Naming an Emerging Movement

There’s a movement going on around the world.

We don’t have a name for it, though.

Gov2.0, e-gov, e-democracy, open gov–these are all names that get applied to what is happening. And they are great for describing a certain aspect of this movement, the aspect that actually deals with government.

What’s really going on right now is much bigger than that. Open gov is a big part of the story, but not the whole story. On top of Open Gov, there are organizations like The Open Planning Project (TOPP), or Front Seat, or my own DIYcity, working alongside these open gov groups, trying to make the whole civic system work better. Or there is Robin Chase, CEO of GoLoco and founder of ZipCar, singlehandedly trying to reinvent the way transportation works in cities. Or there is the subway alert I just got in my inbox, courtesy of New York City’s MTA, notifying me that the F train has delays due to mechanical problems. All of these entities–TOPP, Front Seat et al, plus the open gov groups–are interrelated, and together create a new, emerging ecosystem of information, user activity, and possibility. But that ecosystem doesn’t fit neatly under the hood of “Gov 2.0” or any of the other “gov” labels.

Recalling my post last week about the four pillars of an open civic system, these “gov” names–e-gov, gov2.0, open gov–focus on the G2C aspect of what is going on, to the exclusion of the other aspects of this open civic system that is emerging.

And this new civic system should have a name, because it is a real ecosystem. It is also a movement, with more and more people focusing on it around the world every day. It is also increasingly becoming an industry.

So what do we call this new thing?

What do we say when we want to say to someone, “All of the stuff that is emerging right now in the civic space that helps communities operate better, both with and without direct or indirect involvement on the part of the government?”

I was talking with Micah Sifry, co-host of this week’s Personal Democracy Forum, a while back, and he suggested the name “civic software” for the apps that come out of this space. Riffing off that, I have been talking about the “open civic system.” Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, who recently posted on this movement, thinks that name is too long, but also thinks “civic software” doesn’t quite do it justice.

So I thought I would open up a thread here on Radar for a discussion:

What should this new space be called?

Let me know what you think. All ideas are welcome…

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  • CYnthia

    What about Emergent Community Infrastructure?
    It doesn’t really have a good ring to it though.

  • Some possibilities:

    Open Civics


    Civics 2.0


    Civic Commons

  • Carlos

    I think we should just call it Real Democracy. Pure democracy has arguably never truly existed, but the political movement that you speak of may lead to a voice for every person, and a vote for every voice.

    Communication from a political system to the individual may be among the first steps. Eventually the ecosystem allows for multi-dimensional communication and for the best ideas (which may arise from anywhere within the ecosystem) to rise up, be refined by the collective, and ultimately be implemented.

    This would break down political walls to allow societies to evolve in real time – so that a society’s political infrastructure reflects Real Democratic choice and preference. What do you think?

  • Michael B has some good suggestions (though I’d shy away from 2.0), and I think emphasizing the collaborative nature of “this new thing” might be useful. Collaborative civics?

  • Eve Killaby

    I like the word civics, because it implies both privileges AND obligations. In other words, it’s important that we’re talking about active participation by members of the crowd.

    “Civic Transparence”

    John Geraci’s description of what’s going on suggests that there’s an emphasis on effective communication and on unprecedented (or simply “new”) channels. There is also an emphasis on the near-ubiquitous availability of data. The goal, then, becomes “transparency” in support of civics.

    “Civic Emergence”
    “Emergent Civics”

    This was my first try. Although I like the way “Emergent Civics” sounds, it seems too temporary of a term — once a system has emerged it would no longer fall under the label of “emergent”. This might be a useful term, but it connotes specifically that which is emerging and should not be used as a long-term descriptor for what we see emerging today.

    “Backhanded optimism in the name of progress.”

    This is a phrase that I’ve been using recently. It’s become kind of a mantra for me. I use this term critically when discussing difficult steps that need to be taken. And I thought that it kind of belongs with the emergence of new civic transparence.

  • The New, New Deal


    N Squared D

  • stretchy54

    Why a new name? Welcome to the “web”, now that it’s early-envisioned functionality and level of service integration has finally matured .

  • kioopi

    Socialized Civics

  • bowerbird

    i’m sure it will end up being called whatever name maximizes
    the paid attendance at the resultant o’reilly conference.


  • i like civistructure.

    i’m gonna tweet this post and see if we can do even better.

  • wegov

  • How about CivicsII or i2Civics

    II – denoting the second coming and also saying “there is more than one ‘i’ (capitalized) in the word civic” – its about us

  • Civic Media? There’s a natural analog in how what we understood to be social software evolved into what’s more broadly labelled as Social Media.

    I’ve long been using ‘Civic Software’ ( to label these topics for my own reference, but perhaps Fred’s correct in that it doesn’t necessarily capture the breadth of what’s happening.

    Civic Media however suggests there are tools, tech, apps and cultures that’ll mediate between people and institutions to provide a civic layer of infrastructure.

    Civistructure captures some of that literally, but also sounds a little faddish.

  • OpenCiv

    Civilry – The virtue of civics

    TransCiv – could be transportation, transparency, or translation (as in translating the way we live from old to new)

  • Civicore

    Civiform (Civic + Platform)

  • Particivism

  • Les


  • Shaan

    Maybe this is not so much a new type of Government as much as it is a new era of Social Responsibility and the realization of what we can do for the greater good with our without the formal government. It’s a new era of independent, creative thinking that can bring about tremendous social impact.

    Perhaps, Citizenship 2.0 or the Global Citizenship movement.

  • A brief explanation about why “particivism”:

    – “parti”, for participate, to take part in something
    – “civism”:
    — civic: “Of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people”
    — civisme (french): knowledge of one’s rights and duties as it relates to the society where one lives
    — -ism: “denotes a distinctive system of beliefs, myth, doctrine or theory that guides a social movement, institution, class or group”

  • We-tarchy (pronounced “we-tarky”)

  • Freedomium

  • Think it’s too tempting to overload these terms with meaning. Sometimes it’s just enough to be punchy and to the point – although a bit of obscurity can work as well (as the community and focus is still emerging).

    – .civ
    – Dot Civ
    – .spqr or .spq (not exactly punchy I’ll admit)

  • Open: Accessible to all; unrestricted as to participants:

    Government: Administration or management of an organization, business, or institution

  • Whatever emerges as the “name” or “term” . . . it is important that an agreed upon definiton be attached to it. Otherwise, we know what happens if left to interpretation.

    If more posts for name recommendations appear in this comment string, I suggest folks include their definition of the name they offer up.

    With that said, I question the need to have a name at all . . . I think “America” or “USA” still speaks to the fact that free market capitalism and limited government fosters an open civilization of creative and innovative individuals who have the opportunity to improve, not only their lives and nation, but lives around the world. Without such, this blog post and the conversation topic would not exist.

    Many forget and take for granted what has brought us to this point and has positioned us to impact where we go.

  • scott


  • civics + ecosystem = The eCiv System

  • My faves so far:


    .civ — except that it suggests a top-level domain, which it is not

    eCiv (civics + ecosystem)

    We-tarchy (pronounced “we-tarky”) — ha.

    I like the prefix “civ” because it can imply both civic and civilization. Kind of open ended in a nice, big way.

    I still feel like there’s room for a perfect name to come along though and close the case.

  • Z


  • Z


  • gary


  • Transpocracy = transparent + democracy
    AccountiGov = accountable + government

  • I was thinking civ2.0 or CivII as well, but that conjures up the classic Sid Meiers game for me.

  • Civilization 2.0

  • oh my goodness, people.

    it’s called “participatory democracy.” can’t we just leave it at that? why must everything be shortened, acronym-ized and made to sound like a cheap VC-backed company from 1999?

    Sure, it’s now enabled by greater and greater advances in technology, which *perhaps* create greater transparency, accountability and accuracy (or maybe just faster ways to herd the mob?), but this is merely the evolution of the New England town meeting. It changed with railroad, the automobile, the telegraph, the steamship, the telephone, the radio, the television, the mobile phone…

    Let’s just call it Democracy and get to work making it better.

  • bowerbird

    jeff said:
    > why must everything be shortened, acronym-ized and
    > made to sound like a cheap VC-backed company from 1999?

    so o’reilly can create a conference around it, of course…


  • I am imagining people – be they Greeks or whoever – looking at the earliest occurrence of what we now call “democracy” and trying to think of a name for it.

    We could be those people today.

    Clearly this is something different than the democracy. This is not about majority rule, rights and popular votes. This is about real collaboration that focused on achieving a greater good – making things work. It’s like an evolution of democracy that transcends politics. People using technology to cut straight to the chase, where non-representation is treated like a system error and worked on until it is fixed.

    Of course we are still in Beta. We will always be.

  • WeGov

    Two interpretations:

    (i) interface between We | Gov
    (ii) ‘we govern’ – which we do, via the elected executive.

    A google search for ‘wegov’ throws up quite a lot of existing/conflicting results

  • Just noticed ‘WeGov’ won a similar competition on mashable (which I don’t read)

  • Civvy or CivUs

  • We could reuse an existing (but largely disused) term such as Panarchy or Polyarchy.

    We could even hearken back to the ’90s and coin a term such as GovSpace or CivSpace (CyberGov? CyberCiv? Naw.).

  • Eve Killaby

    It seems like a lot of the responses to this blog post have focused on the government aspect. Remember that governmental changes are part of what we’re talking about here, but there’s so much more to the new civics than just government. What’s going on, this “emerging trend”, is a like a meshing of data with new technologies/techniques that can be applied to government machines, corporate entities, and shifting civic social roles. By making the needs and capacities of each of these parties more transparent, we’re hoping to enable ourselves to make our world a better place.

    Feedback loops are being be created. Data is being discovered and generated and understood and applied. Our society is increasingly focusing on creating new technologies and conceiving new techniques for using and applying existing data and technologies. Machinic systems are becoming more transparent. Society is rewarding its members for participating in this creative spree.

    Is Google Maps a civic technology? Almost. Is the MTA a company? Almost. DIYcity is not exactly government. Let’s avoid labeling these emerging trends as anything “government” . . .because it’s not really government.

  • Ok, I’m even putting my mouth where my money is.

    I’ll open the gates to anyone that wants to seriously contribute the the ‘movement.’

    If it gets bigger than a free google wiki then we’ll have to incorporate and become nonprofit so it can continue to grow.

    Anyone up for a game of nomic?

  • Shana

    @Tom Keefer

    Democracy is a Greek word. It does not have the positive meaning we give it. Classical literature associates it with rule by mob. They saw a mob.

    It comes from the word “dêmos” or people. See the Perseus Project’s results.

    If I were to reference the ancients Greeks- it would be to Aristotle’s Politics.

    I would call something like this “Polis,” the city-state, for I agree with Aristotle on two points in that treatise that has helped defined Western political systems:

    1) Man is a political animal- people like forming groups to achieve various goals.
    2)The most basic unit of politic is Man- then family- then a tribal unit (maybe a church or some other organization), and so on. We build up, and up also defines down.

    But I would also have to reread the Politics to confirm that much of a deep respect.

  • How about Citizen Online

  • Social Government.

    Civistructure isn’t conceptually large enough for the pending change; whereas even people who still don’t type may already recognize implications of Social Media. Consider Jeff Jarvis coming to the same construct by simply percolating to Social Journalism:

  • Oh crud…


    left off the word


    The art of fairness from a decentralized point of view.

    Anyway. I did have that in the URL and that site is open by invitation request to mpoole at that same domain.

  • As the founder of a crowdsourced voting startup, I like self-explanatory names that make my explanations easier, like “civil technology” and “technology-empowered democracy,” but it is only fitting that this be put up for a vote.

    I’ve made a list (voting forum) on my startup and am populating it with ideas from this thread. Go vote!

  • After Tom Keefer,

  • Del

    OpenGov in the opensource sense ?

  • PB

    I vote for KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Call it Web 3. People have been trying to define what Web 3 will be. I say that, as with Web 2 (and thereby in retrospect Web 1) it is rather a case of knowing it when you see it. I think we are now beginning to see and comprehend what Web 3 is.

    Web 1: Provider to viewer, with limited response vectors and sophistication.
    Web 2: Peer to peer communication (both explicit and implicit). Slice and dice.
    Web 3: Co-opting of organizational models. Feedback to institutions; parallelization with existing organizational structures, de facto substitution for / replacement of same.

  • steve har

    From here the naming convention isn’t as interesting as changing the way people think using numbers.
    This guy does the job

    in principle you could drill down to your own F Train neighborhood and see for example if, for example, Bergen street station is getting station improvements.

  • Tom

    Demosphere ….(a nod to Teilhard de Chardin of course)

  • I’d avoid using “civic” anything. These changes are happening outside of towns too.

    How about using “society” ?

  • Two more contenders, both derived from ‘ecology’:

    Civology and Govology.

  • I think Society 2.0 is appropriate.

  • Do you want to focus on the technological aspects of the “movement”, or on what the movement is trying to achieve?

    If the latter, terms that come to mind are:
    -Transparent government
    -Distributed government
    -Self government

  • Distributed Sovereignty.

  • Eve Killaby

    “NYC Big Apps” competition to bring government-supported incentives into this discussion.

    Here’s the original press release.

  • Gov 2.0 refers to ‘Government 2.0’ and this indeed fails to encompass the greater dynamics of this emerging movement. Most often it’s forgotten that ‘government’ is simply the mechanism / tool (for disputes/conflict resolutions, resources distribution, power-sharing).

    What government does is the process of governance — and governance is (should be) reciprocal. So the process of governance ideally encompasses the interaction and relationships between governmental institutions and civil society. ‘E-governance’ shoud be seen in this context, and Gov 2.0 should actually be Governance 2.0.

    But as government and governance can function for whatever purpose, it’s important to highlight democracy as the framework and principle. That’s why I think e-democrcay is a good term, as it covers not only B2C, but the other dynamics as well. It can be applied to both initiatives on government home front and civil society.

    Other than e-democracy, I also liked WeGov and Civic Governance as both are based on the principle of democracy and gives emphasis on the role of civil society in governance. I’m not very certain if I will add an ‘e-‘ to refer to the technology that drives these processes. On one hand, it has transformed (or has the radical potential to transform) the whole process of governance. But defining it as such, focuses heavily on the technology, and this can exclude the role of ‘offline’ and the non-digital.

  • Hi John.

    I’ve named the movement as “Digital Integrationism”. I’ve already started to write the guidelines of it (which includes your 4 pillars), but I have only a spanish version of this Manifesto. If someone wants to read it, this is the link:

  • Becker C.

    This will be called the “civic web”.

  • Ram

    I use the “civic software” label for my civic apps.