Berlin – Birthplace of a Political Innovation

Rüdiger Weis – Liquid Democracy Documentation Project – Interview #54 from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

 

To understand how Liquid Democracy emerged, one has to understand both history and geography, as well as the interplay of ideas and culture.

This interview with Rüdiger Weis, a professor of computer science at the Beuth Hochschule University of Applied Sciences, provides a good starting point for understanding the cultural and political context from which Liquid Democracy emerged.

Rüdiger Weis makes several important points in relation to the cultural and political evolution of Berlin. The first point he makes is that over the past two decades Berlin’s hacker culture experienced a fluid mixed between East German and West German hackers, each with different attributes. This mixing goes back several decades and also corresponds to the rather anti-ideological stance taken by some of the contemporary Pirate Party members I have interviewed, which explicitly argued they were neither left or right – that they wanted to make decisions using Liquid Democracy on a policy by policy basis, not based on party line. Importantly, if Germans wanted to opt out of military service (from the time of allied occupation in the 1940s to the fall of the wall), Berlin was a demilitarized zone were they could escape conscription, thus attracting those with counter ideological stances. Another important point he makes is the overall history of Germany itself with its history of totalitarianism, hence an extreme skepticism towards governmental power. A third point he makes is the influx of non-German hackers into the Berlin hacker scene, from the US and elsewhere, fleeing potential persecution. All these factors, he argues, were important cultural and political elements in producing the context from which Liquid Democracy emerged, why it did not emerge in other places, and perhaps addressing some of the problematic questions in its potential transposition to other parts of the world.

He also provides an interesting overview of the Chaos Computer Club, which has been going for thirty years now. The chaos computer club was the hub of this dynamic mixing and exchange, and provided a home and protection for radical hacker culture in Berlin. He provides an important window into the problematic dynamics between governmental power and hacker culture.

Toward the end of the video he talks about the merits of the Liquid Democracy systems, such as Liquid Feedback. He considers Liquid Democracy to be an important innovation that helps make democratic decision-making more transparent and open. He also argues that it is very inclusive, as it does not matter whether a person is elderly or homebound, they can see decisions being made from their computer and engage when and how they want. He also argues that, following hacker culture, when using the systems, people don’t care about titles, but are more concerned about the things that a person produces, which is more focused on policy rather than personality.

This research has been funded and draws upon work done at Leuphana University’s Centre for Digital Cultures as part of the Grundversorgung 2.0 Project. The author would like to acknowledge co-contributors to this emerging knowledge pool: Volker Grassmuck, Nicolas Mendoza, and Thomas Olsen.

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