The power of informal educational badges lies not in their ability to measure individuals, but in their ability to reflect them. When digital elections and referendums eventually become a reality, a reflection of how distinct groups within society – based on experience, skills and the areas with which individuals have deeply concerned themselves – a reflection of how these distinct groups vote will be a tremendous aid to elected representatives. This development has the potential to offer a deeper system of democratic government that has been unavailable in the past.
Lawmakers and government officials one day will have the ability to look at a referendum vote on any given issue, say an issue like stem cell research, and compare the results of different groups such as those with biological or medical “badges” to the rest of the voters, total vote, a previous vote, etc. When discrepancies emerge, the responsibility of the representative is then to investigate; to clarify the crux of that issue, revealing aspects that may not have been considered by those uninitiated in the relative fields. This extent of democracy is much closer to the ideal democracy that people have dreamed of, that people have died for, that has not yet been available yet to us until this age. Voting electronically and using the information it affords is not a a matter of simple convenience, but a way to overcome past limits of democracy. To start to see, through the chatter, a current of social will.
The essential feature, as Audrey Watters states, is continued openness. For this idea to even aim at becoming an impetus to democracy, it needs to be seen as a type of right. Education for any such “badge” that would be counted in a governing system has to be able to come from any source and be able to be attested toward any citizen, and in various forms. In this way, badges do not need to be primarily seen as a commodity or as a way to validate a person’s knowledge. The potential corruption and greed of humans is a concern for checks and balances, not for the validation of a system outright.
There have always been holes in democracy as it works. Distance and time do not allow for every voter to directly express their will on each issue. Many would also say there is a problem of competency, in which certain people have more worthy views on particular issues than others. Weighted voting is certainly an interesting option for the future, regardless, this potential need not even be explored to see the benefits that informal accreditation can have for democracy. The ability for elected officials to have access to more frequent and more detailed snapshots of public opinion can hold such representatives accountable like never before. This ability can also give education a bigger role in matters that shape the world we live in. Looking at public opinion based on individual people’s knowledge and concerns will help us use our information aptly, giving society a more direct way to command its own evolution.
It is not so much the badges them self, but the idea behind the badges as a way to gauge any given citizen’s experience in particular subject areas that make them potentially so important. To focus on the limits of badges as measure dwells on the educational failures of the past, barricading innovative development. This view limits what education can help society achieve. Education needs to stay ahead of the game with technology, this time. Accreditation that is useful in itself has the potential to be an amazing thing. With digital communications we now have an ability of instant presence, and we should look ahead at using it in ways to fulfill long standing aspirations of humans.