Thursday, March 03, 2005

Article on Dotmocracy - Perils and Possibilities

This Now Magazine article is about a very effective small group decision-making method known as "dotmocracy". Worth a read. And here's an interesting Australian site with a nice brief description: Audience Dialogue - Dotmocracy. And, closer to home, is the Coop Tools site with lots of info. Dotmocracy is a very effective step in democratic decision-making. But i have two reservations with the application described in the Now Magazine piece: my experience of dotmocracy is with small to medium-sized groups (from a dozen up to about 60 people) and i usually use it as a type of straw-polling to get a sense of where the group is at, what its priorities might be, what its preferences are - emphasis on "preference". Dotmocracy is only one step in a democratic process and enables a group to think both quickly and collectively about where to focus their energy for the more in-depth critical discussion that needs to follow from the sense shared through dotmocracy. Dotmocracy, the way i've used it, is ONLY meant as a means of gathering information in order to make the best decision possible. It is entirely likely that dotmocracy could favour a common sense opinion that, upon further examination and debate, is found to contain more bad sense than good sense. No result of dotmocracy should be taken naively at face value. A group should always ask itself why some options got few "dots" (e.g. is it because of who is missing in the process (and why?); or because of a particular word choice; or because of a prejudice; etc.) My second reservation, provoked by the Now article, has to do with applying a small group process to a very large group. My concern is that the speed with which dotmocracy generates information could, in a very large group, act to silence dissent and dissent is a fundatmental aspect of democratic dialogue.

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