In the last three days, a convention was organized by the newspaper Liberation in Grenoble, combining conferences, debates and meetings between associations, French political figures, journalists and the public.
I went to a few conferences and a day of debate on the theme of democracy. The conferences were mildly interesting, especially because the number of questions was limited and the themes were not fully explored.
For example, the conference about democracy and Internet was just an hour-long talk between two European deputies, a sociologist and a communication coach for politicians. I was expecting a presentation of the role of Internet in the renewal of democracy, mostly in our western democracies.
For example, in 2005 a large debate opened about the European constitution referendum that was organized by citizen mostly outside political parties. The role of blogs, forums, wikis to summarize for/against arguments, all those new tools that allowed the citizen to get involved in the referendum.
Instead of that, most of the conference was dedicated to the use of Facebook and Twitter by politicians, how it could help them not loose contact with their electorate, in fact, the way these tools allow a new form of political communication and advertising.
There was a short mention of the role of Internet in the political contests in Tunisia and Egypt that lead to Ben Ali living the Tunisia.
Elected representatives feel often threatened by (and therefore, often block) the implication of citizens in decision-making processes. This was a theme discussed during the debate with interesting practical experiments by a mayor of a small city, and about a less satisfying experience in Grenoble linked to the “not in my backyard”.
The representativity of local citizen councils was also discussed, as most inhabitants going there are mostly retired and sometimes only the vocal opponents considering their local problems but not the larger picture.
A lot to think about !
Unfortunately, the last day was, for a “renewal” forum, a bit ironic : the conclusion was done by a group of old, white males. Journalists, politicians that have been ruling this country for years, speaking about renewal of the society !
Once more, the political parties, the main media are at not at the forefront, developing new ideas in the field of democracy, economy… This comes from associations, citizens, researchers.