May 19, 2009

Redesigning The Relationship Between "The Governed" And The Government

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS may not realize it just yet but the power of mass collaboration is changing the relationship between citizens and the state. That relationship is being reshaped by the development of Web 2.0 technologies.

For those interested in learning more about this sea change, I would suggest watching Ivo Gormley's film, "Us Now." (The film lasts around 60 minutes and you can view it below, for free!).

Gormley's optimistic documentary illustrates through many examples and the comments of key thinkers on the subject, how harnessing the power of the Internet for mass collaboration can potentially change society and the distribution of power. The film spends a great deal of time taking a look at forms of behavior where people organize themselves - by voting how to distribute money within a local community, picking the players' positions in a soccer team, or lending money to particular people at low interest rates.

One of the most insightful segments of "Us Now" is on couchsurfing. Couchsurfing.com is a company with only seven employees but it is actually a huge, self-policing organization which facilitates 1,500 people meeting and sleeping at each others' houses, every night.

There is room in this new "collaborative" environment for both the collective wisdom of citizens and the skilled government administrators who lead our various public sector organizations. There are plenty of new government-social media experiments and established politicians are joining the movement - take a look here for an example.

The real challenge for the future is how to interconnect the various forces in this space and put the puzzle together. It will take hard work to figure out, for instance, where current governmental systems need to change, what that change should look like, where the real power ought to reside and what people everywhere will do for themselves.


Us Now from Banyak Films on Vimeo.


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