A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Friday, September 17, 2010

Entry Level to Higher Level; Autocratic to Democratic Forms of Government

In my Digital Civilization class on Thursday we discussed the concept of a walled garden: a centralized authority controlling every aspect of a certain thing, and people must pay a price to have access to it. Apple was cited as an example of one such walled garden; its applications are often much more user friendly than those of PCs because Apple has control over every aspect of its products and is able to make them work together to the entry-level user's advantage.

Dr. Zappala, one of my professors, mentioned that often people use Apple's entry-level features as a starting point, and then as they gain confidence, they move on to something a little more complicated. We also discussed open vs. closed government in this class period, and that got me thinking:
Don't we see the shift from entry level (autocratic: people have little say) to higher level (democratic: people have much more say) with government too?

 We see in American history the shift from colonies under the British crown to an independent nation with a democratic republic form of government. Of course, we are not a true democracy, because to have every citizen give an opinion on every issue would be far too inefficient and cumbersome.

Or would it?

With the advent of the technological age and social media, open government, with its platform of maintaining that "administration should be opened at all levels to effective public scrutiny and oversight" (Wikipedia) has become a much more feasible concept. With Internet and the myriad of social networking tools available today, we can access a nearly limitless amount of information quickly and easily. No one can deny that open government would be a more democratic form, since citizens would have more valuable input as they participate politically because they would know better what the government is doing and what they would like to do about it.

Just like the invention of the printing press c1450 was revolutionary and sparked the challenge of political, social, and religious institutions, we are seeing the digital world revolutionize our own political institutions. Change is inevitable; the question lies in what form that change will take. It will be interesting to see the extent of government information made public through the Internet, and whether or not people will take advantage of that information and use it to make more educated political decisions.


  1. People give their opinion every time they vote. That's one way of limiting the need for everyone to communicate. When people agree on one area of thought on facebook, they give a thumbs up. No more is needed. Not everyone needs to communicate in length; thank goodness! My father, bless his soul, can analyze, talk and tell stories until 3 o'clock in the morning and so can all his children now. My point is that people may be communicating more than we realize; even when it's just the click of a button telling our congressmen and senators what to vote for. It doesn't have to be long and drawn out. Or you can communicate by not communicating at all.

    Also, your thoughts about moving from an autocratic government to a democracy is exactly what what happens when a parent raises a baby into a functioning adult (well, that is debatable for some). ;)

  2. I like this idea of transitioning governments from autocracy to democracy. We see it in more recent history as many African countries made the switch. But those countries continue to struggle. I know there's no silver bullet, but how do we make the complicated change from baby countries to functioning adult countries?