Wiki Politics


Earlier this year Jefferson Smith, cofounder of the Oregon Bus Project came and spoke at Pomona. I found his talk very interesting, but one thing in particular really resonated with me. In his words, "There are two words that I've heard floating around that interest me more than anything else right now. Those two words are 'wiki politics.'"

That, to me, seems like the ultimate use of the wiki technology. Granted, the idea is impractical, poorly thought through, and just flat-out frightening, but it's worth thinking about. Supporters of the idea would consider it the purest form of democracy. Imagine it: a wiki Constitution, which the masses could mold to be whatever they'd like.

Anyway, I searched the web for the idea. Wikocracy tries this idea on for size in a style most in-line with how I imagine the idea. Wikitution aims to create a constitution for the EU, but seems to take itself a bit too seriously. I ran into another, more reasonable example of governance by wiki: Hampshire College's "Community Norms," a sort of basic handbook of rules/policy, which will apparently be in wiki format starting this semester.

I find this all fascinating. Sure, it seems crazy now, but are we moving in this direction?

The US Constitution has some specific practices and rules to follow but I believe that the majority of it is idealistic, abstract, and theoretical. (eg. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness).

Because of the abstract nature of the Constitution, our current system of government has deviated from its ideals. For example, the Constitution does not call for the creation of political parties.

I feel that your idea of a Wiki-Constitution is interesting but probably would not be implemented very well. In addition, it probably would not be considered the purest form of democracy because not everyone has access to the internet. They would have no say in the creation of these Wiki-laws.

The other problem is the old argument of how people can abuse their freedom. People can vandalize anything in the Wiki-Constitution which could lead to anarchy.

I think Wikis could be used for adding amendments to our Constitution but definitely not a whole new written document. The original premise must remain intact. Of course, I can see this being abused as well

I generally agree with you that these ideas are too far out there -- I was primarily trying to stir up the pot, BUT...

I don't like the argument "The other problem is the old argument of how people can abuse their freedom. People can vandalize anything in the Wiki-Constitution which could lead to anarchy." In theory you would think so, but the whole point is that this doesn't happen. Vandals, the sort of "anarchists" of the online encyclopedia world, do not successfully turn Wikipedia into chaos. It has a pretty incredible user-powered system to squash vandals, and that's what makes it work.

I also agree with the securities that Wiki uses to guard against vandals. They are effective, but we mentioned before in class that the minute you edit something in Wikipedia, it is not automatically found out and switched back.

When we apply this to the idea of a Wiki-Constituion, we can create anarchy. Someone writes on the site that the speed limit is now 80 miles per hour and people will be out doing this after reading it on the Wiki-Constitution. Two hours later, the edit is switched back but think of all the accidents that occur in that time span.

This is probably a really bad example as I do not think that people would believe such an edit (80 MPH, c'mon) but if a Wiki-Constitution is supposed to be effective, any changes to it must be implemented. So I do believe that small scale examples like this one can have widerange effects and create anarchy.

Wikiocracy is such a cool thing. In terms of actually implementing such a thing, I've always been a reluctant proponent of a republican system and less one of direct democracy, so I'd probabyl be against it. I've found that I have zero time to be a good citizen and couldn't really keep up with matters of public policy. For this reason I don't know if it would be such a hot idea; we really do live in a world that I think is too big for that but all the same I don't really trust most of the people who are in charge of our government at all. I found the arguments that Fareed Zakaria put forth about lobbyists very interesting and they made a lot of sense to me. It's especially interesting to see things like the constitutional ammendment which gives artificial intelligences protection under law in wikiocracy; a wiki incubator might be an interesting way to gague public opinion on a particular topic, although I bet it would be ridiculously prone to abuse.

Go to the mall and look around and ask yourself, "Can he or she edit the bill of rights?"...