Jimmy Wales — the founder of Wikipedia — has launched a new wiki called Campaigns Wikia — a wiki that has the modest goal of inventing an era of participatory politics. If anyone can do it, I’d bet on Wales’ to galvanize it.
Wales’ rationale is sound even if the task is huge.
"Blog and wiki authors are now inventing a new era of media, and it is my belief that this new media is going to invent a new era of politics. If broadcast media brought us broadcast politics, then participatory media will bring us participatory politics….
Campaigns Wikia, has the goal of bringing together people from diverse political perspectives who may not share much else, but who share the idea that they would rather see democratic politics be about engaging with the serious ideas of intelligent opponents, about activating and motivating ordinary people to get involved and really care about politics beyond the television soundbites."
That’s got to be tens of millions of people. You know anyone who likes the money-driven, sound-bark (that’s shorter than a sound bite), attack-dog politics that we now have? Lots of people think this is a good idea, not the least of whom is Craig Newmark and David Weinberger, folks I look to for guidance for the best ideas on the ‘Net. So my instinct is to be hopeful.
But I have to say I am somewhat dubious whether Wales is right that “the candidates who will win elections in the future will be the candidates who build genuinely participative campaigns by generating and expanding genuine communities of engaged citizens” in a political age where the amount of money you raise is still the first test of whether you are a viable political candidate. I want to think he’s right, and I believe strongly that this is the way politics should work, but the power of money in our political system is still the overwhelming determinative of who runs for office and who wins. Until that is changed, what candidates say and what they do will be driven by who finances their campaigns.
But for sure Wikia offers opportunities to get from where we are to where I agree with Wales that we need to be. And if we don’t start now, we’ll never get there so my hat’s off to him. Wikia could be key to engaging people in developing policy on issues that they care about. And key to developing communities of interests — communities of people who will want to meet candidates, make demands of them because they will be communities who will vote. Candidates might ignore what ordinary people have to say about health care policy, or what a livable wage should be, but these engaged communities would be ignored at politicians’ peril.
Check it out for yourself. Sign up. I did.