At a time when representative democracy is increasingly revealed as ineffectual, phony or both – a kabuki theater of empty formalisms that disguise the offstage conspiracies of corporate/state elites – many people look to the Internet for salvation. After all, the Internet is far more open, participatory and meritocratic than the closed, corporate-dominated process of our formal democracy.
But even with these capacities, the Internet is not a solution because in the end the Internet is only a hosting platform. A basic question must be answered: How should a more serious deliberative democracy be structured in online spaces?
Let the record show that the insurgent Pirate Party in Germany has made some significant progress on this problem. Its new open source software platform, LiquidFeedback, is credited with helping the Pirates host more open, participatory and serious internal debates about party policies -- and to organize themselves to take action in conventional political arenas.
The makers of Liquid Feedback characterize their platform in a mission statement as “a bridge between direct and representative democracy.” They believe the software “has the potential to empower the ordinary members of mainstream political parties, making these parties more attractive to citizens and democracy stronger.” The software, released in version 2.0 in March 2012, is currently used by several associations and political parties.