Networked Society needs a more Networked Democracy – Discuss

The Reliance in Leeds
The Reliance in Leeds


As you may be aware the Culture Vulture is interested in all things that make life interesting and worth getting off your backside for. Over the four years or so of creating this website, we’ve moved from a what’s on, to a what’s it all about? Ultimately we’re driven by our insatiable curiosity to get under the skin of what makes people and places tick.

So we’ve stuck our beak into matters of the city, such as What would it take for our cities to delight us?’ an open space event ‘cultural conversation’ with over 60 people a few years back. We’ve hosted panel debates at the Rose Bowl (Leeds Met Uni) such as ‘Does Leeds need a Mayor?  We’ve facilitated content about living, walking, cycling, sitting and playing within our cities. We’ve had posts about Civic Enterprise from Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, incurring much discussion. Phil Kirby our editor has critiqued the ambition to be the Best City in the UK, and the inward investment agency, Leeds and Partner’s desire to have us all singing from the same hymn sheet in One Voice.  We’ve enjoyed posts from Paul Thomas of Leeds Salon claiming Leeds is a city of debate.  There are countless amazing individuals and organisations dedicated to representing their communities online and off, and we hope we’ve weaved among them. We are fortunate to be one voice among many in this city, both on Twitter, Facebook and various excellent websites & platforms doing their best to encourage the citizen to be informed, excited and supportive of all the stuff going on in our city.

So it was interesting to read Catherine Howe’s blog on Networks of Networks and Digital Leadership in the Civic Space. From my time on Twitter as @CultureVultures I’ve noticed an interesting developing of ‘non traditional’  influence from a number of people and communities, I’ve seen frustrations, and a bit of one step forward two steps back’  kind of stuff. Sometimes we collaborate, sometimes we divide. Some may call our conversations online ‘White Noise’ other’s see this as a way of us working out in a very honest way what it means to be invested in the place you live.  After reading Catherine’s blog I asked her what her reflections of Leeds were;

“I am really interested in how new kinds of civic participation – made possible by social media – can help to shape our cities and places as well as create positive pressure on our democratic system to change and become more relevant to a digital and networked society.  A more networked society needs a more networked democracy.  I have been following loads of people from Leeds over the last year or so because it seems that the City is already having an active debate about the kind of place it wants to be and its fascinating to watch.  I want to see how this connects with some of the ‘network of networks’ research that I am doing and to see why things are just so interesting in Leeds”

So I invited Catherine to Leeds to meet a small fraction of people exploring this themselves, either specifically for their own sector’s needs, or broadly in terms of weaving across the sectors and communities in Leeds. I’m absolutely sure I’ve just started to scratch the surface of people doing really interesting stuff with social media, to engage, facilitate, explore and take action. If you’d like to come along tomorrow evening we’ve a few spaces available for an informal meeting at The Reliance, where we’ll have a bit of a chat about what this means to us all. We’re all paying for our own drinks and food, so let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions ahead of her visit.