Steven Clift, founder and executive director of e-Democracy.org, believes that ordinary people have the power to influence government.
In an interview with Knight Foundation, Clift informs us that “You have to realize that when you roll up your sleeves and you tinker with the tools, you can shape [democracy].”
Along with a growing number of Americans, Clift believes that the Internet is the most powerful force in the negotiation of democracy and governance by communities.
“It isn’t just about using the technologies neutrally. You actually have to use them with intent,” Clift argues. “People can have a voice. We can solve problems. Governments can provide more information. But unless people bring their democratic intent to it, it actually doesn’t measure up.”
For Clift, technology alone won’t prove transformative to government. Rather, it requires manipulation by the people for the people so that the many instead of the few shape our government.
"Ultimately those who have power know how to use these tools, and they’re using it to divide us, and put red meat out there, and raise a lot of money and win elections, and that’s great for them," he continues. "But for most Americans—most people in this world—we’re not actually getting the empowerment we could get from this technology if we used it in ways that would benefit democracy."
Clift’s interview with Knight Foundation is the first of 17 conducted as part of “The Digital Revolution and Democracy” series published on KnightBlog. The series examines the digital trends shaping the world, from Arab Spring to the Digital Divide, all from the perspective of trailblazers and revolutionaries who are transforming the future of media and democracy.