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Virtual Nation - The Ethics of Interface
December 02, 1994
(extracted from Fort Ord Proposal for Virtual University)

Background: Politics

To develop and model a virtual political process that radically redefines a representative as one whose is responsible for refining the fidelity of their representation by having an ongoing ever more extended and inclusive person to person, real-time and technologically distributed, dialogue with their constituents.

I think learning to employ and extend state of the art distance, distributed and dialogical learning "mediation" systems will create a new kind of infrastructure through which what we mean by "participating" in the political process will also undergo a radical reframe.

I believe a new form of politics will emerge. It will not emerge out of today's governmental system. It will emerge (initially in parallel) through a Virtual Nation (one forming today on the Internet and other large networks)

Its signature difference will be the level of participation possible (granularity and frequency). Its foundational assumption that radically changing the quality of participation possible will effect the dialogue in ways reframing and rehashing issues can no longer address.

The greater the level of participation possible (granularity and frequency) the less political "representation" required - the greater the need for education regarding participation (both how to and substantively about what)

This new relationship will be mediated by technology and technology always effects who uses it - the alphabet effect is a case - voter apathy is a case - not only are we "what we eat" - we become what we use - technology not only effects how humans do things it effects how humans internally relate to and process meanings.

Just as our current governmental systems are a form of technology - a crude form in which the issues of voting (in terms of the range of choice and the frequency of choosing) and representation and lawmaking and executing all reflect a distributed people mediation system (one designed for a kind of representation that was technically possible over 200 years ago [horseback and walking]) a new form of technologically mediating a political body of people is both possible and (as the recent election demonstrates) needed today.

As it is inevitable such a system will form it behooves us to consider its implications for both body politic and the ecology of the bodies & minds who will use it.

In essence I think that the underlying ETHIC of INTERFACE of such a system will be the "COMMON SENSE" and BILL OF RIGHTS of the next generation of government. In addition to the distributed and virtual political constituencies possible "on-line" I propose and think it critical that we establish an experimental virtual space in a common local space: Fort Ord. That we create a community within a community capable of testing out the tools and processes of a new kind of democracy and do it in a learning environment suited to that purpose

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