[Air-l] Petition Tony Blair, online that is

Matthias Trenel matthias.trenel at gmail.com
Tue Nov 21 06:33:41 PST 2006


I have two remarks to this interesting debate - leaving aside the
question of who is delighted (or not) for what reason ;-)

@petitioning without deliberation

Well, even when discussion spaces are missing, having something like
public petitions online does make the current petitioning system more
transparent and accessible - let's not forget to note that - which
feeds well into new forms of more deliberative democracy as well
because other deliberative arenas (e.g. media, or those alternative
discussion spaces Stephen suggested) may pick up the petition issues
and carry them into the public sphere, that in turn can exert
"argumentative control" over the political administrative system (in a
siege-like manner, to speak in Habermas' terms).

However, the lack of discussion spaces on http://petitions.pm.gov.uk
is a disappointment
* given that it would be more convenient for citizens to discuss the
petition issues on the same site (and they would probably want to be
listened to in most direct ways),
* given that state bodies need to transform themselves into more
deliberative institutions as well to meet the challenges of democratic
development
* given that the e-petition-forerunner-system,
http://www.e-petitioner.org.uk, has a discussion space, and
* given that Matthew Taylor himself, the (or an?) outgoing No 10
Strategy adviser, has recently called for more deliberative spaces
rather than more channels for citizens to express their demands:
http://partnerships.typepad.com/civic/2006/11/the_challenge_f.html

@consideration of ePetitions
The flood of petitions (500+ in the first few days) may be viewed as a
success. However, knowing how much ressources it takes to process
petitions, it also undermines the credibility of the
e-petitioning-system at No 10. It is beyond imagination that the No 10
administration can pay attention to an extra 500 petitions that stream
into No10 every couple of days on top of the paper petitions even at
the most rudimentary level. That is, they must have filters in place,
such as number of signatures received or the like, which they need to
make transparent to maintain credibility - and credibility is probably
the most important ingredient for success in this realm.

On a further note, which explains my interest in this issue, I want
point you to the e-petitioning system at the German Parliament, which
Zebralog is currently evaluating:

Public Petitions at the German Parliament:
Zebralog evaluates pilot project
http://www.zebralog.de/en/000195.html

Greetings, Matthias

PS: I'm going to post this thread to do_consult
(http://groups.dowire.org/groups/consult/index.xml) as well as people
there should be interested in reading this

--

Matthias Trenel
Zebralog e.V.
trenel at zebralog.de
http://www.zebralog.de/en/

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ildiko Kaposi <pphkai01 at phd.ceu.hu>
Date: Nov 18, 2006 11:31 AM
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Petition Tony Blair, online that is
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org


Stephen,

I believe Wainer's 'delight' was ironic at best, even sarcastic -
precisely because he senses political spin behind the initiative.

The more I learn about it, the more it seems like the site is an
exercise in electronic populism. I thought the idea of
push-button/point-n-click panacea for democracy was passe, but your
government appears to think otherwise. It is hard to make predictions,
but if this is an empty exercise, devoid of deliberation or obligations
for the PM to take the petitions into consideration, it will probably
not be a lasting success with British citizens.

Ildiko Kaposi


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Stephen Coleman <S.Coleman at leeds.ac.uk>
Date: Nov 18, 2006 10:33 AM
Subject: [Air-l] Petition Tony Blair, online that is
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org


I don't share Wainer Lusoli's apparent delight at the arrival of the
Ten Downing Street e-petitions tool. From a political perspective, one
might ask why citizens are being urged to petition the Prime Minister,
when the UK's system of government is not presidential, but
parliamentary. More significantly, this technology has been built so
that people are only allowed to sign petitions, but not discuss them.
Unlike the Scottish Parliament's e-petitions, public deliberation is
prohibited. This leads to a narrow notion of democracy without
discussion in which petitions can claim neither representative nor
deliberative legitimacy. >From the perspective of internet research,
this is an interesting illustration of how political design can
undermine technical potential.

Contrast this with the great tradition of political petitioning that
has existed in Britain since the late thirteenth century. The
Chartists of the mid-nineteenth-century  did not make a political
impact by collecting signatures, but by holding mass meetings to
discuss the cause of their petition. Imagine iif the Chartists - or
the disarmament movement of the 1960s - had been allowed only to plead
with the Prime Minister rather than assemble, deliberate and develop
their own convictions.

Citizens sending petitions via this new e-tool should be encouraged to
subvert its intended restrictive use by setting up an alternative web
space in which propositions can be openly discussed and revised.

Stephen Coleman,
Professor of Political Communication,
Institute of Communications Studies,
University of Leeds


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: W.Lusoli at lse.ac.uk <W.Lusoli at lse.ac.uk>
Date: Nov 17, 2006 4:49 PM
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Petition Tony Blair, online that is
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org


Hi Ildico - thanks for this.

well, a number of reasons really. First that the PM is a
self-confessed technophobe; then because the Tories and Labour are
waging an escalating war on who is reaching out more to the public
using ICTs [Webcameron, Osborne, conservative blogs, Labour' new
campaign space]; then because the website had 500 [500 !!] submissions
in two days; then because it all looks soooo transparent, but is it;
etcetera, etctera and etcetera once more.

My eyes are now sore for the rubbing

Cheers

Wainer


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ildiko Kaposi <pphkai01 at phd.ceu.hu>
Date: Nov 17, 2006 3:31 PM
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Petition Tony Blair, online that is
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org


Wainer,

What's the reason for your disbelief?

I took only a cursory glance at the sight, so I'm not well-informed.
First of all, I don't know what the online petitioning implies exactly,
i.e. whether there are any obligatory consequences for the Right Hon.
Blair or government policy. But online petitioning as such is practised
elsewhere, and e-democracy has been something of a priority for the UK
government, so this seems to fit the pattern.
Am I misreading the initiative?

Ildiko


>>> "Wainer Lusoli" <w.lusoli at lse.ac.uk> 11/17/06 1:56 PM >>>
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/

Still rubbing my eyes in disbelief

Any thoughts, anyone?

Wainer


--------------------------------------------
Wainer Lusoli
http://www.lusoli.info
http://del.icio.us/lusoli
http://www.i-pol.org
--------------------------------------------

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