We Need our Platforms to Be Real Democracies

By Nathan Schneider, Open Democracy

For most of the last decade, I’ve been a reporter, covering stories on how technology is reshaping public life, from debates about God to protests in the streets. One thing I’ve noticed is that Internet culture has an odd way of using a really important word: democracy. When a new app is said to be democratizing something – whether robotic personal assistants or sepia-toned selfies – it means allowing more people to access that something. Just access, along with a big, fat terms of service. Gone are those old associations of town meetings and voting booths; gone are co-ownership, co-governance, and accountability. Words are the tools of my trade as a writer, so I like to have a handle on what they mean. We rely on them so much. They connect us to each other; they remind us what we’re capable of. And I hope that the Internet can help...