Almost Like Democracy

Can +500 million people find ways to discuss, vote and agree online?

Doing research on how social networks experiment with ways to let people like, rate, vote, share, discuss and agree in new ways online, I came to think of the EU and if it might be possible to find inspiration in social media systems to make a lot of different cultures and ideas come together

EU flag with like hands
To agree vs. to like, is it different?

Sketched up this drawing when I came to think about how the EU (European Community) is trying to figure out how to let +500 million people from 28 different countries, with diverse cultures, languages, national systems and levels of technology work together – and still like it

There are at least a handful of different ways the social media make space for people to state their viewpoints and discuss subjects that are important to them, here are some of the most well-known:

  • Liking: The classic way to show your support for an idea or view-point
  • Disliking: Turning an idea down, used on Youtube as one of the most prominent examples
  • Rating: A more differentiated ways to state your opinion (ex. giving a number of stars from 1-5)
  • Voting: Most often between two or more pre-listed options
  • Rise or lower: Clicking arrows up or down you can influence how prominent a statement is shown (ex. Reddit)
  • Posting/sharing: By posting articles, links, badges, images or strings of code or sentences you help share them and make them popular
  • Signing up/in: Becoming members of groups, follow pages and communities you show your opinion
  • Petitions: creating, sharing and signing petitions online
  • Clicking: Images, sentences, statements – the more clicks, the more popular
  • Making Digital events: online seminars, protests, happenings, crowd-actions etc.
  • Ambassadors: Making yourself visible as a supporter of an idea or viewpoint online

How many of these – and many more online techniques that can be adapted to more classic democratic use is still an open question. But as we all spend more and more time online, and less anywhere else I think there are a lot of reasons why these online tools and techniques might soon make it possible for people to influence both EU and other democracies in new ways.

Text and illustration By Frits Ahlefeldt,

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