What is Civic Media?

CIVIC MEDIA, for us, is the use of media to give all Americans an informed voice in the political and government decisions that affect their lives. It consists of ongoing, results-oriented citizen-participatory public dialogues committed to making all citizens (including governments) responsive and accountable to each in defining and solving any problems and discovering and maximizing any opportunities that may arise in all three communities of which every American is a member.

We see this non-partisan, issue-centered, outcome-oriented Civic Media as both complementing and competing with the partisan, candidate-centered, election-oriented media that heretofore has political discourse in the United States.

There are other types of civic media. Media scholar Henry Jenkins, formerly of the MIT Civic Media Lab, sees civic media as

any use of any technology for the purposes of increasing civic engagement and public participation, enabling the exchange of meaningful information, fostering social connectivity, constructing critical perspectives, insuring transparency and accountability, or strengthening citizen agency.

Rather than focusing on strengthening citizen agency, the focus of the civic media we propose is on strengthening citizen/government agency. We believe that governments have become unresponsive to citizen input at local, state and national levels nationwide.

To this end, our version of civic media deliberately connects groups that have long been out of touch with each other: young people and adults, citizens and governments, economic haves and have-nots, employers and employees, city residents and suburbanites, people of difference races, nationalities, genders, sexual preference and religion.

We envision a dialogic civic media whose searches for best solutions to a given problem proceed by means of ongoing series of dialogues in which teams of problem-solvers compete and cooperate with each other in the search for best solutions to the most intractable problems, with audiences voting for best solutions at every major step of the way.

Civic Media dialogues are rule-governed designed to earn the respect and trust of large audiences of participating citizens. As in sports contests, their rules and principles are known to and respected by participants and the viewing public. These rules are designed to facilitate the articulation of severe political differences while eventually effecting the depolarization of such differences. Solutions generated by these dialogues are non-binding and advisorial to governments.

Effectively produced civic media dialogues are dynamic, exciting, fun and for this reason profitable to the media that host them. They tap the Market of the Whole of all members of a medium’s target audience.

The formatting possibilities for creating profitable civic media dialogues are limitless. This is so because their forward-looking, constructive debates, discussions, dramas, games, puzzles, contests, votes and awards are rooted in the dynamic blend of competition and cooperation that is the hallmark of freedom and that sets the great game of voter-driven democracy apart from other forms of government.

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