These guys have been working on networked campaigns and governance for a long time, and know how power flows in this country.

In a paper titled “Digital Government through Social Networks: A Natural Alliance?” they get real about how this could happen, focusing on real human political behavior.

This makes sense to me.

From the abstract:

North Americans possess a “participatory surplus” that fuels open-source software and presidential campaigns, energizing millions. Well-understood social networking services could provide a for the constituents of any politician and to the stakeholders of any government agency or service. How might campaign web site experts design and host a network to govern governance?

In such a system, the “governed” would have to feel that they are having an effect. Politicians and government employees, “surrounded” online by fully empowered and well informed constituencies, would be motivated by self-interest to listen carefully to specific policy formulations carrying the force of voters’ money and votes. Online, a plurality of anonymous but authenticated voters can pledge future votes and donations contingent on government behaviors. When issues-based commitments to votes and donations are aggregated, published and audited, politicians are likely to behave as if the entire government were online, a stepping-stone to digitizing government itself.

A virtual congressional district is the epitome of politician advice and consent, guiding a representative’s policies as effectively as an airplane’s “trim tab” governs its unwieldy rudder. Proponents of Digital Government could use Virtual Districts to erode the resistance keeping the U.S. on paper.

Such a system must recognize the real world motivations and mechanisms pulling the levers of government. Politicians are moved not simply by pure argument or the honest expression of their constituents’ preferences. They are ruled by career interests. Above all: Governance is regional. A social network for governance will very likely have to reflect the way in which geography binds constituents.

Thanks to Michael Bauwens at P2P Foundation.