= a model of consociational democracy is premised on the collective action of small groups working on a scale enabled by technology.
Described by Beth Simone Noveck in her First Monday essay, a Democracy of Groups:
"I want to posit an alternative: a model of consociational democracy premised on the collective action of small groups working on a scale enabled by technology. It is based on the understanding that visual and social technology makes it possible for people to see the groups to which they belong and to participate in them more effectively by sharing tasks via a computer network. The new computer screens replicate and often improve upon group socialization in real life. Through collective action, whether purely online or enabled by technology off–line, groups can not only come together to form virtual communities and build social capital but they can also make decisions and solve problems as legal actors.
The Internet provides the hardware and communications infrastructure on which we can design software applications and screens that groups can exploit for collective and participatory ways of working. The Internet is the locus for social action and activism. But it facilitates not only exclusively online interaction. These new tools can enable groups to wield “real” power, namely the power to take action, make decisions, solve problems. The underlying technological preconditions to collective action and activism are changing. As a result, groups and webs of groups can become more effective legal actors than they have in the past.
We might remedy the democratic deficit in our representative political institutions by taking advantage of the way new technologies empower groups to distribute citizen consultation more widely and practice it on an ongoing basis. We should institutionalize citizen juries to consult on every piece of proposed legislation or regulation. Because technology enables the exchange of reasoned ideas through the visual interface, groups can “deliberate” new more efficient, less time–consuming and more effective ways.
Recognizing the work of decentralized groups will tap intelligence and resources from the periphery, engage more people in the life of the nation, build affective bridges and bonds across groups and contribute to creating a more pliable and resilient political culture that does not depend only on rigid hierarchies and dysfunctional power structures. But the power of groups should not be limited to engagement in what we have conceived of as traditional politics. Rather, we want to harness the emerging phenomenon of group life to promote collective action in economic, civic and cultural arenas: the practice of democracy with a “small d.” We want to harness the emerging phenomenon of group life to promote collective action in economic, civic and cultural arenas: the practice of democracy with a “small d.”
While, in large measure, the design of technology might enhance the conditions for group life online, it is the law that both circumscribes group power in the public interest and renders their work legitimate. This means creating a legal framework to support the rights of groups and to protect us from the collective action of malevolent groups. Such a “corporate” law would recognize the rights of new forms of groups as legal entities and the legitimate nature of those groups’ decisions. It would safeguard the rights of members within those groups and defer to the self–governing and self–regulatory decisions made by groups for their own members. By protecting the right of groups to form, hold assets, make decisions and work together law can democratize power." (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_11/noveck/)