View Thread > Internet & Society > Internet & Society Conference > Possible Questions to consider
This December, the Berkman Center and some friends are hosting the next in our series of Internet & Society conferences. A placeholder site is here:
This year, we're taking a skeptical look at whether the Internet is transforming politics. We're interested in global themes, in campaigns of all sorts and all levels, and not just the US presidential election.
We'd love your help in pulling together the panels and discussions. What would be most helpful at this stage is to come up with the hardest, most interesting questions that might serve as the organizing principle for a specific panel or discussion session on the primary day of the conference, December 10, 2004. An example might be: 'Are campaigns more effective at engaging young people in campaigns by using Internet technologies?' Give us a better one.
My question is: Can Internet technologies serve to provide the general public with authoritative resources to answer questions about the impact of political elections?
Few would argue that electronic voting protects the individual's right to vote. Yet, there continues to be a willingness to preserve the impression that the right to vote remains. What are the options when a country finds itself facing the reality that it no longer provides it citizens with the right to vote, inserting in its place, a ritual that is meaningless.
An assumption this question implicitly makes is that other technologies and resources have not been able to authoratitively address the impact of political elections. Any discussion on this question should start with asking whether this assumption actually holds, and why.
The public may be vaguely aware of certain problems in the electoral system that have been highlighted by the press, but are they aware of security issues in electronic voting? Or with problems with the first-past-the-post system? Or with the problem of elections being decided within statistical uncertainties? And even if they are acquainted with the existence of these problems, do they understand how they might or might not affect the ability of the electoral system to represent social choice? Or even, and this is scarily important, if it even matters to the public?
After dealing with the above, it is then possible to ask whether the Internet technologies can help. This discussion can cover the influence of political blogs, online media, "urban legends" and mass hysteria in the blogosphere, online and constantly updating pollsters, and publically accessible records on the Internet, such as voting registration records and online and anonymous voter verification (i.e., did the government mark you down as having voted?). Can these things help, or do they harm?