[Air-L] ask your lawmaker

Murray Turoff murray.turoff at gmail.com
Mon Jan 12 01:57:31 PST 2009

Deborah, I applaud what you did and you might be interested there is a
facebook users group based upon efforts to allow citizens to directly
vote on budget allocations in local government that is receiving some
experimental usage in Italy, it is titled something like participatory
democracy.  It does generate specific dialogues between citizens and
elected official.  One potential improvement is to have some sort of
list of very specific topics of concern to the users and to encourage
group discussions.

The reverse application of allowing lawmakers to ask questions they
need answers for is described below.

Two reports on a system designed to allow state legislative lawmakers
to ask questions of professionals in many different fields and among
the state legislature science advisers, usually volunteers retired, or
representatives of major scientific and engineering societies.
It worked very well for about three years before they ran out of NSF funds.


RR#13  	Guide to the topics system 	Jan. 1981 	Peter Johnson-Lenz,
Trudy Johnson Lenz
RR#14 	The evolution of a tailored communications structure : the
topics system 	Jan. 1981 	Peter Johnson-Lenz, Trudy Johnson Lenz

There was a system set up in text for what you are doing for the Santa
Monica city government in California.  The citizens participated but
many of the elective officials chose to ignore the system.  It is
referenced in the "network nation" book I believe along with related
things like "community memory" in Berkely.

> Message: 1
> Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2009 15:23:19 -0500
> From: "Deborah Elizabeth Finn"
>        <deborah_elizabeth_finn at post.harvard.edu>
> Subject: [Air-L] Just launched: The "Ask Your Lawmaker" widget
> To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
> Message-ID:
>        <3228c2a50901111223s4f0951c5wf7a03cc721d6c59d at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> Dear AIR Colleagues,
> Before I start bubbling over with enthusiasm, I need to make a full
> disclosure:  I serve as a paid consultant to Capitol News Connection
> (CNC).  Urging people to use the Ask Your Lawmaker widget
> <http://askyourlawmaker.org/widget> is part of what I'm paid to do.
> That said, I thought that some of you would be interested in tracking
> or studying this geeky yet populist approach to strengthening
> participatory democracy.
> Capitol News Connection is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism
> organization that is based in Washington, DC.  Ask Your Lawmaker (AYL)
> is one of their online initiatives; constituents from any district in
> the U.S. can pose questions to their senators and representatives by
> posting them to the web site, and then anyone who is interested in
> legislation and policy can go to the site and vote for the questions
> that he or she deems most crucial.  The CNC reporters are conveniently
> headquartered on Capitol Hill, and when a question garners enough
> votes, they go out and ask the legislator(s) to which it is addressed.
> The responses are recorded in broadcast-quality audio, and posted to
> the web.  They are also made available to local public radio stations,
> which are often in need of quotes they can use back in the home
> district when they report on national issues.
> Ask Your Lawmaker is now making a laudable move into Web 2.0 territory
> by offering nonprofit advocacy groups and individual activists a free
> widget that they can use on their own web sites or Facebook pages.
> It's a way for advocates to voice their concerns, and to engage their
> stakeholders in pressing legislators to address an issue,
> This widget is only the beginning. Capitol News Connection is working
> on many more ideas for making national news coverage more
> participatory and holding legislators more accountable to their
> constituents.  In a time when every community activist can also be a
> citizen journalist, and RSS feeds are making it easy to syndicate news
> selectively, Ask Your Lawmaker is poised to become a provider of
> tailor-made news streams for any advocacy group.
> Best regards from Deborah
> P.S.  This post to AIR-L is based on a blog article that I wrote.  You
> can see the article (and the AYL widget that I created for myself) at
> <http://blog.deborah.elizabeth.finn.com/blog/_archives/2009/1/8/4050172.html>
> Deborah Elizabeth Finn
> Cyber-Yenta
> Boston, Massachusetts, USA
> deborah_elizabeth_finn at post.harvard.edu
> www.cyber-yenta.org
> Skype:  Deborah909
> Twitter: Deborah909
> LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah909
> "Nothing softeneth the Arrogance of our Nature
> like a Mixture of some Frailties. It is by them
> that we are best told, that we must not strike
> too hard upon others....They pull our Rage by
> the sleeve and whisper Gentleness to us in our
> censures."
> -George Savile (1633 - 1695)
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> End of Air-L Digest, Vol 54, Issue 12
> *************************************

Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Information Systems, NJIT
homepage: http://is.njit.edu/turoff

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