"Getting true engagement."
Pam, your experience at the local level is a good representation of the state of civic involvement today. (Adriel, give me some liberty here with the forum topic because I am going to bring SL back into this thought). For decades, we have seen the decline of conventional public engagement reflected in low attendance at public forums and voting in elections, just two examples while there are others. Hopefully 2008 will be the starting point to reverse these trends.
Civics, as a part of the school curriculum is almost non-existent. My last blog entry (http://www.aheadofideas.com) was on this topic and that citizens really don't know their institution of governance to be good managers of it.
Preferences and expectation for collecting and sharing information and for communicating has changed dramatically and so rapidly. Government's response to the Internet, as a whole, is still to push content to the public. The current engagement model is focused on transactions rather than interrelations, e.g., you can pay bills, obtain permits and licenses, and download information. Communication is so narrow and restricted that even with the web; it is harder now to connect with elected officials and vice versa. So what would “true engagement” look like today? But back to SL...
As Adriel asks, what does it look like five years from now? Well my idea of civic engagement is represented in Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech." As some of you may know, I am always interested in debating the pros and cons around contributor attribution and content moderation in G-C and C-C online engagement models. Anyway, who is to say that in five years, anonymity is an accepted and preferred form of citizen participation and their input be legally-accepted form of public comment; and avatars replace our photo images as our preferred representation when online?
The downside: Instead of email spamming to overwhelm public officials’ inboxes today, SL will give us the ability to bring hundreds of fictitious citizens to an online town hall meeting to stack the deck and overly represent a POV that may not necessarily be that of the majority. So get there early to get a good seat.