Note — Dec 04, 2019

Taiwan Is Making Democracy Work Again. It’s Time We Paid Attention

After major protests in March 2014 in Taiwan, the government asked for help, “the government wanted to listen, and stop anything like the Sunflower Revolution from happening again.” They setup the Public Digital Innovation Space (PDIS), Audrey Tang became Digital Minister, and the team created a new process for consultation, vTaiwan. It’s a mix of online and offline consultations aiming to use the Internet to pull people together rather than split them apart, designing an environment very different from the usual online forums for political debate. So far the bulk of the debating is done online and has been used for tech related issues, but their focus on finding consensus is promising for other policies as well.

Owned both by everyone and no one at the same time, the internet needed a new politics, and this community called it “multistakeholderism”. The idea was that anyone could have a seat at the table as long as they were animated by transparency, willingness to listen and consensus-finding, in order to bring together the different tribes of the internet. […]

To bring the groups closer together, Polis has reengineered many of the features we take for granted on social media. No reply button – hence no trolling. No echo-chambers, replaced by an attitudes map showing you where you are in relation to everyone else. The platform does not highlight the most divisive statements, but gives more visibility to the most consensual ones. The ones that get attention are those that find support not only in one cluster, but across other groups, too. […]

This technological change exposes a deeper human truth: on most issues, there might be half a dozen points of bitter division, but 20 or 30 of broad unity. The trick is to make these more visible.