence opposition, conceal the basis of their reasoning, or pretend to an authority that does not belong to them.”
7. Education (Paideia): “Paideia is the lifeblood of democracy,” he writes. “…paideia should give a citizen the wisdom to judge what he is told by people who do claim to be experts. So we should call it super-expert-education.”

Woodruff concludes the book with an afterword entitled Are Americans Ready for Domocracy? wherein he takes each of the principles and asks questions about the present state of democracy in America. He ends the book with, “Are we ready to shake off the idea that we are already a perfect exemplar of democracy? Are we ready to put the goals of democracy foremost in our political minds, as many Athenians did? Are we ready to admit our mistakes and learn from them, as they did? Most important, are we ready to keep the great dream alive, the dream of a government of the people, by the people and for the people?”

First Democracy: the Challenge of an Ancient Idea, Paul Woodruff, Oxford University Press, 2005

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June 11, 2007

Extreme Democracy Discussion Series

Texas Forums and the Central Texas World Future Society are hosting a series of twelve online discussions on the essays compiled in the book, Extreme Democracy beginning June 18. The purpose of these discussions is to explore the principles and technologies of Extreme Democracies, and to explore how these concepts and technologies are affecting our own social change efforts, our democracy, and the upcoming election.

For more information visit the Texas Forum's blog. Or you can read a syllabus.

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