A great day for e democracy

Today we are witnessing two remarkable new ways to use technology to open up the democratic process. For the past several days, viewers have been encouraged to use YouTube to submit questions to Presidential candidates. Tonight, CNN will air the responses of the Democratic candidates, starting at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, out in Washington, the House Higher Education Committee and the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness are conducting Web Dialogues.

These “online town meetings” offer both opportunities and challenges to citizens and policy makers. The goal is to take a longer view on critical issues–access to higher education and obesity.

I conducted a Web Dialogue with students in my district last year. I found it to be a terrific way to engage people in thoughtful conversation about important issues. (In the interests of full disclosure, I’m also co-facilitating one of the Washington dialogues.)

I am particularly impressed with the quality of the discussion. People are really trying to listen (in an online way) to each other. “That’s an interesting point, but. . . ” or “I never thought of it quite that way.”

We worry a lot about participation in the political process. These two examples offer us exciting new ways to bring more people into the conversation about our future.