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Abstract and Figures

Does information and communication technology (ICT) still bear the possibility of a disruptive change for the so far invariable area of politics? While entertainment, news media and even universities have been recent challenged by Youtube, Twitter or Coursera, Washington has not yet faced comparable ICT-based competition, despite intense research. The paper hints to two blind spots of the current rather individualistic and middle-class-based discussions, and follows two new propositions: To seize the opportunities to include civil society into the formal counting process and to mix direct and representative democracy.
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Structure and math
of Civil democracy
Hanno Scholtz
September 23, 2018
Abstract
Does information and communication technology (ICT) still bear the
possibility of a disruptive change for the so far invariable area of politics?
While entertainment, news media and even universities have been recent
challenged by Youtube, Twitter or Coursera, Washington has not yet
faced comparable ICT-based competition, despite intense research. The
paper hints to two blind spots of the current rather individualistic and
middle-class-based discussions, and follows two new propositions: To seize
the opportunities to include civil society into the formal counting process
and to mix direct and representative democracy.
Wedecide.ch, Zeppelin University, University of Zurich and University of Fribourg.
Parts of the underlying research have been done while working at the University of
Konstanz. The paper has benefitted from discussions with Andr´e Golliez and Abraham
Bernstein. Sole responsibility for remaining errors with the author.
Does information and communication technology (ICT) still bear the possi-
bility of a disruptive change for the so far invariable area of politics?
“YouTube competes with Hollywood as an entertainment channel, and also
supplements Hollywood by acting as a distribution mechanism. Twitter has a
similar relationship to news media, and Coursera to universities. But Wash-
ington has no such counterpart; there are no online alternatives for making
democratic decisions at large scale as a society.” [1] In computer and informa-
tion science, the obvious difference stimulates ingenuity and motivates designing
“systems in which crowds of hundreds, perhaps millions, of individuals collabo-
rate together to come to consensus on difficult societal issues” [1], especially as
at the same time the consensus-building capacity of current democratic institu-
tions is much less a matter of course than decades ago. [2–4]
For information scientists who want to join the search and finally imple-
mentation of procedures that use ICT for substantially improving consensus
building, this paper introduces two new propositions: To seize the opportuni-
ties to include civil society into the formal counting process and to mix direct
and representative democracy. Together, they constitute the principle of Civil
democracy, i.e. democratic procedures that include the citizens’ civil con-
nectedness and their civil responsibility to decided everything have formed an
opinion on.
1 Introduction: Accepting civil society
The central proposition is the need for including civil society institutions into
the realm of responsible political actors.
As much of information science literature so far on collective decision-making,
the citation above is very individualistic. It describes citizens as ‘crowds of in-
dividuals’ that collaborate. But they aren’t. Insofar as individuals act as crowd
members, it does not bring forward the best of them. [5, 6] It is the structure
of social relations that makes them reliable [7] and helps to overcome their
short-run egoistic interests for collective action. [8]
Collaboration is hence productive if and only if its actor structure is taken
serious. Earlier literature demanded specified actors for an active top-down
management of large-scale collaboration risks [9], but it is sufficient to have an
actor-oriented ‘architectural scheme’ with actors who have the capabilities and
values to self-organize, and resources and institutions that enable multi-actor
collaboration. [10]
Coming to consensus on difficult societal issues takes place in politics. Here,
the named preconditions are given with one notable exception. Individuals who
perceive aspects of reality as suboptimal and as potential object of collective
improvement have and use the capabilities and values of self-organization. [11]
They coalesce to groups and to social movements and, by creating internal
institutions, shape organizations that contribute to the large scale interaction
of politics [12], organizations that we know for long as political actors, like
parties, Greenpeace, Amnesty International or the NRA.
1
The one notable exception with regards to civil society organizations (CSOs)
in the actor-oriented scheme of politics is that with the exception of parties,
these organizations are not currently included into the formal institutions of
politics. In allowing for Civil society, ICT can make a difference, and the fol-
lowing sections study why and how.
2 Structure and math of current democracies
2.1 Democratic decision making
Dealing consensually with social issues involves descriptions and decisions. Texts
that describe expected behaviors and their guidelines have to be written, and
the fact that individuals are committed to their validity has to be stated. The
writing of texts demands actors who make the cognitive organization, but mak-
ing decisions to state their validity is a question of counting. Efficient collective
decision-making that constitutes consensus on social issues is a huge public good.
In the long run, everyone benefits. This is especially obvious when looking on
the opposite, i.e. their absence with the extreme of failed states [13,14], but it
is not less valid for stable societies. [15]
Making public decisions, the core of politics [16], always involves some count-
ing. Decision-making generally implies the evaluation of possible options against
each other. Options have to be developed, to be evaluated, and finally one of
them has to be chosen. The process of ranking and finally selecting one as the
winning option that shall be implemented is a process of counting pros and cons,
i.e. support for the different options. Counting is not always explicit, but it is
always present: Even dictators employ secret services informing about possible
opposition related to specific options when they make decisions [17, 18].
Democracy however has made transparent and equality-based counting a
basic principle and, for reasons as the Condorcet jury theorem [19], has done
well so in Western societies. In its historically first version, the direct democracy
of classic Greece (discussed here in a simplified version), the problem of finding
the best among Kpossible solutions in Edecisions was transformed into the
maximization of support zikeamong the Ielective individuals:
e1...E max
ke1...Ke
U(ke) := e1...E max
ke1...KeX
i1...I
zike,(2.1)
where every citizen supported one option:
i,k,e zike ∈ {0,1},i,e X
k
zike = 1 (2.2)
Note that here and in subsequent text, decisions about candidates seeking
offices and decisions about practical issues are treated equally, equations 2.1 and
2.2 do hence apply both for direct democracy (issues) and for direct popular
vote (candidates). How the ranking structure affects the maximization in 2.1 is
discussed below.
2
2.2 Rational ignorance and representation
The fact that classical democracy was not scalable from the small poleis (and,
later, Swiss cantons) that used and use direct democracy can partly be at-
tributed to the cognitive cost problem of rational ignorance. The problem is as
follows: The counted vote is based on an evaluation of possible options against
each other. But evaluating something that will only occur in the future is not
easy. It bears cognitive cost. Not everyone has, and rationally not even ev-
eryone wants to have, an opinion with regards to every question that has to
be decided, because forming opinions is costly [20], and norms to urge fellow
citizens to join opinion formation work better in small communities like Athens
or Schwyz. Hence historical direct democracy had its limits, and grassroots
democracy rarely works.
Democracy as we know however has worked for quite some time because it
reduced these cognitive costs through employing trusted specific representative
politics actors (PAs) in the counting process: parties and individual politicians.
All trusted representative actors derive their role and legitimacy from the fact
that they provide option evaluations and gain a specific profile for these option
evaluations and trust for this profile. With them, democratic politics became
institutionalized in a representative form in which the maximization problem of
equation 1 was restated in a form in which citizens, in order to reduce cognitive
cost, chose only one single support vij to decide all E decisions of a four-year-
span from a much smaller set of Joptions, namely parties or their representa-
tives. The bulk of the evaluation wjk was left to the organization of parties,
factual decisions were delegated to parliaments, and with some simplification
the core of the remaining system can be written as
emax
ke1...Ke
U(ke) := emax
ke1...KeX
i1...I X
j1...J
vij wjke ,(2.3)
with
i,j vi,j ∈ {0,1},iX
j
vij = 1,j,e X
ke
wjke= 1 (2.4)
To ease further discussion, we define i,k ˜zik =Pj1...J vij wjkeand, with
all vij ,wjkeand ˜zikeunited in respective matrices V(I×J),We,(J×K),˜
Ze,(I×K),
˜
Ze=VWe(2.5)
reformulating equation 2.3 into
emax
ke1...Ke
U(ke) := emax
ke1...KeX
i1...I
˜zike(2.6)
3
3 Structure and math of Civil democracy
3.1 Actor-openness
Trust relations between individual citizens and political actors have evolved
over history. Political actors that are included into the democratic counting
process start with individual politicians trusted and elected in their respective
constituencies. In the 19th century, they form parties which become the at-
tractors of trust [21] while at the same time in continental Europe, democracy
is achieved through social movements as the workers’, catholic, liberal or na-
tionalist movements that include the whole individual and become included as
parties, too. [22]
It is the historical contingency of social groups representing whole individuals
but accepting common institutions that allowed for democracy as we know it,
without using ICT but simply by checking boxes on paper ballots and counting
the size of partitioning groups, as described in equation 2.3. Referring to set
theory [23], this division of society into non-overlapping groups can be called
’partitioning representation’.
In fact, social movements and the trust in political actors were never re-
stricted to this partitioning scheme. The slavery abolition movement is an early
19th century example for a social movement that pressed for changes in a single
area of social life and would have never developed into a party. [22] Today, the
field of trusted actors is much more diverse. Civil society has born a new uni-
verse of organizations, described by a plethora of overlapping terms, e.g. CSOs,
non-governmental organizations, action committees, interest groups, lobby or-
ganizations, or advocacy organizations. They all have in common that they
evaluate political options, gain a profile for their evaluations, and acquire trust
with this profile to obtain the necessary resources for continuing their existence,
but that they are not included into the formal counting processes of demo-
cratic decision-making but so far operate in an open but intransparent space of
influencing politicians and party organizations that bear formal responsibility.
The question why it is useful to include civil society into the formal count-
ing processes employs a wider array of new arguments. There are hints that
the co-existence of partitioning groups and the acceptance of overarching in-
stitutions is an eurocentric particularity of western Christianity, developed on
a continent that needed exactly these characteristics [24], and that partition-
ing representation in times of individualization leads to decreasing legitimacy
(as citizens without clear party affiliation feel unrepresented), to the neglect of
topics in election campaigns (and to emphasizing irrelevant but ideologically
consistent questions), and to polarization (as parties move to more extreme po-
sitions to motivate their activists despite of the factual irrelevance of election
campaigns) [25], and there is some work left for the social sciences to corrob-
orate or modify these hints. But irrespective of the results of such a research,
the barrier between parties, as CSOs that have an answer to every question,
and other CSOs that have an answer only to some questions, is artificial and
erected only through the technological partitioning necessities of easing pre-ICT
4
democracy. Processes of collective decision-making do better being open to all
available actors.
Individuals are hence related to trusted political actors in general social
networks [26], in which every individual has a lot of trust relations in very
different directions. Network structures of trust in which an individual has
trust relations to more than one trusted actors result in only one small change
in the formalization above, allowing the support weights from individuals to
trusted actors to obtain any values between zero and one instead of only these
extreme values, while the sum of all weights is still unity due to the equality of
the vote [27]. The first thing is that equation (2.4) changes to
i,j vi,j [0,1],iX
j
vij = 1,j,e X
ke
wjke∈ {0,1}(3.1)
The third part reflects the specifity of CSOs which do not have an opinion
to every question.1If they have, Pkewjke= 1, if they don’t, Pkewjke= 0.
To allow TPAs to refrain from having an opinion with regards to every
upcoming decision however makes it necessary to include a correction that pre-
serves the equality of the vote. If Pkewjke= 0 for some jwhich have been
chosen (vij >0), PjPkevijwj ke<1. We define
φie :=
X
jX
ke
vij wjke
1
,(3.2)
the vector φecovers all φie, and the I×I-matrix P hie=φeII×Ia square
matrix with the φie on the main diagonal.
With using the φie, equation 2.3 changes to
emax
ke1...Ke
U(ke) := emax
ke1...KeX
i1...I X
j1...J
vij φiewj ke.(3.3)
A generalized network structure allows for horizontal differentiation between
political actors: An actor A can influence the decisions that are seen as rele-
vant and fitting into A’s political profile, while the voter has the opportunity
to support other actors B or C with differing profiles to be represented in other
questions. A civil society-based decision-making system that opens these op-
portunities would still have a role for parties, to make voters sure that they are
1Trust may be domain-specific. It relates not only to the willingness but also to the specific
ability to do as being trusted for. [28] Previous discussions about Civil democracy have shown
that dialog partners oftentimes very quickly thought in terms of categorizing decisions, with
responses as “I would trust Greenpeace for environmental, but not for economic decisions.” On
the one hand, one may assume that specialized organizations may have a clear understanding
of their profile, so that Greenpeace would not engage in economic decisions. On the other
hand, it is possible that a gap between activists and supporters exists [29] that leads to CSOs
engaging in more decisions than their supporters want. In that case, decisions have to be
categorized and the option has to be given to restrict support for specific actors to specific
categories. For space and scope limitations however, structure and mathematical form of
solving this problem have been left to subsequent research.
5
still represented for questions that fall outside of the profiles of all supported
non-party actors.
It should at the same time allow for the vertical differentiation of political
actors [30]: Not every group that has specialized in monitoring a specific policy
area should be pressed to make public relations efforts to communicate their
results directly to all citizens that could be interested in them, and not every
movement organization that maintains a profile for a specific concern needs to
have all the work done under its organizational roof. The arguments for vertical
differentiation [31] apply in the business of option evaluation very similar to
every other business.
With PA-PA support transfer noted as pjj 0and the latter part of 2.4 changed
into
j,e X
ke
wjke+X
j0
pjj 0= 1 (3.4)
equation 2.5 changes into
˜
Ze=V(IP)1We(3.5)
Decision-making schemes that allow for handing on trust to other actors
to make decisions in networks has already been discussed [30] but in a way
that shares the over-individualistic flaw described above, without ignoring the
difference between individuals and organizations.
For good reasons, democracy has established voting secrecy: The individual
voting act shall express their private preferences and must not be a result of
any exchange with others, be it explanation of a position, keeping sympathies,
being bribed or being threatened. Actors must hence be differentiated in private
actors, i.e. individual voting citizens, and open actors, i.e. individuals and
organizations that disclose their option rankings in order to gain trust from
others, and the dichotomy between open data and private data [32] applies.
The question whether it may be useful to allow, between these two, for an
additional category of ’semi-open’ actors which can restrict the openness of
their support transfers to a (reasonably small) number of self-chosen citizens
has to be discussed in further research.
3.2 Meta-decision freedom
The second proposition of this paper is the need to mix direct and representative
democracy, giving each voter for every decision the meta-level choice between
deciding directly and being represented. We call that ‘meta-decision freedom’.
Direct democracy and representative are two extreme ways of making public
decisions, the one demanding very much cognitive effort and the other allow-
ing for very little precision in influence exertion. ICT-based Civil democracy
however allows to mix the two forms, giving every voter for every decision the
meta-level choice between being represented and making an own factual decision.
Non-partitioning CSOs have to a much lower degree developed the tradition of
6
speaking for and deeming themselves as smarter than their constituents, so
this second proposition, while logically independent from the first, is plausibly
connected to it in practical implementation.
Hence, voting individuals trust different actors and decide about the trust
relations between them; trusted actors use the voted trust received to forward it
to supported options or to other actors. The represented trust can be inspected,
confirmed, or adapted to one’s individual opinion. This allows for a flexible form
of direct democracy in which each individual decides for every decision whether
it is interested to invest time and energy in forming an own opinion. If not,
the individual is represented by its TAs’ option rankings. If it decides to enter
direct democracy, it is still easier for the individual to make a decision even
being confronted with more than two issues, as the rankings of the TAs and
their arguments for their rankings provide support.
For every upcoming decision anew, the individual citizen has the choice of
either leaving this implicit option support as it is, or inspect and possibly alter
it to turn a representative into a direct-democratic decision:
˘zike=zikeif Pkzike6= 0
˜zikeelse (3.6)
max
k1...K U(k) := max
k1...K X
i1...I
˘zike(3.7)
Figure 1 puts the relations into a graph: The path via direct democracy
goes from the individual voter over their direct evaluation that becomes the
counted evaluation and enters via counting into factual decision making. For
every decision where either ranking options from the scratch and entering them
into the counting process bears a cognitive overload, the indirect mechanisms
are used: Open actors exist that have a profile and rank options according to
their profile. Individuals trust open actors and deposit their trust in them,
and the multiplication results in individual indirect evaluations. In case the
problem is that ranking options is too cognitively ambitious, civil society helps
in providing a baseline evaluation that serves as the background for adaptation
into an individual direct evaluation. In case the problem is a more general lack
in interest in investing own effort into decision making, the indirect evaluation
serves as a default which becomes the counted evaluation if nothing else happens.
3.3 Searching for compromise
The maximization in equations 1-1, 2-4 and 4-1 is straightforward as long as k
the number of options is only 2. But already with three options it is possible that
a possible Condorcet-winner, i.e. an option that would succeed against every
other, does not have the highest support. To cope with this problem, Civil
democracy offers the advantage that complete preference relations are available
for all pairs of options.
CSOs can be assumed to be able to rank all alternatives even if the number
of alternatives is high. An actor’s evaluation of options for an upcoming decision
7
A Collective Option Related EvaluationContinous Relations
Actors
Trust & Evaluations
Process
Decision
Proposal Default
Counting
Valid
if done
Multiplied Indirect
Evaluation
Evaluation
through OA
Direct
Evaluation
Counted
Evaluation Decision
Open Actors
Trust
Voter
1 2 2
3
4
5
6
7 8
9
Figure 1: The model of civil-society-based decision making
results, as first step, in a ranking. Options are brought into a subjective relative
positioning that defines for every pair A and B of options whether A is better
than B (A>B), B is better than A (B>A), or both are equivalent (A=B). For
such a ranking, transitivity is demanded, i.e. if A >B and B >C, than A
should be better as C, too.
The second step adjusts relative positions, as the vij ,wjk , and resulting ˜zik
and zik are not ranking positions but relative preference intensities. Actors have
such relative preference intensities due to the fact that they are able to rank not
only options but probability combinations of options, as well. If for any actor
X > Y and Y > Z, the actor should know at which probability phe or she is
equivalent between getting Bfor sure and getting a mixture of pA and (ap)C.
It is furthermore assumed that preference intensities are transitive as well, i.e. if
C > p1A+ (1 p1)Band D > p2A+(1p2)B, then C > p1/p2D+(1p1/p2)B.
Preference intensities allow to assign a distribution of relative utilities, in which
the least-liked option Zis assigned the value zero, the best-liked option Z+
some arbitrary value x, and the options Ziin between the values pithat make
them equivalent to (1 pi)Z+piZ+. Due to the arbitrariness of x, it can
be chosen to assign normalized relative utilities that sum up to one over all
available options. The possibility to rank options equally is given.
With the ˜zik , voters receive a derived ranking which serves as cognitive
anchor. It is much easier to judge alternatives against such an anchor than to
create a complete ranking from scratch. The existence of complete preference
relations allows for applying the Condorcet majority rule which is otherwise
deemed too cognitively complex.
For the (existing but infrequent) cases that no Condorcet winner exists,
solutions can be found using backward elimination.
Consider Arrow’s well-known example for cycling preferences, but with one
larger group A that comprises 40 percent of the population and ranks X >Y>
Z, and two smaller groups each comprising 30 percent of the population, with
B ranking Y >Z>X and C ranking Z >X>Y. In every case, the middle
option is seen as equivalent to an even probability mix of the other two, hence
8
assignment values are .67 for the better option, .33 for the middle option, and
zero for the least-liked option. Every pairwise comparison yields another result,
and no Condorcet-winner exists. From an outside position however, if the three
groups were of equal size, all three options would be in fact equally good. But
as A is larger, its preferences have a slightly superior importance, and X should
be selected. And X is exactly the result that arises using backward elimination,
as Z with a support of only .3 is eliminated first.
So far, due to the acceptance of cognitive effort considerations the voting
literature has not placed much effort on schemes with complete preference rela-
tions. The question if or under which conditions social choice problems can be
alleviated through having complete preference relations has to be left to further
study.
Much easier is the solution if options are arranged on a dimension in an
ordinal structure. The theory of measurement as developed for understanding
options in quantitative survey research applies to options to be chosen as col-
lective decisions, as well. Nominal options which have no defined relation to
each other are hence only one kind of option sets. One-dimensional continu-
ous option sets are possible, as well. These set options in a single dimension
in which actors are assumed to have single-peaked preferences with decreasing
utility on both sides of the peak. Examples are tax rates, speed limits, or the
height of compensations for elected politicians. Ordinal options share these
properties of one-dimensionality and single-peaked preferences but are distinct:
Think of choosing between possible distinct locations for stops of a new bus
line. A special kind of continuous measures are budget distributions with their
interdependence.
To see a decision as continuous is a binary meta-decision which has to be
made in the preparatory stage. If it is done, decision complexity shrinks dra-
matically, as the median option wins for which half of the vote weights cast
demand this option or such that are higher on the dimension (e.g. higher, more
expensive, etc.), and half demand this option or such that are lower.
3.4 Centripetal forces and other questions
Existing election system differ in their degree of centripetal force or centripetal-
ity, i.e. in the amount to which fragmentation is punished. Systems of pro-
portional representation, as in Israel, the Netherlands or the Weimar Republic,
have a low degree of centripetality leading to fragmented party systems. The
evidence with regards to performance is mixed: In the Weimar case, ,this ended
in a breakdown of the system, while in the Netherlands and Israel (the latter
arguably to a somewhat lesser extent), represented groups have been able to find
compromise solutions between political actors for quite some time. But propo-
nents of majoritarian systems have always hinted to the fact that the resulting
two-party systems have a strong centripetality (as long as there is no polariza-
tion between the two parties) that sets strong incentives to find compromise
solutions within political actors.
As the nature of compromise is understood in terms of being placed between
9
two opposing solutions, it is usefully defined for k > 2 options. Civil democracy
allows to employ simple transformations [27]. If not the ˘zikeare summed up
but some transformations ˘zρ
ikewith ρ(0,1), political actors and their voters
who are bound in complete support (˘zike= 1) remain unchanged, while support
from voters to political actors gains that may be seen as less than optimal but
okay and hence as a possible offer for compromise. Including ρ= 1 for no
centripetality as boundary case, the determination of a winning option from
equation 3.7 hence changes to
max
k1...K U(k) := max
k1...K X
i1...I
˘zρ
ike,with ρ(0,1].(3.8)
The degree of centripetality, denoted by ρ, is a meta-decision on a one-
dimensional measure. As its optimal value depends on current compromise
culture that changes over historical periods, it is useful to define it for fixed terms
for all decisions in a given polity. Other methods of including centripetality into
Civil democracy are possible.2
Many other questions have to be left for further study. Consider, for example,
the question of filtering. In many societies, passive voting rights are stronger
restricted than their active counterparts. In Civil democracy, however, the
roles of candidates (as subsets of options) and option evaluation are clearly
distinguished. Restrictions in the appearance of political actors should only be
directed towards enhancing but not decreasing competition for trust. Individual
citizens should, on the other hand, have the opportunity to influence what is
done with their trust beyond the additional support as in equations 2-3 resp.
3-3. This is especially true with regards to candidates: Individuals should have
the opportunity to demand that, for example, their vote should support both
genders equally, or different parts of a country by the population shares, or
that only candidates are supported that fulfill specific criteria with regards to
transparency or resistance to corruption. But it has to be left open in the current
paper how this is exactly been done, as well as many more possible questions
and extensions.
3.5 Trust storage and the ongoing fight for security
If non-partitioning trust structures are included, for usability reasons the respec-
tive decision-making system demands the storage of individual trust relations. It
replaces the collectivized storage that is immanent in traditional representative
democracy: There, the vote on the ballot is stored in determining representing
politicians for four years. This allowed for a technologically simple solution with
paper, ballot boxes, manual counting, and direct verifiability. As the resulting
radical shrinkage of voters’ options is no longer appropriate, unbiasedness has
to be asserted in other ways.
2Scholtz [27, p. 134-5] adds another integration oriented method of centripetality. It
calculates measures for the political difference between all n(n1) pairs of voters and sup-
ports options for their integrative performance, i.e. for being supported by voters with higher
differences.
10
If trust is used politically in its individual form, it has to be individually
and securely stored. After many leakings of sensible data, and with the con-
tinuous threat of hacking [33–36] this security cannot be perfectly guaranteed.
Even more, Civil democracy will probably become a target of authoritarian
regimes who currently exploit the deficiencies of partitioning representation,
and of hacking activities from such countries. [37–41] Despite ongoing efforts
to lay theoretical foundations for trustworthy e-voting systems in computer sci-
ence [42–47], a majority view has emerged in recent years that e-voting should
not be waged. [48, 49]
But continuous storage is not only part of a security problem, it is at the
same time part of its solution. It does not only pose the threat of security
breaches but has stability advantages over traditional voting. The security of
private data within a Civil democracy system is maintained by means not only
of technology, i.e. cryptography and identity proof, but of data organization, as
well.
Traditional voting is marked by vote detachment: After throwing the ballot
into the ballot box, voters draw back their hands and cut the connection between
themselves and their votes. Vote detachment maintains the secrecy of the ballot,
but makes voting more vulnerable at the same time: If someone is able to make
changes within the ballot box, a restoration is impossible and the election must
be repeated.
In contrast, a continuous storage of voting entries allows the reconstruction of
the trust distribution at any time. Data entries can be stored on different servers
and without readable personal information, marked only by identifiers. The
structure is as follows: Any voter’s trust affiliations are stored individually. The
website on which the voter updates them belongs to a trusted access provider
in a network of other possible access providers. Only the access provider has
access to the voter’s personal identity and private data as name or address. Any
update of trust affiliations, or voting act, is directly forwarded in anonymized
form to a number of backup servers, preferably on different continents. These
backup servers keep the whole anonymized voting histories of all voters.
Private voting data are stored on servers hosted by different organizations
who are trusted in everyday life, i.e. providers of communication and financial
services as banks or telephone, email or storage services. The own servers of
the Civil democracy system provide a backbone service. Every voter should
select at least two of these service partners, or the central service plus one
additional partner. Independent firms should check regularly the integrity and
unbiasedness of the stored data. Any voter who keeps a records of her or his
trust affiliation updates can be given a number that allows to check at the
backup servers whether the votes are correctly stored. The different backup
servers can be checked against each other, and any decision can be reviewed
based on backup server data.
These private data are interwoven with the data of the open system of the
open actors with their option evaluations and voices. There are also input
providers for them. But, unlike the private actor providers, these can share the
data openly, keeping it always up to date, which means trust in individual open
11
actors for the support of options for decisions.
Of course, the storage and retrieval of trust implies offline dangers of interfer-
ence at the entry point. Solutions have to be found against armed militias who
might demand of individual voters to log into their account and retrieve their
trust profile, indicating that they will come back and if the mighty landowner
is not the only trusted actor in the profile, they will do some ugly things? Per-
fect solutions for such problems may not exist, but there are manifold ways
to create a culture of non-interference with individual trust entries. To give
an example, one important means to counter such threats is a declaration of
actors. A landowner that has signed this declaration and is afterwards found
guilty of having sent such militiamen should have to expect severe consequences,
far beyond only losing his role of being a trusted actor. Generally, for offline
threats that occur in the entry process, the societal culture defines the opportu-
nities. A convenient direct online access can be established only in countries in
which both societies and their administrations are willing to effectively penalize
interference with the voting act.
Compared to the risk of influencing elections with vote detachment, the
combined risk that all backup servers can be changed in the same way and that
such a change would get away unnoticed can be considered small enough. It can
hence be assumed that trustworthy civil-society-based decisions are attainable.
In general, Civil democracy shall not be intended to replace all current sorts
of political processes. The legitimacy of using ICT for civil-society based count-
ing is enhanced through an open view on its own limits. There should always be
the opportunity of a offline paper ballot box in the town hall: Voters who decide
to use it have to prove their identities in order to allow to uncount their rep-
resented votes if they have some. A potential decisiveness of offline voters will
reduce terrorist incentives to hack the system, but the incentives for political
actors remain widely unchanged.
Among the possible applications for Civil democracy discussed in section 4
below, ballot secrecy is not uniformly important everywhere. Applications will
start and gain experience with intra-organizational cases where perfect secrecy
is not deemed as essential as in the case of national elections.
4 Applications
Nation-wide elections are only one example of collective decisions. Collective
decisions are made in any group, and the cognitive-cost saving argument for
trusted actions is valid from a very low level onwards.
Civil-society-based decisions can hence be used within organizations. One
obvious example are parties which despite their privileged position in the cur-
rent political system need to connect with their members and with CSOs [50,51].
Including party members through primary elections and referenda yields mixed
results with regards to electoral success [52], and the trade-off of loosing ex-
pertise for gaining member involvement is a probable reason that is strongly
reduced by using Civil democracy.
12
Another possible application is giving migrants a voice who are not yet
eligible but need to be included in frameworks of reference and respect to sup-
port empowerment towards either integration or successful return [53–61]. Civil
democracy gives migrants and migrant organizations a voice and provides incen-
tives to integrate into a larger framework of democratic discourse in the target
countries. Insofar as unsatisfactory political institutions in the source coun-
tries have been push-factors for migration, it provides a training for successfully
contributing to source country development after return.
A third application is to create civil-society-based channels for decision-
preparation in urban contexts, either generally and responding to recent critique
even on participatory planning processes [62] or for specific target groups as e.g.
parents or individuals with disabilities (or migrants, see above) which are diverse
and do not have an adequate voice.
As a final outlook it may be hinted to the fact that legitimately working
supra-national democracy is hardly conceivable without the two central propo-
sitions of Civil democracy. On the one hand, transnational CSOs do much more
have a supranational profile that allows them serve as catalysts for consistent
supranational opinion formation [63] that allows individuals in different nations
to perceive themselves as supranational demos [64]. On the other hand, the
flexible mix between civil-society-representation and direct democracy makes
citizens directly accountable for their decisions without introducing the great
amount of insecurity that has come with the use of occasional referenda, as in
the recent British case.
Figure 1 shows citizen-user screenshots of a Civil democracy project. After
identification, a voter starts with the left pane which shows him proposed options
in an upcoming decision. We assume that there are already trusted actors active
in the project who have entered their rankings, relative preference intensities,
and arguments, and who are trusted by some citizen-voters who give them a
relative importance. The voter gets at first a ranking of the proposals by added
support via trusted actors. They can change the sequence of proposals in her or
his ranking by clicking and shifting a proposal to a new position in the ranking.
They also can click on the line between proposals to see another screen
(middle pane) with short descriptions of main arguments and actors supporting
and opposing the given ranking. This screen allows to go into further details
with regards to available arguments, and it is one entry point to enter individual
trust in actors. After being informed, the voter returns to the decision screen
which is now changed (a) with regards to the individually entered sequence,
(b) the relative preference intensities with regards to that sequence, and (c)
the added support of the individually trusted actors. If an individual will visit
the site for another decision, the column with the ”Your TAs” distribution will
already exist, and it will determine the initial sequence.
<<<< Include ”Figure 1: Possible screenshots of a civil-society-
based collective decision-making project” about here >>>>
Beyond the direct structure and math of the counting process however, Civil
democracy demands a closer analysis of at least three more questions that have
13
yet blocked its exploration and implementation: As ICT-based counting system,
Civil democracy is subject to strong security concerns; as demanding the coop-
eration of CSOs, it needs to have a clear understanding of what these demands
imply; and as a system that needs to be maintained, it needs to have a clear
understanding of its prospects in terms of organization and resource provision.
5 Conclusion
Actor-openness, meta-decision freedom, and the electronic storage of trust re-
lations on which these two are based create a new kind of collective decision-
making applicable from small intra-organizational over communal and national
to global decisions. From this perspective, the individualistic bias and miss-
ing inclusion of civil society into formal decision-making is the main obstacle
that so far prevents ICT from having the same game-changing results that have
occurred in other areas.
In their recent study on social computing cited at the beginning of this
article, Yiling Chen and her co-authors [1] cited the democratic solution for the
Knapsack problem (the problem to maximize the utility from selecting out of
a given number of proposals [65]) proposed and implemented by Ashish Goel
and his team [66] as one of the success stories. Goel’s ‘Knapsack voting’ is
an enhancement of participatory budgeting, an idea that was first introduced
in Porto Alegre and later tried in a number of other towns and jurisdictions
around the world.
Despite of its merits, however, after a period of interest participatory bud-
geting has stalled, probably because does not fulfill the expectations in terms
of inclusion of low-status citizens and deliberative quality, and because mighty
interest groups (most notably politicians and parties) fight against it. [67] It is
very probable that all these three problems rest on the single reason of excluding
civil society from the ICT-based decision-making process. Civil society groups
can approach and include young or unemployed citizens for whom grasping and
making decisions is harder than for others. [68] Civil society groups form ar-
guments which stimulate public deliberation. [69] So far, only politicians and
parties have the privilege to be included into formal decision-making, but given
the potential of ICT it is useful to end barring others from joining.
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Contents
1 Introduction: Accepting civil society 1
19
2 Structure and math of current democracies 2
2.1 Democratic decision making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2.2 Rational ignorance and representation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
3 Structure and math of Civil democracy 4
3.1 Actor-openness ............................ 4
3.2 Meta-decision freedom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
3.3 Searching for compromise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
3.4 Centripetal forces and other questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
3.5 Trust storage and the ongoing fight for security . . . . . . . . . . 10
4 Applications 12
5 Conclusion 14
20
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