[en]Forcing Synergy

While refor­mat­ting my work PC today, I browsed around the inter­net look­ing for thoughts on e-gov­ern­ment and design. I came across an inter­est­ing research brief by Peter Muhlberg­er enti­tled Should E-Gov­ern­ment Design for Cit­i­zen Par­tic­i­pa­tion? Stealth Democ­ra­cy and Delib­er­a­tion [Abstract] [PDF]. He has a few oth­er papers that look down the alley I’m inter­est­ed in read­ing as well.

This paper posits that Amer­i­can cit­i­zen apa­thy and dis­en­fran­chise­ment with gov­ern­ment are not due to cit­i­zens’ pref­er­ence for the appear­ance of oli­garchy as democ­ra­cy or a belief in gen­er­al con­sen­sus, [a view cov­ered in detail in a book called Stealth Democ­ra­cy] but is the result of a psy­cho­log­i­cal effect; Amer­i­can cit­i­zens are gen­er­al­ly lin­ear thinkers, not sys­temic ones, which makes it dif­fi­cult [and there­fore less inter­est­ing] for them to engage in polit­i­cal and gov­ern­men­tal process­es.

He has some data to sup­port this [nat­u­ral­ly] and comes to the con­clu­sion that eGov­ern­ment has the abil­i­ty to enhance, and there­by improve the pol­i­cy-mak­ing process, as well as oth­er gov­ern­men­tal actions by allow­ing space for cit­i­zen dis­course in a non-intru­sive man­ner, cou­ple with a few spe­cif­ic require­ments. That’s all very good, but it doesn’t address the fact that pro­vid­ing space for cit­i­zen input is often the last thing that gov­ern­ment [as bureau­cra­cy] wants to do. Pos­si­ble avenues for crit­i­cism [such as open dis­course] are dis­cour­aged, or fun­neled into con­trolled, lim­it­ed set­tings [the media] where things like spin and talk­ing points can effec­tive­ly neu­tral­ize them. So while the oppor­tu­ni­ty exists for eGov assis­tance in cit­i­zen involve­ment, Muhlberg­er doesn’t offer any tips or tricks for con­vinc­ing gov­ern­ment to behave that way in the first place. An esti­mat­ed increase in effi­cien­cy isn’t going to cut the mus­tard with the con­ser­v­a­tive nature of any gov­ern­ment enti­ty.

The arti­cle was very good though, and I already see par­al­lels with the book I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing: The Ele­ments of Typo­graph­ic Style, which, in addi­tion to being an exhaus­tive ency­clo­pe­dia of typo­graph­ic ter­mi­nol­o­gy, method and his­to­ry, also offers some fun­da­men­tal appli­ca­tions of typo­graph­ic usage and dis­play to assist and enhance user expe­ri­ence. It is also, appro­pri­ate­ly, mar­velous­ly designed.