2 / 7 / 2002, City of Hamburg
DEMOS: Tool for electronic democracy successfully tested at the Technical University
Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg: In a six week process, an internet-discussion
was held on the evaluation of lectures. This was made possible by using a newly designed
platform for political participation, developed as a part of an EU-project.
In order to counteract falling voter turnouts and the decreased interest of the citizens
in political debate, new methods of participation have to be developed. The DEMOS-Project
is meeting this challenge to the democratic system, using the communicative potential of
the Internet. A sophisticated forum for large scale discussions is being created in
cooperation with partners all over Europe. The main objective is to develop a tool which
enables citizens and politicians to lead a goal-oriented and structured debate, providing
transparency for both sides. These features are seldom found in average virtual discussion
forums, but seem of interest especially in anticipation of a Europe-wide political discourse.
The Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg now used the capacities of this forum in order to
enhance and stimulate the dialogue between students and staff. The objective: "To meet the
demand of the staff of imparting their contents of lectures in an optimal way", as formulated
by Prof. Dr. Bauhofer, vice-president of the TUHH. The newly created infrastructure seemed
perfect in order to achieve the aim. A six weeks debate evolved and became a virtual reality
shortly before the new year. The topics discussed ranged from the structure of studies in
general to the opening hours of the cafeteria. More than 1200 contributions were made by
the 228 registered participants.
Supported by the newly designed software-system, the DEMOS team was able to structure the
enormous amount of contributions as well as to visualize the discussion in a way that allowed
even new users to get informed and involved easily. The initiated dialogue was a success also
from a pragmatic point of view. It was possible to pinpoint nine fields of problems and to
formulate possible actions in five elaborated strategies.
DEMOS is a research and development project sponsored by the European Commission.
Co-ordination and project-management are conducted at the Technical University of
Hamburg-Harburg. In the process of developing the functional forum for discussion and
decision-making, this successful test marks an important step. Further testing has recently
be done in Bologna, covering the topic of public transportation.
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