It’s not easy to stay motivated, optimistic and creative in the field of dialogue and deliberation these days. Our public problems feel out-of-reach for everyday citizens…everything seems to be too big, too complex or too hidden. Politicians and most in the popular news media are only willing to discuss issues in sound bites, driven by ideology, partisanship or corporate interests. Our public leaders are essentially stuck in gridlock while our problems expand like compound interest. So…how do we keep our optimism alive? We can recognize together that this is the perfect time for robust dialogue and deliberation…and that it’s time to innovate and learn and network with new energy to make this happen. No…our existing tools and methods don’t have the capacity to process this new energy into effective solutions. And that means…we all need to experiment quickly to discover a new paradigm in deliberative work.
‘Deliberative IDEAS’ in the virtual world of Second Life (SL) with connections in real-life (RL) local communities is such an experiment. Our hub is on Commonwealth Islands in SL…a link below gives some information on this effort of non-profit organizations. Our goal is to encourage and support deliberative conversations in SL and RL where the methods and outcomes are Integrative, Developmental, Educational, Associative, and Sustainable…hence the IDEAS acronym in the title. To accomplish this goal, a new blend of tech platforms is being used, providing multiple entry points for participation by the widest possible cross-section of people in SL and in RL.
‘Second Life’ lends itself to highly-interactive, fast-paced and multi-tasking conversations…much more than in any RL setting. In SL, the space and tools can be customized to the task at hand…people can be mobilized without the expense or time involved in travel…small workgroups can meet at the same time as other groups or when it’s convenient for just their members…brainstorming and recording notes from meetings are fast, easy and actually fun…since the outcomes are already digital, everyone can have a copy of notes immediately.
‘Netviewer’ is a desktop sharing platform for online conferences and web collaboration, extending participation in SL events to anyone who has internet access. We can broadcast the video and audio from an SL conversation to folks who don’t have the capacity to join the group in SL…and participants can share their own local chat and voice conversations within this collaborative platform. Chat can then be shared back into SL from this wider group for their responses too. A full record of this local chat can be saved to add to the data on the topic being addressed.
A ‘wiki’ has been created for all participants in SL and RL to contribute conversation data…and to work with the accumulated data for local, state, national and global reports. This is a powerful tool with the capacity to gather data from many places for truly participatory and transparent processing and interpreting. Some protocols will need to be created for this process, but the platform will be more effective in data gathering and processing than any hard-copy methods can provide.
‘SurveyMonkey’ will be used extensively as a deliberative tool in SL and RL. In the AmericaSpeaks projects in both SL and RL, we found that conversations seemed to identify benefits, costs, consequences, tensions and trade-offs quicker when some carefully prepared questions must be answered by the small group. So…Deliberative IDEAS be using more of a questioning format for deliberation in our conversations…and this method will standardize and streamline the gathering of some benchmark opinion data.
‘YouTube’ videos will be used to introduce participants to our deliberative methods and projects. These videos are created from Second Life, so they can be totally customized to the topic being discussed and the scope of the project. The tech platforms being used will make it possible to address national and global issues with locally-sensitivity problem-solving. These YouTube videos will be able to broaden the appeal and participation in many more communities. Here is the link to the video that introduces this new deliberative networking…‘Organic Democracy’:
‘Facebook’ will be used as a primary organizing and learning tool. A FB group has been created…Deliberative IDEAS…for use by all participants in SL and RL. Events can be created and publicized…best practices can be shared in discussions…new ideas can be quickly and efficiently distributed…a wider group of participants can be reached.
It’s time to experiment!! The stakes are high…and I believe many people are eager to participate in public problem-solving that circumvents the partisan gridlock and ideological bickering we see all around us. We need a new paradigm in deliberative work…one that connects us in the doing…one that puts new life into a participatory culture.