Institutional Memory and ICT: Ingredients for Direct Democracy and Global Solidarity

Institutional Memory and ICT: Ingredients for Direct Democracy and Global Solidarity

Lester Leavitt (School of Public Administration, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jicthd.2013070103
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This paper presents an expansive view of the theory behind an emerging information communication technology that is being developed to provide marginalised populations with the tools they need to unify their voices. The system allows for the capture of their crowd-sourced artistic creativity and engineers an algorithm that makes the media retrievable as policy-supporting narrative threads. This ICT is seen as critically important because of how powerful lobbyists, funded by global elites and predatory capitalists, have consistently been successful in skewing the outcomes of policymaking decisions and elections. The system is firmly rooted in established governing narrative theory and is consistent with the small-group, consensus-building organisational theories that have been advocated by some of the most respected authors in the field since the 1970s.
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If nothing else, what engaged citizens should have learned from the global protests in 2011 is that young people are frustrated at their prospects for the future. Estimates are that on the weekend of November 12 and 13, “Occupy” protest actions, organized by groups that trace their origins to the “Occupy Wall Street” actions and the “we are the 99%” slogan, took place in 951 cities and 82 countries (Rogers, 2011). By then the Arab Revolution protests had subsided a bit, but the European austerity protest groups had willingly picked up the “Occupy” slogan. Nevertheless, very little structural change has taken place in the wake of the 2011 protests. The agenda setting and policy-making process, for the most part, still favors the wealthy and their powerful lobbyists because of how organizational elites and multinational corporations use the mechanism of hierarchical control to concentrate their power, and thereby manipulate the leaders of Western and emerging democracies to get the policy outcomes that they want. Recognizing this, organizational theory expert Gareth Morgan writes, “…we may be able to remove key problems [within our institutions] by changing the ‘rules of the game’ that produce them” (2006, 332-333). Morgan, like Frederick Thayer 33 years before him, was referring to a complete restructuring of the hierarchical organization, and by extension, the bureaucracy that controls which policies are introduced, and which ones succeed (Thayer, 1973). This paper hopes to show that what past efforts to change the governing paradigm have failed to do is change the paradigm of hierarchy, in spite of numerous theorists who identified this as the problem. Arguably, their efforts all failed because the theorists failed to extract the institutional memory (specifically, the media material that is used to impact policymaking) and its custodians from the grasp of the hierarchy. This paper will demonstrate how current cloud technology not only makes this possible, but immediately upon investigating the available options, the possibility emerges whereby the algorithms that give the policymaking institutional memory its utility could also be engineered to provide a functional direct democracy system, not just for local community organizations, but just as easily, for global governance.

This paper will first describe a new kind of organizational model that circumvents hierarchy (and the lobbyists that leverage it to their advantage) and precludes its return. The paper will then describe the stakeholders for this new global (virtual) institution and explore their relationships with each other as populations that have traditionally been kept hopelessly fragmented, and thereby easily oppressed and marginalized by hegemony. With this foundation, the paper will describe how a reengineered institutional memory for the agenda setting process could be blended with information communication technology to unify all of these global populations and provide them with the tools for not only improving policymaking outcomes, but also for self-government.

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