(Nathan Matias, Matt Stempeck and others at Center for Civic Media have put together an excellent blog post on this event as well – I encourage you to read their post as well.)
Election’s eve at the MIT Media Lab featured a conversation on “Peer to Peer Politics”. The featured guest, Steven Johnson, is the author of an influential new book on rethinking politics, “Future Perfect“. He’s accompanied by some of the leading lights of the participatory politics space, including three Harvard professors: Larry Lessig, Susan Crawford, and Yochai Benkler. On the night before the US election, Aaron Naparstek has brought us together to talk about Steven’s ideas for revitalizing democratic participation.
Johnson leads off talking about his new book and explaining his path from science writer to political writer. In 2001, he wrote a book called Emergence, which focused on bottom-up, emergent systems, a survey of organizations without traditional leaders and hierarchies, which solve complex problems. The book includes discussions of ants, the commenting system on Slashdot, Jane Jacobs’s reflections on functioning communities, and ended with a brief nod towards WTO protest movements, movements without a clear leader or figurehead.
It wasn’t really a book on politics. But he started reading lots of blog posts from Joi Ito on the idea of “emergent democracy”, how projects like open source software might influence political systems. Steven felt a kinship between the ideas he was working on with emergence and those Joi and others were identifying in politics. His new book, “Future Perfect”, takes these questions on directly.
Steven explains that we, as a society, seem to have agreed that there are a few basic ways of organizing human beings. We point to these methods with little explanation: the state, the market, the corporation. It’s possible that there’s a new organizing approach, neither a traditional state or a traditional market. It’s a peer network.