Thursday, February 10, 2005

e-mpowerment: a How-To for the "What do we do?"

What is this blog, "e-mpowerment" really all about? Well, it was formed because of the continued show of power of emergent democracy, all within the realm of the internet (otherwise known as "e-democracy"). The term is a little bit misleading in that it can mean several things at once.

The following is an entry from Wikipedia that uses the term "e-democracy" in a completely different context than the traditional relation to direct democracy, and addresses the very issue at the heart of "e-mpowerment":
  • "Some traditional objections to direct democracy are argued to apply to e-democracy, such as the potential for governance to tend towards populism and demagoguery. More practical objections exist, not least in terms of the digital divide between those with access to the media of e-democracy (mobile phones and Internet connections) and those without, as well as the opportunity cost of expenditure on e-democracy innovations."

Obviously we're not talking in terms of direct democracy here, but more about the transcendent nature of the democratic process within the internet. People who otherwise would have had no voice suddenly have one. People who would've formerly had no idea who to connect with in their community finally have somewhere to go. And more importantly, people not only have a voice, but can see and hear what real people in the real world think about real issues. There's no doubt that the internet is transforming the democratic process for everyone, left and right, far and wide, and that there's no turning back.

But this doesn't mean that we just sit around and wait for something to happen. There needs to be some sort of catalyst. Plus, there must be an ease-of-use factor involved. Thus, this blog was created. It's intended to exist as a sort of "one-stop shop" for people truly interested in extending democracy to everyone. This is the catalyst to bridging the digital divide.

The things that should be done are relatively simple:

  • First thing's first - this blog is just the beginning. By no means is this the be all and end all of this process.
  • There needs to be a Wiki. (Unfortunately, I'm a poor college student who lacks the funds to create another site and host it. If anyone can help with this, please...)
  • Organization. I'm already trying to get a group started on MeetUp.com, but the GetLocal tools developed during the Dean campaign (now at CivicSpace Labs) are a much better way to get at the heart of things. This is an additional problem that goes along with the page required for the Wiki (I'm poor).

The CivicSpace Labs tools are amazing. They allow for community organization and outreach, even in terms of fundraising, as well as the ability to organize actual events and meetings. Pair this with the Wiki and a blog, and you've got yourself an entire grassroots movement FOR a grassroots movement. It encourages participation as a means AND as an end; in that, it cannot fail.

The process of actually getting capital (cash and computers) where it needs to go can work a little something like this:

  • Participants go about traditional fundraising, coupled with the individually-propelled fundraising that's becoming inherent in a movement of this nature.
  • Participants (including those targeted by direct means) donate old and unneeded computer equipment. Think BIG. You know those computers law firms throw out when they update their entire system? Go get 'em. Even the FreeCycle page is a place to start.

Hopefully this will evolve more as an open-source movement and bigger and better ideas will come to the table.

And last but not least, helping people understand that the computer is not just another talking box:

  • The Wiki proposed earlier on can serve as a place where people put a bunch of links to other sites on how best to use the internet to their advantage, as a means of making their participation in democracy better.
  • We can create our OWN page on how to make better use of the internet. With a bunch of people working together, we can get the most information across using the simplest means, without overloading the folks at home.
  • Real literature. Paper leaflets. "How to Make the Internet Work for You." It's simple, yet effective.
  • Information sessions hosted by real people for real people. Put 'em both online and off. Hold them at a local starbucks, or show them how to do it right from the comfort of their own home just by giving them a link.

All of the above can all work together to create one cohesive whole. And hopefully soon the concept of "bridging the digital divide" will be nothing more than a faint memory. Right now its estimated that 27% of American people read blogs. With any luck we can at least triple that number, both by giving people who never had a computer more democratic power than they ever thought possible, and by giving those who never saw past the TV mentality a real vision of the internet. This isn't just about creating a site or a community. It's about building a better America from the ground up. We have the ability to re-inspire America and restore democracy; now let's do it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

...in my idealistic dreaming I came up with a "solution" to the world's problems. I admittedly had my head in the clouds, all the while ignoring my own generation's intriguing little toy (the Internet.)

My solution.

Alot of people criticized me for it. They were right, but oh for all the wrong reasons.

Just like I've said, the majority of people still see things in the light of their TV. It's all top-down, all one-to-many. But we've slowly gotten a taste of the power of many to many, the one-to-one-to-two to a thousand, and most importantly - many to one. We've regained our collective voice. Now is not the time to stop, but to step back for a moment, clear our throat, and then move.

Now is the time to act.

Hopefully very soon I'll have a group called "e-mpowerment" (creative, eh?) up on MeetUp.com, so in the off-chance you're one of the two people reading this, get on and start a group wherever you are. Tell people about it, and encourage them to tell more people. I'm not trying to make this about me like I did once upon a time, however indirectly; it's about us.

Now let's roll.

The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head

Here it is. The reason for this entire blog.

Jim Moore's The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head.

Originally, a few months ago, I thought that I was a genius. What better way to get people re-interest in democracy than create an open-source, bottom-up website (of all things) to make it all come true? I even created a name for it in my mind: OpenWorld. Yet I had very little idea that this was actually happening across the internet (indeed, across the world - even some of the brass in Iran are joining in).

So in the spirit of this grassroots attempt to lift democracy back up to its former glory, I have created this blog. It may exist as just one more connector in this vast network, but I hope it'll do its part well.

E-mpowerment (pronounced ee - empowerment) is all about trying to get EVERYONE involved. From your grandmother down to your grandson, the power of the internet must be extended to absolutely every person.

Now let's get down to business. Let's get people who don't have phone service some phone service. Then let's get 'em some inexpensive computers. You don't want your computer anymore, "freecycle" it to someone who does! Let's give people some inexpensive internet. This is kind of like an ironic, uncorporatised version of that NetZero commercial.

I'm Candidate Zero.

And this is your campaign.