Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his recent essay that one of the two big choices we currently have to make is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment.
The mission of civic empowerment is not an easy one at any time. But especially in times that our only option is to participate in society digitally, it is a real challenge. The current period of lockdown shows that those with the weakest voice disappear completely from the public debate.
Digital activism is a great way to mobilize masses quickly but it lacks underlying coherence. Digital activism disappears as quickly as it surfaced and is not very effective in influencing its targets. The reason for this seems the same as one of the reasons why we get tired online quicker: a lack of spontaneity in our contact with others. An effective civic movement needs walkability: “The trust that walking and walkability build between neighbors and communities, research has shown, significantly increases civic engagement while at the same time strengthening people’s ability to understand one another.”
What we need is an online participation tool that does not involve one-issue activism but allows for digital walkability. The good practices described in this blog so far, provide for this walkability. The only thing that needs to be added is follow-up modules that allow participants to formulate proposals, present these proposals to policy-makers and provide for mediation in case of a severe difference of opinion on a topic that is deemed important by the participants.