Kony 2012, Bitcoin, Wikileaks, and the Future of Voting Online.
I’ve spent the past four years helping federal government agencies become more connected with citizens through social media. But even as Twitter usage has skyrocketed since 2008, the obvious question has nagged: Do citizens really want to become more connected to the government? I recently stumbled upon some answers by forming a subversive democratic experiment: the San Diego Burger Mob. Seriously.
For most people, dealing with the government is limited to transactions like applying for a driver’s license, paying taxes, or getting pulled over. Much beyond such necessary inconveniences, an interaction with the government is a sign that something has gone wrong. Nonetheless, many certainly do want to engage with the government. Countless students, activists, and otherwise enthusiastic citizens want to inform policy or otherwise improve how government works. The good news for these people is that social media is driving the cost of organizing to zero. In some cases, that’s bad news for government: Citizens are organizing on the Internet to supplant (Bitcoin) or frustrate (WikiLeaks) official institutions. Certainly, this is not the kind of connection my clients had in mind.
So what’s the point? Beyond simply making government more “social,” can the Internet actually improve policy or the quality of governance?