Reimagining global democracy – the slideshare version

Here’s a quick version of my MA Global Governance paper on global democracy. It’s the same story, but with few words and many photographs. Cos that’s how the internet likes it.



Drawing the social network of digital diplomats

Twiplomats graph (Fruchterman-R)
The entire Twiplomacy network graphed and laid out in aesthetically-pleasing fashion. Click on the image for a version you might actually be able to read. A link to a PDF version is at the bottom of this article.

Inspired by Lada Adamic‘s excellent Coursera on Social Network Analysis I thought it might be interesting to try to graph the network of Twiplomats – the world leaders or diplomats on twitter. Simply to see who follows who, who the central nodes in the network are, and whether hubs or communities have developed.


Towards a UN social media strategy

As well as writing my MA dissertation, I spent this summer interning with the United Nations Department for Public Information. And in particular with the social media ‘focal point’ in that department.

It made a lot of sense – I love a bit of a digital communication, I’m passionate about global affairs and I think social media changes the way the world will be governed.

The UN – in its central role as an inter-national organisation – is a particularly old-fashioned way of governing the world, but one that, by virtue of its wide membership is often said to be the most ‘legitimate’ way of setting global rules. (As opposed to something like the G20, for example.)

But legitimacy is granted by the public in complex ways, and if the UN doesn’t open up or engage with people on a more personal level, I believe it will struggle to remain relevant.


Transparency is about people

Numbers are all well and good. But we’re not perfect robot machines. That’d be weird.

People take decisions. Beautiful, irrational people. So transparency in organisations can’t only be about publishing vast amounts of data and hoping for the best.

We have to know who is taking the decisions. And who influenced the people that took the decisions. And whether they took the decision before or after lunch.

So open data is great. It’s lovely stuff. But if we’re to make institutions transparent, it’s going to be about people.

Very few people actually engage with numbers. People engage with people. So if we’re looking for public involvement, participation in or scrutiny of global governance institutions, then the people who work for global institutions are going to have to publish who they meet with, what they’re thinking, what they’re reading. What gets them fired up at work; what they worry about. What they’re doing, right now. 


If twitter is a global quasi-public good, shouldn’t it be publicly funded?

Lighthouse CC reNET via Flickror Why Twitter’s Like a Lighthouse

The story of The Independent journalist suspended for, erm, tweeting wrongly, has again drawn attention to a fundamental problem with twitter (and social media generally).

Twitter is providing, I would argue, an incredibly important, revolutionising, digital public square (more on that in my MA thesis, to be published here um soonish). But it’s a privately run platform. It has to make a profit from its sponsors, such as NBC.

As Alex Howard tweeted:

“The “new public square” online is complicated by the fact that “platforms” for free expression are owned by private companies. “

As Ben Goldacre tweeted:

Welcome back @guyadams. Twitter’s eagerness to suspend him makes me VERY nervous about investing effort in this place.


How to crowdsource the sustainable development goals

My twitter timeline today was full of people talking about #post2015.

This is another label for discussing what should follow the Millennium Development Goals -whether that’s sustainable development goals or whatever – essentially it’s about setting the global agenda for the next 30 years.

Today’s stuff was sparked by UNDP’s seminar in New York with Amartya Sen (admittedly, great), and post2015 has been on the agenda this week after the UN Sec-Gen announced a High Level Panel on the matter (and civil society pipes up with suggestions) of which UK Prime Minister Cameron is apparently the chair, etc.

But all of this ignores the importance of public participation. The post-MDGs planning offers a great opportunity for creating a legitimate set of goals – i.e. involving the people who the goals will affect – hopefully everyone.

I’ve blogged about why you’d want to crowdsource the next global goals before. Below, I try to guesstimate how it might be done. 


Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to investors – the governance 2.0 bits

The founder and overlord of facebook on social media and governance. Emphasis added.

Whether any of this can really be upheld in the face of demand for profit, whether Zuckerberg had any specific projects in mind – indeed, whether any of it has actually been an objective for facebook since its foundation – remains to be seen.

There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.

We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other.

Even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people.

Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness.

At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.

People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. We believe that this creates a greater number of stronger relationships between people, and that it helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.

By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.


We hope to change how people relate to their governments and social institutions.

We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.

Through this process, we believe that leaders will emerge across all countries who are pro-internet and fight for the rights of their people, including the right to share what they want and the right to access all information that people want to share with them.

Finally, as more of the economy moves towards higher-quality products that are personalized, we also expect to see the emergence of new services that are social by design to address the large worldwide problems we face in job creation, education and health care. We look forward to doing what we can to help this progress.

Full letter via the Guardian

Flickr credit: TonZ