Active Citizen course: recap

Notes from the Active Citizen course


Three spheres of democracy

Political sphere
  • encompasses government, elections, and participation in political life
  • political involvement is public information
  • political life is a combination of voluntary and required actions
  • buying things
  • investments
  • marketplace participation is unavoidable: marketplace activism (ie, boycotting companies) is voluntary and mostly private
Civil society
  • nonprofit organizations, sports clubs, neighborhood groups, protest organizations, & community, trade, or professional associations
  • civil society participation is private information

Why digital matters

  1. nature of digital data
    • two copies of it
    • non-rival and non-excludable good: many people can use an item at the same time AND it’s hard to restrict access to that item
  2. nature of the network
    • quantity of information that can be stored (infrastructure)
    • involvement of third parties
    • see for more info
    • civil society needs to function as an independent space, separate from markets and from government
    • where we are now: digital infrastructure built by private companies and controlled by government

Digital political engagement

  • TurboVote: online voter registration
  • MapLight: track donations to political campaigns
  • find like-minded folks to connect on various social issues
  • publishes and shares materials in the public domain in the US and around the world
  • OSET Foundation: open source election technology
  • signing petitions
  • using hashtags
  • online tools used for offline organizing
  • positive: helps groups to grow in size and gain momentum faster than not using digital tools; negative: alerts adversaries to your actions

One of my favorite videos from the course:


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