One of the more interesting sections of the Change.gov website built by the incoming Obama administration is the Citizen’s Briefing Book. It’s essentially a kind of Digg-like system where registered users can pick policies and issues to vote upwards or downwards on an ordered list, the idea being that the matters that matter the most will rise to the top, presumably to have attention paid to them by policy makers. [image by ajagendorf25]
It’s an intriguing idea, very typical of the Obama crew, and a tentative step toward a more atomised and participatory form of democracy that might effectively engage those who, traditionally, have been least engaged by politics in recent times. The downswing being, of course, that it’s effectively a crude kind of popularity contest, as Steven Johnson pointed out at BoingBoing:
Right now, the top three most popular proposals are: 1) Ending Marijuana Prohibition, 2) Bullet Trains and Light Rail, and 3) An End To Government Sponsored School Abstinence Programs. In other words, what the people want are stoned kids having sex on bullet trains. Sounds about right to me!
To be totally clear, those are three policies that – were I an American citizen – I would certainly support; it’s just that given the current state of the world in general and the US in particular, I don’t think they are really the hot-button issues that most need to be addressed…
Of course, the Citizen’s Briefing Book is only a type of polling mechanism rather than a direct lever on the policy machine. I only hope for the sake of all Americans it doesn’t become as farcical an echo-chamber of petty idiots as the Downing Street Petitions site. Or Digg, for that matter.