[Air-L] Defining terms: "Democracy 2.0"

Joseph Reagle reagle at mit.edu
Fri Jan 23 11:21:10 PST 2009

On Friday 23 January 2009, Julia Pellicciaro wrote:
> > Democracy 2.0 is an experiment that hypothesizes that a wide range of
> > individuals can contribute to the creation of our nation's laws through a
> > wiki on the web. Democracy 2.0 hopes to answer the following question: if
> > the country started from scratch today, without any laws, what laws would
> > you make for society?

Since I follow the (often silly) "2.0" phenomena in my work on Wikipedia, I made note of the original description from their site in December 2005, which gives a little extra info:

Democracy 2.0 is a Wikilaw experiment that hypothesizes that a wide range of individuals, not just politicians and special interest groups, can contribute to the creation of our nation's laws. All laws listed in this section are the collaborative effort of the Democracy 2.0 community. The site aggregates the viewpoints of all users, after a large number of edits, to reach a consensus on what laws society should impose on us. \acite{Wikilaw2005d2w}

> I've also searched "Democracry 2.0" on BoingBoing, ReadWriteWeb, and
> Technorati. While the term is actively used as a tag on Technorati (as well
> as a related tags,"Government 2.0" and "Open Source Democracy"), the other
> two sites yielded null search results. There are also no entries yet on
> UrbanDictionary.com.

Rushkoff coined "Open Source Democracy" in 2003. (References to many of the "open foo" neologisms are provided in:

> *So my two-prong question for you is as follows:*
> 1. What are your thoughts (as tech savvy researchers) on the term "Democracy
> 2.0" and similar terms "Government 2.0" and "Open Source Democracy" (and are
> there any other synonyms in use)?

Best to think about and specify what you think is novel and what is the same. With "Web 2.0" O'Reilly got himself in the pickle of admitting that ironically many of the most famous 2.0 sites existed before the 90s bubble collapsed -- the alleged demarcation the term was intended to make -- and Berners-Lee's original Web was the first 2.0 app!

> 2. How do we as internet researchers determine the validity of such terms in
> our temperamental social-networked information age? In what cases should we
> define terms and in what cases do we allow the Internet public to define
> terms?

It's naturally for pundits and thinkers to create new buzz words, some stick and people then attempt to further define what they mean, and sometimes this is a significant contribution. Sometimes it's lost to the ether. (I was sometimes frustrated that the term "social protocol" was preempted by "social software" but both now seem destined for the bit bucket.) I consider the Open Source Definition and Free Software Definition to be two such lasting contributions. I'm still not sure about the utility of "Freedom 0", but that too is a largely forgotten conversation now.

I imagine the more theoretically inclined might have something to say on the emergence and establishment of such terms in discourse (e.g., Dawkin's memetics, Bourdieu's field, Pinch and Bijker's stabilization). In the new media space the following might be of interest:

Rullani: Free and Open Source Software and reflexive identity (which makes use of Habermas):
Lourenco: wikis and political discourse formation:

As a scholar, I feel I'm along for the ride: documenting and commenting in some historical or analytical context, maybe even clarifying/contributing where I can.

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