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Emergent democracy refers to the rise of political structures and behaviors without central planning and by the action of many individual participants, especially when mediated by the Internet. More recently, Clay Shirky has referred to this as "the power of organizing without organizations."[1] The term was coined to stand in contrast to more traditional forms of democracy, such as representational democracy and direct democracy. The phrase draws upon emergence theory for the idea that the simple actions of individuals can collectively create complex and unpredictable results, as when the behavior of termites results in large, efficient nests beyond the comprehension of any individual participant.

In the paper that first drew attention to the term,[2] Joi Ito expresses a hope that the Internet, as a large and decentralized network, will enable innovative responses by citizens to highly complex problems. From its outset, emergent democracy has been seen arising most clearly among bloggers who, as a decentralized network of writers, can provide a fuller airing and development of ideas than can the relatively limited resources of traditional media.[3] Supporters of the idea point to instances in which bloggers have brought about political change by posting about issues that mainstream media had not paid much attention to. The canonical example of emergent democracy was the December 2002 resignation of Trent Lott as Senate majority leader after bloggers publicized his praising of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for the presidency.[4][5]


Ito had been vocal about issues with Japanese democracy, and had spoken at Davos about how broken he felt Japanese democracy was. "Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues," he posted. "These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context." [6] He organized a group effort to discuss and document the emergent democracy concept, using a term initially coined by Ross Mayfield. He announced meetings on his weblog, inviting his readers to attend a conference call that was augmented by IRC chat for posting realtime visual cues and backchannel conversation, and a wiki for gathering notes from the call. This "multimodal" approach was called a "happening" by Ross Mayfield.[7] The conversation resulted in Ito's online article that generated discussions about the potential for weblogs and other social software tools to have an impact on participation in governance. The discussion and notes were captured in a paper that was placed on a wiki for collaborative editing and enhancement. Jon Lebkowsky edited the wiki version, and published it as a chapter in the 2005 book Extreme Democracy.[8] A "teach-in" on that topic was held on February 9, 2004 as part of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.[9] The emergent democracy paper was incubated within the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies framework along with Tim O'Reilly's "What is Web 2.0"; the two can be considered as seminal works that influenced the emergence of today's social web.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shirky, Clay (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. The Penguin Press HC. p. Subtitle. ISBN 1-59420-153-6. 
  2. ^ Joi Ito (2003-02-13). "a "EmergentDemocracyPaper"". Retrieved March 5, 2007. 
  3. ^ Gillmor, Dan (2006). We the Media. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-10227-5. 
  4. ^ Gillmor, pp. 44–45
  5. ^ Shirky, pp. 61–66
  6. ^ Joi Ito (2004-02-22). "Caring about the rest of the world". Retrieved February 22, 2004. 
  7. ^ Joi Ito (2003-04-29). ""happening" on "emergent democracy"". Retrieved March 5, 2007. 
  8. ^ Lebkowsky, Jon (2005). Extreme Democracy. Lulu.com. ISBN 1-4116-3139-0. 
  9. ^ O'Reilly Publishing (2004-02-09). "Digital Democracy Teach-In". Retrieved February 9, 2004. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergent_democracy — Please support Wikipedia.
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43 news items

Himalayan Times

Himalayan Times
Wed, 23 Sep 2015 13:26:15 -0700

The newly emergent democracy of Nepal, although plagued by several shortcomings and criticisms; has taken the right path by establishing secularism in her constitution adopted on September 20. It is necessary to separate state and religion for the ...
Sun, 27 Sep 2015 13:15:00 -0700

So, with her experience at the Fordham Law School where she lectured on "The Dynamic of Law and Development in Ghana: The Case for Judicial Reform in an Emergent Democracy," Chief Wood ought to be able to find a solid legal principle or two to guide ...
Himalayan Times
Mon, 21 Sep 2015 13:15:00 -0700

However, the lack of cooperation and coordination among the various political parties of Nepal is destroying and closing doors of opportunities for the nation, simultaneously portraying a dismal image of this newly emergent democracy to the global ...
The Ferret (registration)
Mon, 20 Jul 2015 02:32:16 -0700

A fledgling, emergent democracy like Scotland needs to develop the highest standards of investigative journalism to protect and nurture itself.” Karine Polwart said: “Collectively we can't take responsibility for governing ourselves in a just and ...

Washington Post (blog)

Washington Post (blog)
Mon, 01 Jun 2015 08:19:15 -0700

Responses revealed that the tension between balancing civil liberties and security concerns divides the Tunisian electorate and deeply colors views of its emergent democracy. Security issues, many of which predate the fall of former President Zine el ...

Wichita Eagle

Wichita Eagle
Sun, 26 Jul 2015 05:22:30 -0700

Each of these classic texts exhibits a polyglot argot drawn from biblical language, a melting pot of “frontier” tongues, local slang and the sometimes peculiar linguistic drama of emergent democracy (“Leaves”), whaling (“Moby-Dick”) or southern slave ...
Gant Daily
Tue, 08 Sep 2015 15:52:30 -0700

Yet she still intervened into daily life with gusto, writing letters to newspapers about matters that concerned her and publishing two collections of her diaries. Queen Victoria lived in an age when the monarchy was straightjacketed by an emergent ...


Thu, 19 Mar 2015 07:45:23 -0700

In a move that bolstered Tunisia's claim to a strong civil society and relatively successful democratic transition, thousands of citizens flocked to the streets to express outrage at Wednesday's Bardo museum attack in Tunis. Crowds amassed in the ...

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