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Expanding Citizen Participation in the Quantum Age
By Christa Daryl Slaton
Praeger, 1992, 226 pages

Christa Daryl Slaton describes televote as "an innovative political communications device created to serve a mediational role between citizens and their representatives and to increase citizen awareness, knowledge on issues, lateral citizen interaction, and direct public participation in governance." In this study of twelve experiments conducted in California, Hawaii, and New Zealand, she describes the theory and practice of televote against the background of the wider push to implement various forms of electronic democracy.

Televote is a system of public opinion polling first designed by Vincent Campbell, a psychologist, in the early 1970s. Like ordinary opinion polling, it relies on telephone surveys of randomly selected individuals on specific policy issues. In addition to telephone interviews, however, information outlining the pros and cons of various policy choices is mailed to each participant. They are then encouraged to deliberate on the alternatives and to discuss the issue with friends and neighbors. A follow-up call then registers their reasoned judgment on the issue. Although it can work well on its own, televote is designed to be used simultaneously with electronic town meetings on the same issue.

According to Slaton, televote and other projects like it must be seen in a wider theoretical and historical context. New mechanisms designed to enhance citizen interaction and participation in the democratic process, particularly those involving new communications technologies, are becoming increasingly common, she says, since our fundamental political orientation has evolved since the founding of the American representative system. She describes this change as a transition from a Newtonian worldview predicated on certainty, order, structure, status, and determinism, to a quantum cosmology based on the principles of uncertainty, probability, subjectivity, interconnection, and interactivity. This shift can be seen in the technological, theoretical, scientific, as well as the political realms. "Quantum theory," she writes, "helps us look at democracy as more than a mechanical system of distinct components with neatly divided functions. Quantum theory forces us to view democracy as a process -- an interactive process that evolves and transforms the system and the citizens that create the system."

Copyright 1993 by Scott London. All rights reserved.