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How 'remote' is remote participation? Trying to find right adjective....

Remote participation is a great success of Internet governance and this success is probably the reason why it has triggered discussion around its name. At today's IGF session, Hanriette from ACP questioned the use of the adjective 'remote'. I had the same concern because this particular adjective has potentially negative connotations. Remote participants are not remote any more. They follow the discussion in real time; they are increasingly engaged. A few alternative terms were suggested. 'E' was one proposal, as in e-participation. Semantically it would be more precise (the use of various electronic tools for participation). It would better aligned with global diplomatic lingo (e-governance, e-health, e-diplomacy). In our e-diplomacy initiative we wanted to push for the use of this term, but it has not taken off as we'd anticipated. One psychological explanation is that we have internalised the term 'remote' and that we attach to it a positive meaning (the success of remote participation).

In today's discussion Hanriette proposed 'enhanced participation'. It would explain what is happening in the IGF - enhancing participation every year from Athens to Vilnius. My concern is that the adjective 'enhanced' is already loaded, at least in IGF circles. We have many 'enhanced' issues, including highly controversial ones. Ginger has suggested the term 'local participation' arguing that those attending the meeting in person - these days in Vilnius - are remote, while people worldwide are 'local' - they are at home. They are close to the reality of the Internet and to local issues and problems.

Does anyone have another suggestion? Should we rename 'remote participation' at all? Does it serve its purpose as it is?

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Comment by Paul Muchene on September 17, 2010 at 3:05pm
"Virtual Participation" could be more apt even though the meetings take place in real time with participants physically absent from sessions. 'E-'anything is already loaded and has become cliched since we have E-commerce, E-government, E-mail, E-activism, E-entertainment.... :-/
Comment by Goran S. Milovanovic on September 16, 2010 at 10:12pm
"E-participation" sounds good to me (the capital letter is there only for the beginning of the sentence). On the other hand, almost every human activity will soon have some form of "e-" attached to itself, so if we chose to adopt "e-participation" today, we may face another need for revision in the near future...
Comment by Tim Davies on September 16, 2010 at 7:15pm
I had earlier suggested 'Distributed' participation, but that's not the most accessible or connotation free term itself.

Another top-of-the-head thought:

"Global participation" would capture the goal that everyone should be able to participate wherever they are in the world. In terms of a taxonomy, this may also help with the idea of protocol on the continuum from informal to more formal 'remote/global' participation, as, rather than 'Global hub' one has to be more specific about the sort of hub that is connecting. Is it a "National Hub"? A "Regional Hub"? A "Issue Hub"?
Comment by Mary Murphy on September 16, 2010 at 3:43pm
Remote participation = participating remotely. Yet remote participants are very much present, albeit not in physical form. They follow the proceedings in real time, comment on discussions as they happen, and have the opportunity for intervention. Far from being remote, they are very present. So no, I don't think it serves its purpose.

As for other suggestions? The term 'virtual participation' came to mind... but then I read the dictionary definion of 'virtual': of or relating to a computer technique by which a person, wearing a headset or mask, has the experience of being in an environment created by the computer, and of interacting with and causing changes in it and I have to wonder if headsets and masks are a prerequisite for participating remotely in forums like the IGF. I think not. And yes, I'm being pedantic here.

I am struggling with the use of the term 'local participation'. I get the reasoning and althought it has a certain crazy logic to it when Ginger explains it, it would take time to get my head around the idea that even though I'm physically here at the IGF, I'm not local = near/close to.

My vote would be for the 'e' - the lowercase 'e' that is now synonymous with all things Internetty - e-voting, e-banking, e-mail, e-diplomacy - so why not extend it to 'e-participation' ... it's short, sweet, and very much to the point.



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