Talk: Adventures in Participatory Nation-Building

Human Rights and Digital Freedoms
Sunday 13th of November, 2011

by Eleanor Saitta

If you had a chance, how would your alter the structure of your state?

What if, instead of being built in smoky back rooms, the fundamental documents of the nations we lived in were made in public, out on the Internet for all to see? What would this mean for the fight for civil rights?

Constitutions are the fundamental building blocks of states, and they frame the legal context for all of a society. Law is just another system, however, and constitutional law is a uniquely self-contained legal system. Over the past thirty years, we've learned how to build systems in public. In the security world specifically, we've also learned a lot about analyzing formal systems. The same kinds of analytic techniques used in security and related spheres can be used on law -- indeed, the security of law has far-reaching implications, especially for issues like civil rights.

This past year, Iceland took a radically new, open approach to attempting to rewrite their constitution, and I was part of a team that attempted to provide analytic support to the Constitutional Assembly. We crowdsourced translations, used a variety of textual and semantic analysis techniques, and worked on threat models for the new constitution. This talk will look at the way the Assembly worked, the tools and methods we used to support them, some legal history going back to the 17th century, and what's up next for the Constitutional Analysis Support Team.

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