Friday, July 24, 2015


I've been reading an article by Paul Ford: The Web is a Customer Service Medium. It's a fascinating look at what makes the web different from movies, television, radio, and newspapers. It comes down to how we interact with it. Ford describes this with the term WWIC.

Why Wasn't I Consulted?

Users feel a sense of ownership of anything and everything.

"Why wasn't I consulted," which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.

My first response to this was not to think of the web, but to think of the responses of some in our community to the forward movement of Columbia's Downtown Plan. This "fundamental need to be consulted" has spilled forth in community meetings, letters to the editor, and on social media. It seems as though absolutely nothing may be accomplished without consultation, and, dare I say, permission, from a certain portion of local citizens.

Social media has definitely added another venue for people to shout, "Why wasn't I consulted?" Combined with a media culture where consumers are turned into "voters" to decide contest winners by texting or clicking or creating tending topics on Twitter, we've fostered an environment where people believe that everything is up to their personal "vote". They must be consulted. They must give permission.

Democratic government, as representative as it is, doesn't exactly work that way. I came up against a failure to understand this on Facebook the other day when a gentleman posted in response to Councilman Calvin Ball's Commentary in the Howard County Times, "Council Bill Was Measure to provide healthier options."

The council voted 4-1. Just what makes Calvin Ball think that these 5 individuals have the knowledge to decide what is good for the population and what is not? And who died and made them boss?

Although I probably should have known better than to wade in here, I wrote:

They were 1) elected by their constituents, 2) got community input and 3) consulted scientific evidence. No deaths were necessary.

He persisted.

I don't recall reading anywhere that when someone wins an election, they become "the boss". I thought the people were the boss. We, the people, didn't like the previous rule that was put in place, so we hired someone to fix it. (Hmm. It almost sounds as though the County Executive was procured through the 1-click ordering option. I wonder if he got free shipping?)

As I said, I probably should have known better.

Throughout the online conversations I saw plenty of people outraged by their sense of WWIC, and fueled by a notion that handling this should be as simple as voting for American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

We are really doing a miserable job teaching Civics, folks.

Nonetheless, this is the world we live in now, which gives everyone a forum for their outrage and a click in the contest. We can't put the genie back in the bottle. And I am not saying that I would want to. The web gives us brilliant opportunities to learn and communicate with one another.

But does not should not must not be seen as a replacement for representative government.



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