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Democracy Squared: A Digital Revolution That's About to Democratise Democracy

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Trump, Sanders, Corbyn, Farage, Brexit. 2016 saw ‘democratic’ decisions which shook the world. Contradictory and unexpected decisions. I see it as the sign of an antiquated system in desperate need of an overhaul to bring it into the 21st century.

These disparate decisions are to me indicators of a system which lacks nuance and doesn’t allow us to express ourselves other than in binary terms. Red vs blue; in vs out; him vs her. The complexity of the modern world is lost in a largely reductionary format dominated by political parties wedded to pre-determined ideologies rather than enacting the will of the people.

The democratic system has seen little change since Sir Tim Berners-Lee founded the world wide web 25 years ago and it is time for a change. A more direct, more frequent, more human-centred, more participatory form of democracy.

In this book you will hear real cases from 5 tech revolutionaries around the world using the internet to create real alternatives to the current binary system. This is I hope no more, no less than a digital revolution in democratising democracy.

157 pages, Kindle Edition

Published December 13, 2016

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Jon Barnes

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Enid .
100 reviews1 follower
September 12, 2017
DISILLUSIONED BY the current state of our DEMOCRACIES ? Many voters around the world seem to be just that;and so are the authors of this book.
There is plenty in it to make the reader question if, and how and why democracy is currently seen to be failing so many of us, to make consider the political elites, their sense of entitlement and their sense that they know better then the voters, their failure to listen.
Written by two Millenials , the book suggests ways of engaging younger voters through online information, the chance to engage easily via the Internet, to vote more frequently (online) and thus to influence or even dictate policy very quickly.
Five current and stimulating examples from around the world show experimental ,fledging ways which could build a new kind of governing, and demonstrate new ways to enable us all to become part of the political process.
The caveats about fast change quickly rendering some of the ideas outdated is quite correct; indeed, already in France, Macron's government is largely formed of elected representatives from more walks of life than ever before, and not from the traditional political pathways.

I discern three main weaknesses in the conclusions.
Firstly engagement: it is acknowledged that a 30% response to questionnaires or surveys is pretty normal. In Switzerland only very contentious referenda questions have voter turnout of more than 60%. Under 50% is the norm. So, expecting most of the people of any electorate to vote willingly, and at least on a monthly basis,would prove difficult.We are all besieged by so much possible information that choosing what to access or having the time to access properly is a major hurdle. In which case gaining a true picture of the "will of the people" looks really unlikely. Yet this is the goal which the authors are really aiming for.

Secondly, leadership. The suggestion that a country in the future may not need a leader at all is surely historically and anthropologically crazy.Management by committee is a tough ask;the EU's 28 countries cannot all come to agreements fast enough to be effective. A delegate without the power to decide or act or react on his/ her own judgement, but who must first refer back to his/her electorate is far too cumbersome (think of trades union delegates in the UK's recent past). Orwell's Animal Farm and Golding's Lord of the Flies teach us that a group of beings who at the outset have no one leader will either founder badly or a leader will emerge. Such is the nature of us competitive human beings.

Thirdly e-citizens, e-countries. Experience tells us that borderless countries and stateless persons would quickly lead to takeovers,anarchy and wars. And on a practical level in that situation, who funds the policies voted for, to whom does one turn for assistance if ill or when old ? Human beings do not thrive in the sort of limbo put forward; we require a common aim, theme,belief or faith because we are herd animals who operate in groups.

But these points are not to detract from the book's main suggestions which, I would imagine ,and as is put forward at one point, would be best trialled at local level on a small scale.
The propositions put forward by the authors are brave and bold, if sometimes showing a youthful enthusiasm and lack of life experience reminiscent of a student discussions in the bar.
But youth's idealisms are what moves and shakes.

Profile Image for Emily Milton Smith.
1 review46 followers
August 27, 2017
Just brilliant! I’ve been raving about this book to colleagues, family and friends – an incredibly accessible and provocative read. The book explores 5 projects that use Internet technology to hack democracy – all about building truly amazing models of participation and empowerment. If you are ever like me pondering the quirks and opportunities of representative democracy, user participation, and digitally engaged governance, you’ll love this book!

It’s a relatively quick read: I worked through it easily over two cross-continental flights. It hits a fine balance of citizen-journalist meets academic meets blogger in a beautiful way – giving enough meat around some of the technological innovations being championed in these 5 projects (e.g. Blockchain), but not getting bogged down in the mechanics or expertise of the tech, or being arduous in any sort of (over-) explanatory manner.

You get a great sense of the author’s passion for democracy and innovation available through emerging technology. For me, this gets to the heart of what empowerment means, and while the project examples contained in the book operate in the space of public policy and system hacks for existing models of suffrage, there is huge potential for these ideas to cross-pollinate other public and private institutions. So a good nudge of encouragement for anyone to have a read!

Each section has a good overview of the project and his key takeaways – my pages are littered with scribbles expanding on this inspiration as I reflexively considered my context. Jon, the author, situates himself fully in this book – you feel connected to his process of discovery and investigation. As a logical extension of enabling direct democracy – even in this book – Jon employs testimonial story telling, adding colour to each project. You hear from five others – the project leaders – in their words, and you share in their enthusiasm and fervour for change and opportunity. It’s magnetic!

For me, I’m thinking about the applications of hacking democracy in terms of membership based NGOs/NFPs, and community services, and the underwriting methodology of design-thinking/ co-design – especially in regard to young people. I’m passionate about empowering (young/) people to effectively participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

This book guides you through 5 inspirational projects doing just that, enabling civic participation and empowering individuals to organise and collaborate in ways previously unheard, to drive social impact, improve outcomes, and effect real change.

I’ll be buying the book again, as gifts for a group of girls and young women I work with in a community space –knowing this will percolate a whole bunch of amazing ideas and solutions, and truly inspire them. A great price point as well!
Profile Image for Adam Knight.
1 review
September 14, 2017
Jon and I have had many discussions about the state of democracy through the lens of progressive culture, and the impact of the changing technological landscape we are living in. We share a lot of the same views too, so it was with great interest I dived into his first book Democracy Squared.

In short, it's an eye opening, provocative and enriching read. It's written in a style and prose that allow the layperson to get their head around the subject, yet doesn't feel dumbed down at all.

It manages to pull together broad insights, geographically spread ideas and some groundbreaking thinking to leave you aching to answer the question of why exactly democracy still looks like it does.

Through his research, he has interviewed some of those changing the face of democracy around the world, it contains some well known examples, and also uncovers some hidden gems too.

If you care about democracy. If you care about progressive societies. If you care about the world we're going to leave for generations that follow. If you care about the disruptive impact of technology. If you care about any of these things, read this book. Simple.
Profile Image for Mitchell Travers.
1 review1 follower
November 20, 2017
What a fantastic read! Growing up with the internet has produced a fascinating life for my generation, and we are only just beginning to see the results. Our democratic system needs to catch up.

Democracy Squared provides insights on the past, speaks to the protagonists involved and empowers a roadmap for how we are trying to and inevitably will upgrade democracy to the digital era. This book has been an inspiration for me to dive into this process and fueled my passion to build a more effective democratic world.

Highly recommend! This is the kind of book we need anyone and everyone to read, I would lend you my copy only it is full of scribbles and notes and I'd be worried you won't want to give it back!
August 30, 2017
This is a great read for anyone who is interested in how democracy works or doesn't and how we can move our governance into the 21st century using the digital tools available to create a more democratic system of democracy. All 18 year olds should read this so they can feel that democracy is relevant to their lives and they can shape their own world.
May 20, 2019
Democracy squared is a great comprehensive read that anyone can pick up without any prior knowledge about underlying technology.

It starts by simply explaining the principles of blockchain and through case studies focuses on the benefits it can have in an attempt to truly democratise democracy.

It is a great place to start if you want to learn more about this new tech and get inspired with its ability to transform the world we live in.
3 reviews
August 30, 2017
Very inspiring - gave me real hope for our future. Well written, witty, serious and fun (tough to pull off), quick. Read it, mes amis!!
147 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2017
An excellent read. Anyone interested in politics and political engagement should read this, however those in charge of Governments should be FORCED to read it. The future is coming......I hope!
Profile Image for Sara Noronha Ramos.
1 review4 followers
September 13, 2017
Democracy Squared provides a very insightful look into the present, and future of democracy. It helps us understand the changes that technology has facilitated in our societies, and how democracy is yet to follow that progress. It also provides inspiring examples of how the world would look like if we made decisions in a different way. Lastly, the author has chosen to write in a conversational tone, which makes reading the book similar to having a conversation with him and all the change-makers he interviewed.
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