here are some examples…
- Bill Clinton, 2012 DNC Speech
- Dave Matthews, Radio City, 2007
- Lawrence Lessig, On Point with Tom Ashbrook Jan. 2nd 2012
And so on.
It’s funny how aligned we can be about certain challenges we face in our country, but how little we can actually talk about and do anything about them.
Here is an example: A recent U.S. Gallup Poll found that reducing corruption in the federal government ranked at the top of Americans recommended priorities for the next president:
Sounds like an issue that would get a lot of air time for discussion.. from the media and the presidential candidates. But it doesn’t. Why?
One reason may be that it ranks much lower in importance within either group of Obama and Romney supporters:
Such issues can get slammed for multiple reasons. First, since politicians run campaigns focusing on their base, they may only take the top tier of issues with their group. Second, even if they are trying to create positive vibes on the other side of supporters, they may focus on that side’s top tier issues. Third, another issue that is also high priority across the board can be the large frontrunner for a bi-partisan issue, especially if it is easier to understand and more seemingly pressing - such as job creation. Lastly, when the issue is about a problem with the decision making body itself, it is an issue that representatives are less keen on talking about.
Another problem is that our media is not taking the lead to address such middle of the road issues. Even though there are many voices that could take the charge:
Such voices become siloed in a similar way as our representative systems, possibly for some of the very same reasons. Issues that try to be raised in the middle that do not fit in this system (ie: No Labels, Rootstrikers, and United Republic) are drowned out.
Such a system wouldn’t have just a small group of representatives - such as our congressmen, or people in the media, or leaders starting petitions, or foundations like Rootstrikers - deciding what topics to address and how to address them… it would be the entire community:
There is a growing amount of research that is hinting that we need everyone to create good collective decisions, not just leaders and representatives.
Existing tools, although amazing and getting better every day (see loom.io, meldd, and a list of others), are not yet ready to create documents from a large collaboration of differently minded people. Out of the major tools that we have that could potentially help:
How do we make a tool that can get there?
What if we take a Wiki style editor, and meld it with a user voting system, like Reddit?
and make a new tool:
The goal of the tool is for edits to be made by anyone who wants (the Wiki part of the tool):
… at the same time, all of the edits are being voted up and down by the community (the Reddit part of the tool):
then the top non-conflicting edits are placed into a new version of the document:
The document would be discussed and honed from version to version until a large enough group of authors were supporting it.
We live in a connected world, however we tend to only talk to people closest to us in our networks. Take for example this map representing the behavior of Facebook links within the United States:
This image shows that although we are very connected in the online world (how awesome are all of those links pouring over the oceans?), we still have a tendency to connect with like-located people. And even though it can’t be seen, there ends up being a huge tendency to connect with like-minded people as well. Another study that looked at just this was done during the 2004 presidential election:
This shows conservatively minded blogs (red), liberally minded blogs (blue), and the connections when they link to each others ideas (yellow and pink). You can see it doesn’t happen that often.
So how can we stop this from happening with Wirite? Two things…
Any person at any time can see exactly what the sentiment of the document is. In other words, what groups of people are supporting it, which are not, and why they feel this way:
Furthermore, one can look at the history of the document, and see how the support has changed from version to version, and what changes to the document have brought people on board, or off board the document:
With the benefit of this information, here is the second thing:
If you help make a change to the document by either editing or voting up an edit that brings more people on board that are near you demographically, you will get some diversity karma:
but by making changes that bring people on board that are less like you, you can get much more:
By expressing and discussing edits, votes, and diversity karma on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, we will be able to see how our collective efforts bring a larger, more diverse group of people together to solve and reach solidarity on challenging issues:
If this seems a little like a game, you are right! There has been lots of research showing that people can figure out and do the most incredible things with one another, just by making tools that enable it, and just by asking them to help.
We are using some of the best practices from this research as spelled out in Jane McGonigal’s recent book Reality is Broken (cool quotes):
So how are we going to use all of this to make a tool at the Boston Globe? Well, one way that we are thinking about is to write an article with the Boston Globe community that probably couldn’t be written in any other way.
One interesting place to start is for the presidential election. We already know that sometime soon there will be opinion articles that look something like this in our national newspapers:
But what if we could write something like this?:
…and not have it written by just a small group of people, but rather the group of people influenced: the American public. We could imagine a document that increases in size and diversity by giving people the right tools to be able to do it, by challenging them to use it, and by asking for their help:
We could have a competition, so that if the document reaches a certain level of support AND diversity, it could be republished in the Boston Globe:
Such a document would be an important new way to find and express the pulse of a city, a town, or a country in a way that we have never seen before.
This is what we’ll be trying to make at the Boston Globe! If you are interested in helping, please shoot use an email at email@example.com.