Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Digital Contact, pt. 1

I would say that I am a political scientist. It's not the first thing I do, nor is it the most important, but it's a big part of my life. I've been studying quite a bit about the concept of the "social contract." In its most basic terms, the social contract is a descriptive theory about why human beings choose to join together in civil society and appoint people to lead them. The idea is that before the rise of civil society/government, humans existed in a "state of nature," an amoral place wherein there was a great risk of violent death. Furthermore, in the state of nature there could be no real progression; history was not important because everything, day in and day out, was the same.

The social contract is the agreement between a people and the leader or leaders that they appoint to lead them. The social contract assumes that the people will give up a number of their rights in order to be protected and supplied by the sovereign, or leader. Political scientists have been writing about the social contract for 4oo years. Every new author has an interesting twist or a different viewpoint that furthers the dialogue and contributes to our understanding of the need for government in our modern era.

My intention is to combine extant theoretical notions of the social contract theory with modern network theory and social media to build a framework for the Next Big Step. It is an ambitious project, to be sure, but I think that it is eminently possible.

The basic idea is this: Things have gotten to the point where the traditional systems of government are no longer doing what they were created to do. The growth of communication/globalization has changed the way that people (be they citizens of whatever state) relate to one another and to their leaders. A possible example of the "new way" is Barack Obama's, which provides Web 2.0 functionality to the American government. Whatever the case, we are in a very good position to provide not only a descriptive account of what the new social contract theory will look like, but also a prescriptive account of what we ought to be doing in order to make the transition.

I will be posting periodical updates here, and when I have a whole bunch of stuff written down, I will make the GoogleDoc live, enabling all who have thoughts to weigh in and aid me in producing what will hopefully be a practical, hopeful schematic for the future of social media, governance, and the world community. Best to you all. These are exciting times.

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