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2018 Summer Online – Politics 333: Democracy and…

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Welcome to 333: Democracy and Democratization: Week 1. 

Caution: This week combines intro-to-online-learning and the first week of democracy, so it has more readings and videos than some other weeks.  We’ll introduce online learning, we’ll introduce ourselves to each other, and we’ll take a first look at the intersections of business and government.

You saw the course’s main page (if you haven’t, please go back and start there).  We’ll look at democracy from a range of perspectives.  And you’ll have a chance to do you own inquiry into the topic of your choice. You’ll have multiple short assignments each week, and toward the end of the course you’ll write a longer paper you’ve been working on throughout the semester.  We’ll discuss this.

It looks like we have a good class size – our 8 or 10 students is effective in a lot of ways.  You should expect that we will have a lot of “discussion” – this means real engagement on everyone’s part, not just regurgitation.  You know that we are  “asynchronous” – that means we will never all be online (or at least, never have to be online) at the same time – you can be anywhere in the world and do your work at any time – so long as it is submitted by the deadlines.

If you haven’t already, please join our facebook group – I posted the link on our Blackboard > Announcements.  If by law or for some other reason you are unable to have a facebook account, let’s discuss – email me using the email address I posted on our Blackboard > Announcements.

Each week we will have reading, writing, research, watching videos, and just thinking.  The assignments might sometimes seem like a lot, but remember we only have a few weeks for the same three-credit course of a fall or spring semester.

Let’s begin by looking at what is online education.  It continues to evolve, just as classroom teaching strategies do.  I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve taken and led training courses in online education, presented at academic conferences, etc.  But no one knows everything.  Your ideas on improving the course are always welcome.  If you have any specific problems, please contact me immediately.   Use the subject line “Politics 333” in every email you send me, please.

We start with a couple of videos.  Watch all of Charli Carpenter and Pia Mancini.  Optional: watch at least the first seven minutes of the Clay Shirky videos – feel free to watch more, of course.

Charli Carpenter, Transnational Politics, i(I)nternational r(R)elations, and the Information Age – on teaching, scholarship, and Web 2.0 and 3.0 (2012) – (watch all eight minutes) – she focuses on the IR field, but it’s applicable to all social sciences – notice that this is from 2012 – what has changed / what has stayed the same since then?

Pia Mancini, How to Upgrade Democracy for the Internet Era (2014) – (watch all 13 min – opens in new window)

Optional: Clay Shirky,  “How Social Media Can Make History” (2009) – (watch at least first seven minutes) – this is now ten years old – again, what’s still new / what’s not

Optional:  Clay Shirky,  “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World” (2010) – (watch at least first seven minutes)

Note:  The idea that the Carpenter and Shirky videos are outdated is part of the point – the pace of technological change is related to the our study of political/economic change.

More on online learning itself:

APSA Teaching and Learning Conference 2014, “Short Course on MOOCs“, (J.Quirk, 20:20-24:46) – just this four and a half minutes, on massive open online courses (30,000 students, not eight students) – of course, you can watch more if you like – if you watch here, skip to 20:20

Ann Ferren Conference 2016, “Online Learning: What Students Want” panel –  (1) read the Educause article, (2) see the powerpoint, (3) optional – but if you watch the first 5 minutes or so, you’ll get a  decent sense of who I am and how I approach things – of course, you can watch more if you like. You probably need to turn your volume up louder for this video.

Finally, a short article from Marc Scott, “Kids Can’t Use Computers…and this is why it should worry you” (2013)

Intro to Democracy and Democratization

Ok, that’s a pretty thorough intro to online learning….let’s get started on democracy itself.

We’ll discuss some of your ideas on how technology, including but not limited to social media, drives democracy, debate, and governance.

In the second part of course, we’ll focus on some democracy and democratization background more generally.  For the most part, we’ll be asking questions of the most basic sort:

What is democracy?
What is a democracy?  Are there attributes that a country must have, or must not have, to be considered a democracy?
Are there limits on democracy (or should there be) – can there be too much of a good thing – should elections or free speech, for example, have limits?  Why? According to whom? For what purpose(s)?
Do we assume democracy is the best for of government, or “the worst except for all others”?  Why do we assume this?  How can we measure whether democracy is “better”?
What are the cultural questions we should be asking about democracy?  – in the United States? in the other countries?

Keep these questions in mind as you look at these we move throughout the semester.


We focus now on some of the basic research in modern democratization studies. We look at three articles from our text, Diamond’s Democracy: A Reader (these articles are also available online from the CUA library), and a speech from Larry Diamond to university students in newly post-Saddam Iraq. We go back and look at a couple of the founding documents of the United States.

The questions here revolve, in various ways, about the basics of what constitutes a democracy, what difficulties and contradictions are involved in democracy, and why we place so much importance in it.

We also look at some more ways of measuring democracy.  Last week, we introduced Freedom House’s Freedom in the World map.  This week we consider some additional methods.


If you have not already, please join this course’s facebook group – see Bb announcement for details, and post an introduction about yourself.


Mayflower Compact

Declaration of Independence

Larry Diamond, What is Democracy?, Hilla University 2004

U.S. Constitution

Schmitter and Karl, What Democracy is…and Is NotJournal of Democracy, Summer 1991 (same as Reader chapter 1 and online at CUA library.

Diamond, Three Paradoxes of Democracy, Journal of Democracy 1990, (Reader ch 6 and online at CUA library.  Ok to skim but don’t skip. Can also see with free trial to Scribd.

Sen, Democracy is a Universal ValueJournal of Democracy 1999, (Reader ch 16 and online at CUA library.  Sen is a Nobel Prize economist, and is famous for arguing that – read this carefully because it is awesome:  “democracies don’t have famines.” (How great is that! )


I will post an intro video on facebook (coming) and my PowerPoint notes on fb.


This week we’ll watch part the beginning of a documentary on democratization.  A Whisper to a Roar: They Will Be Heard (2013) looks at five ongoing efforts at democratization: Egypt, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Malaysia.  With global reach but common themes, it illustrates many of the ideas in the Diamond books.  It also gives us some rich background into some of the current events we are paying attention to – background to the headlines we see from Kiev, Caracas, and Cairo….

You might begin by looking at the web site:

For this week, we’ll just watch the first 27 minutes.  That gives us a good intro to each of the five cases.  Caveat:  the first 2:30 is a weird, anime/Game of Thrones thing – just go with it.

You can buy the DVD, or buy or rent it for online viewing from amazon, Vudu, and Google Play, and maybe elsewhere.


Please look at two important sources for measuring democracy: the Center for Systemic Peace’s Polity IV series , and Freedom House’s annual report on Freedom in the World.   Please get a solid, introductory understanding of these sources.

Please also take a look at the World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.


by Wednesday night – post an intro video or 40-100-word text about yourself, on our fb page
by Thursday night – post a news link on fb – esp. a story or source we might not have seen – with 10-40 of your own words to explain
by Friday night – your 300-400-word “essay” post at the bottom of this page, based on the essay prompts (“questions”) below
by Sunday night – comment on at least one classmate’s news post on fb (10-25 words) and comment on at least two classmates’ essay posts at the bottom of this page (approx 100 words each)

NEWS LINK – By 11:59pm EDT, Thursday, June 28   Post a news story entirely of your choosing, but in some way related to democracy and democratization, to our facebook group page.  The story, and the source, can be local, national, or international.  Try to get a news story that we may not have all already seen, or an unfamiliar perspective on a familiar topic, etc. Be sure to provide a short comment on the link – probably 10-40 words – that will help us understand why you posted it or your reflections on it.  See our course’s main page for examples of what is and isn’t a good post

ESSAY POST – By 11:59pm EDT, Friday, June 29 The essays you post are based on the prompts at the bottom of this page.  The prompts will ask you to consider a question on the reading(s) and/or video(s) of each week.  Your post will be approximately 300 words, directly beneath the prompts. See our course’s main page for examples of what is and isn’t a good post

NEWS REPLY – By 11:59pm EDT, Sunday, July 1   On our facebook group page, briefly reply to at least one of your classmates’ news links. See our course’s main page for examples of what is and isn’t a good post

ESSAY REPLY – By 11:59pm EDT, Sunday, July 1   On this page,  reply to at least one of your classmates’ Essay Posts.  Your replies should advance the discussion, not merely re-iterate, approve, or reject your classmates’ ideas. You want to be thoughtful, insightful, etc.  You can certainly take a different perspective, or ask questions, or build.

You should not merely criticize: “that’s stupid,” or “you have that entirely wrong,” or “what are you, a RedSox fan?,” or worse, is not constructive.  Your comment should be at least 100 words. See our course’s main page for examples of what is and isn’t a good post


It seems like it should go without saying, but just in case:  this is academic work, not the place for screeds, ad hominem attacks, or other unpleasantness.  That’s not really suitable for your personal twitter account either, but it is certainly not appropriate here.  This is “classroom facebook”, not “locker-room facebook”.  Open, sincere, fact-based, and analytical, and even partisan, but not mean or rude.  Thanks.

Additionally:  the fb group is “closed” – only my CUA students will be able to see it (and a handful of a alumni that contribute),  and only I can admit people to the group. But is the “real Internet.”  It won’t generate much traffic except from members of the class, and when the class is over, I will password protect it.  But during the class, it is available to anyone on the Web.  This is a deliberate pedagogical choice.  You are free to use your own name, or to use a pseudonym.  You must, of course, let me know what your pseudonym is.  Any G- or PG-rated pseudonym is ok.  Additionally, when you post/reply, the site will ask for your email address.  This email address will be visible by me, but not by anyone else.   In the first week or two, posts will require my approval before they show up.  After that, they will appear immediately.  Treat this work as you would any in-class homework: smart, thoughtful, analytical, proofread – no first drafts. 

Thanks, everyone.  Semester moves fast – keep up, get smart, have fun. Prompts for your posts this week are below

Essay Prompts for Week of June 25 

In about 300 words (350 max), discuss one or more of these questions.  Post your answer in the  “What do you think?” comments section below here.

1. Review your notes on “What democracy is…and is not” and “three paradoxes of democracy. ”  Offer examples of ways in which the United States today bumps into the issues or difficulties described in these articles.

2. Which of the concepts from our scholarly readings are illustrated in A Whisper to a Roar? Be specific: and offer a couple of good examples.

3.  What can we learn from the various indexes of democracies – Freedom in the World, Polity IV, Reporters Without Borders, and Economic Freedom?  What elements from our readings or Whisper do we see at work?

4.  What elements from the Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution do we see reached or exceeded in the U.S. today?  Or in our general expectations of democracy today?  In what ways does the United States continue to fall short of its founding ideals?  (Let’s omit, for now, focus on the 2016 presidential campaign – we’ll do plenty of that in a future week.)

5.  What’s the one concept, issue, etc. from this week’s readings and video that was most striking to you – most surprising, most upsetting, most challenging, most illuminating, etc.?  You can bring together the ideas from multiple readings etc if you like.

6. What did you learn from the online-learning videos – Carpenter, Mancini, and Shirky – what made you think about something for the first time, or in a new way?

(Yes, answer directly below, in the What do you think? box. Use your CUA email address – only I will see it.  Posts will not appear immediately for the first week or two – this is the only way to keep out considerable spam.)

15 Replies to “CUA-333-DEM-2018-june25”

  1. Yes, you put your short essay posts right here – thanks! You can use your real name or a pseudonym (yes, I am ests13, long story), but 1 – tell me who you are, and 2 – use your CUA email address when you post – no one can see it except me. Your first post will be delayed until after I approve it; subsequent posts of yours should appear right away. Great, let’s have fun!

  2. #4 There are several elements of the Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States that we see reached and/or exceeded in today’s society. First and foremost, the Mayflower Compact calls for the advancement of the Christian Faith. In the year 2018, religion in general is abundant all over the nation and the world. Their fundamental beliefs in Christianity have come a long way; a crucifix in bedrooms, churches in every town, moments of silence before sporting events, and other little elements along the way. Second, the entire basis of the Declaration of Independence is for citizens to act and resist when their leaders have become too oppressive or out control with power. In every election year, citizens are given the opportunity to replace officials who are not doing their job with ones who will do it more effectively. Although the Declaration calls for the removal of a tyrant King, these two concepts are the same in nature. The idea of creating a national Constitution came when the Articles of Confederation essentially failed to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and establish justice among other things. The framers saw a lack of structure and organization, they desired a new document that would protect the rights of their citizens, set up the framework for new laws to come, and promote civic action in their republic. You can compare the throwing out of the Articles of Confederation and replacement with the Constitution to when a company or an organization needs a new set of bylaws or legal contracts. And we have seen over the last 100 years that every nation who wants a new Constitution, looks to the American model for help. Religion, the right to vote, and the right to hit the reset button on corporate structure all come from our founding documents. There has never been a nation in the history of the world as successful as ours, thanks to the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

    1. Do you feel that the Constitution and such should be revisited in a way? I know that there are always updated amendments, but what about updated clauses within that. It always intrigues me to understand how things are thought upon as being equal — yet, certain groups are still excluded. I feel like the bylaws are being manipulated to serve a few and not the very ones that truly need it. To an extent, it keeps our country going… but not in a way that I truly hope for.

    2. You raise a lot of interesting points, but let’s choose one: religion. You seem to suggest that religion is pervasive in our culture (and political culture) – and in some ways it is: in some ways, the politically-conservative evangelical Christians have had a tremendous influence on society in the last 40 years or so. But in other ways, the battle over religion in the public square has become fierce: those who think the 10 Commandments should be posted in court rooms, for example, and those who don’t think any religious imagery or notions should be in public at all. Conservative Christians have lost their major social battles of the last two generations – Roe and Obergefell – and Islam/Muslims have become either despised or elevated in America since 9-11, depending on your context. Obama admin declared Christians the victims of genocide under ISIS at the same time it was deporting Iraqi Christians back to that region after they’d lived here for ten years or more. And we’re about to have a big debate over the role of religion on the Supreme Court , if the president nominates Amy Coney Barrett.

      As a side note, from 2010 to 2017, the Court was been made up of only Catholic and Jewish justices. 2017 appointee Gorsuch was raised Catholic but also attends an Episcopalian church and is not public with his faith identity. Two of the presumed “top three” possible nominees are Catholic, Kethledge is evnagelical Christian.

  3. # 6- A couple of things I learned from watching Clay Shirky’s TedTalks about cognitive surplus and how social media can make history is that cognitive surplus is the ability of the world’s population to collaborate and aid one another on local or global projects. Clay also states that digital technology is what makes this possible. Our ability to talk and connect with people worldwide allows us to aid one another. In the 20th century, we had extensively limited tools in media, which led to a society of media consumers. We weren’t able to do anything with the information we had just received, compared to today’s media tools which lets us create and share with the global population in a matter of seconds. I also learned that the design for generosity is another tool in making cognitive surplus possible. People’s willingness to make and share content with one another without being told to or given an incentive is what makes the large scale global media possible. I learned from Carpenter that user generated media is changing how the experts who interpret the world for others interact with others. Examples of this are scholars now using websites such as Youtube for teaching and contributing to blogs, which allow the population to learn and absorb information or hear news on their own time and in the comfort of their home. Blogs and websites also now changes who is considered an expert on a given field, and the ability to write and publish things on the internet. Due to today’s media, comedy and satire are becoming frequently used by scholars to connect with their audience. Carpenter debates whether these are positive or negative aspects. I also learned that web 2.0 technologies, like twitter, facebook, or youtube, are blurring the hierarchy of these scholars. This in turn doesn’t allow the consumer to correctly discern whether the information they’re being given in completely factual.

    1. I agree with your post on the effects social media has had on how we get our news. It seems Facebook and Twitter have adapted to be one of the outlets for where we can get our news. This is a big change from the original purpose of social networking and sending friend requests. I believe people realized the massive platform Facebook could provide to the public. It is a lot easier to get your word out on Facebook, rather than trying to get in the newspaper or on television.

    2. It is becoming a true fact that social media is beginning to shape the elements in our society. It is becoming more clear that some information is becoming a bit watered down. By this, I mean that there are many with inaccurate information, that may seem to be accurate for many. I appreciate that way that social media is now challenging things in various ways. However, I am skeptical of the true essence beyond the points of making a said point. Coming from an upbringing where information was always hidden, I do appreciate the sharing of knowledge between many. This could help in many ways than not. In the future, I would love to an accuracy/fact checker on posts per blogs and social media. I believe that Facebook is now taking a newer approach on having factual news on their site.

      1. This is such an interesting idea, right? What on the Internet can you trust, and what can’t you? Sure, there’s probably not a Nigerian prince offering you millions of dollars. But some of these Russian facebook ads are plausible enough if you’re already in that mind set

        Additionally, ************************I’d like you all to look at this************************ chart of media bias/legitimacy. Does anything stand out here to you?

  4. 5. While reading “Democracy as a Universal Value”, I was surprised to see the statistic that there has never been a famine in an “Independent and democratic country with a relatively free press”. The middle of the article discusses how famines are avoidable in a democratic government. The first thing that came to my mind was the problems Venezuela has had in the recent years. Venezuela which had been a country that has had socialist tendencies had shifted to a dictatorship. There is now a vast food shortage in the country. Of course I am not sure if Venezuela falling away from a democratic government is the reason for food shortages, but it was interesting to see the connection made by Mr. Sen’s statistics, on non-dictatorships and famines.
    Something else that stood out to me, was the effects public discussion can provide within a democratic state. Mr. Sen references India’s lowering fertility rate in literate ares, once democracy was instituted. I thought about China, when I read that statistic. China had to enact a “One Child Policy” in the 1970’s and phased it out early 2016. It is interesting to see the relation between a more literate, democratic country handle a high fertility rate, compared to China’s non-democratic state.
    Mr. Sen says the virtue that makes democracy valuable is “The intrinsic importance of political participation and freedom in human life.” Thanks to social media, the public seems more aware and interested in politics. The rise in social media being a reputable news outlet might be one of the reasons, the country seems more politically divided between conservatives and liberals, than recent past. I believe Mr. Sen shows in his article how grateful we should be that we have this opportunity to debate and vote for our government.


    1. The current political climate has unfortunately caused all types, on both sides, of the print, digital and television media to report on a variety of different subjects. Regardless of their opinions and viewpoints, citizens have become more active in our democratic process. Not in the past ten years have we seen large marches and we’ll-attended political rallies. It is safe to say that the American people are tired of the status quo and do not believe that’s good enough for their children. The video shared by Mr. Sen makes us realize how lucky we are to have a government that allows us to take part in its process.

    2. Lots good here, Tyler, but let me focus on one: yes, Venezuela’s departure from democracy is directly tied to its economic difficulties now including food.

      Democracies don’t have famines. Awesome. Wanna hear another?

      Countries with McDonalds don’t go to war with each other. How great is that?! Of course, it was only true until 1999, when the US bombed Yugoslavia over Kosovo independence. But still, until then, pretty cool. You can all debate why.

  5. 5. What’s the one concept, issue, etc. from this week’s readings and video that was most striking to you – most surprising, most upsetting, most challenging, most illuminating, etc.? You can bring together the ideas from multiple readings etc if you like.

    I had the privilege of watching the TedTalk by Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history. It was truly a very interesting video to watch. I found the entire seventeen minutes to be beyond interesting. It was always intriguing to look deeper into the world of politics and social media. During these times of enormous political involvement, I feel that social media has taken a chunk on shaping a new normal on politics. Social media have become such a powerful force, that many use as a means to drive about their most popular agendas. Whether that agenda is for the betterment or of such else, one cannot deny the power that social media captures in that very essence. It was noted in the TedTalk that, “Social media does not give many a choice. Once it is up, it is up.” This is something that holds true to each and every moment captured. Many citizens who capture the raw instant ‘amateur media’ of the subjects are the true beings controlling the narratives happening. As noted within the video, there were times when professionals were the ones that controlled the spouts in the media. Nowadays, that is becoming a thing of the past. I found it incredibly interesting in how China is now dealing with such widespread amateur media coverage? It was always known how they censored many things to protect the movements of any uproars. It is also known how China likes to keep a tight grip on the true essence of power within their structure. With this new shift in social media, it challenges the status quo. I am blown away by this very subject because there are avenues where many are beginning to lose control. This holds true, as I continue to watch the politics in the District of Columbia. Once an issue is posted, with many likes or comments, officials instantly respond. That response is done with some form of immediate press release to settle any uproar happening. It is very interesting how this connects many to any instant issue and the action taken thereof. Things being posted are making waves and changing the course of document history. I would love to see more of how things will go in the future. For now, my eyes are wide open to this newer shift in politics and power.

  6. Social media is one of the greatest influencers of this generation whether we like it or not. We went from reading headlines every morning in the paper once a day, now you can go onto any social media medium and get our news as we please. It is also changing the journalists means to supply news. Regular citizens are also able to be amateur journalists and often report on news before any media outlet posts about it.

  7. All this deserves, perhaps, some time travel to the first big political cartoon about the Internet. “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog,” says one keyboarding canine to another in the New Yorker (magazine) in 1993. That’s the earliest days of the web, when it was still all text. But the message lasts: on facebook, no one knows if you’re a Russian “Internet Research Agency” or a Nigerian prince or a legit airbnb site or actually Bernie Sanders (although the little blue circles with white checkmarks help). Check out the cartoon:,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog

  8. I enjoyed watching the Carpenter video regarding transnational politics. It was amazing to see that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. I take YouTube for granted by searching for music videos and watching sport highlights. However, YouTube contains many educational videos that are worth your time. In addition, the website serves as a platform for governments to better inform their citizens. During election season candidates post their own advertisements in order to reach a broader audience with hopes of attracting new voters. Take the Arab Spring for example, this was primarily organized through Facebook. In 2012 we saw a sudden up-rise in people who were fed up with autocracy and wanted to make a change. Leaders who had been in power for decades abusing their position were ousted practically overnight. The internet is the most powerful tool in my opinion. It connects billions of people around the world instantly and knows no boarders. In this current age more and more people are using their cellphones.

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