High-Tech and Online D&D Programs
Ratnesh Nagda speaks to his group during the AmericaSpeaks-run plenary session at NCDD's 2002 conference.
AAHE?s Democratic Dialogue Community of Practice
The American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) launched a ?community of practice? (online workspace) in January 2004 for people at colleges and universities who have an interest in deliberative dialogue. Participants in this community of practice are encouraged to take advantage of all of the available tools for online conversation, sharing resources and posting announcements. Go to the web address below and create a user name and password for yourself to begin.
AmericaSpeaks' "21st Century Town Meetings" have enabled policymakers to bring thousands of citizens together to deliberate about key issues. A notetaker at each table types notes, themes and agreements into a laptop computer. The laptops are networked to a "Theme Team" which gathers and analyzes all of the groups' notes in order to identify widely-held views and concerns. Each participant is also given a keypad with which they can vote on questions that are posed by the meeting facilitators.
Democracy Lab provides online forums for use in high school and college classes. National Issues Forums-style forums run for 10 weeks, fall and spring. Students from around the country dialogue in small groups and are guided from dialogue to inquiry and to action. Instructors adopt Democracy Lab and students purchase online access for $25. Democracy Lab also provides online mentoring for student civic leadership teams with some members going on to become online interns serving on Democracy Lab?s student staff. Fall 2004 issues are Americans' Role in the World, Three American Futures, Racial and Ethnic Tensions, News Media and Society, and Examining Health Care.
Dialogue Circles is Ascentum's intermodal approach to consultation that aims to maximize the synergies between the traditional and online worlds of consultation and dialogue. We believe that participants want to contribute in a medium that they are not only comfortable with, but in one that is convenient to them.
e-thePeople is a public forum for democratic and deliberative discussion. The conversations on e-thePeople explore the political issues we see in the news, rejecting the traditional spin and conventional wisdom that tends to fill the airwaves. It is built in a way that allows members to have maximum control over the topics and frames for discussion; it's their attempt at a citizen-driven town hall.
The Global Democracy Experiment [GDE]
The Global Democracy Experiment is a generic simulation of a working Global Democracy on the Internet. For this purpose it mirrors the main political institutions of an existing state. As a model of democratic opinion making and policy execution it can be generalized to all organizational and institutional settings, including corporations, governmental subsystems, non-governmental organizations, and large, multi-site peer groups. The GDE aims at providing a platform on which every person can discuss and vote on issues of international relations. The results are supposed to be introduced into the real political process. The GDE is an internet platform for global political discussions. Besides elections, the forum will allow users to debate, discuss and share views in what they hope will be a truly international environment.
H2O and the Rotisserie
The H2O project is building an interlocking collection of communities based on the free creation and exchange of ideas. H2O aims to apply Internet technologies to the underlying aims of the academy - the free creation and exchange of ideas and the communities formed around those ideas - both within and beyond the confines of the traditional university setting. Anyone is welcome to use the services on the site, including hosting your own project. H2O currently provides the "Rotisserie." The Rotisserie implements an innovative approach to online discussion that encourages measured, thoughtful discourse in a way that that traditional threaded messaging systems do not. The Rotisserie assigns every post within the conversation to another, specific participant for response. The resulting conversation guarantees that every post will be responded to by at least one other participant and that every participant must respond directly to the post of another participant.
Minnesota E-Democracy has been in existence since 1994 and is committed to building public space online. The project seeks to improve participation in democracy in Minnesota through the use of information networks. It seeks to increase citizen participation in elections and public discourse through the use of information and communication technologies.
Convened by the not-for-profit group Information Renaissance, Network Democracy uses online discussion lists to facilitate public participation through online dialogue in local, state, and federal decision-making processes.
Online Deliberative Polling
Online Deliberative Polling is an extension of a well-established methodology (Deliberative Polling, created by James Fishkin) that measures opinion change within a random scientific sample of the public. Central to this methodology is an opportunity to discuss the issues with fellow citizens and question a panel of leading experts. The first experiment in Online Deliberation Polling took place January 2003 as a prominent part of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions? By the People project.
The Online Public Disputes Program
The Online Public Disputes Project (OPDP) applies the tools and techniques of online dispute resolution to public policy development processes. OPDP?s technology has been used in telecommunications, energy, policy setting, regulatory negotiation, urban planning and other processes around the globe. They work with government and agencies and nonprofits to design and run online deliberative dialogues using tools like chat, discussion forums, deliberative surveys, polls, in-meeting technology, shared calendars and whiteboards, and video and audio conferencing.
oD.net's approach to e-Democracy, called "Contested Exchange," employs a strong but balanced editor to help frame debates and invite thought leaders and decision makers. They then invite the public and provide action links to generate social awareness and change.
As its name suggests, OpenSpace-Online software makes Open Space Technology available via the Internet to overcome the limitations of time and space. Available in German and English, the Internet Conference method features successive phases in which 5 to 75 people can work simultaneously. The participants work together in a goal and solution-oriented manner for 2 to about 8 hours. The participants, who meet because of a shared interest in a major theme, are considered the experts. It is their knowledge, their questions, their suggestions, and their dedication that co-develop new ideas and solutions. Once the OpenSpace-Online conference is finished, each participant receives documentation which provides a basis for further work.
Politalk is the home of a diverse community of individuals from around the world, who have gathered to share information, ask questions, and discuss some of the hot political topics of the day, in a thoughtful and civil manner. It was established in 1999 to offer an alternative to the shallow conversations often found on the web. It has online facilitators who facilitate a few discussions that last between 2-4 weeks.
Public Voice Lab
Established in 1995, PUBLIC VOICE Lab's mission is to analyze the social shaping of new Internet Communication Technologies that lead to efficient applications and services that support and enhance communication among and between citizens, city administrations, local communities and specific target groups, such as the elderly. PVL believes that new methods of giving citizens means to express their opinion will strengthen democracy in communities. Through its Digital Forum project, PUBLIC VOICE Lab has built up a number of virtual online communities, and provides technology, knowledge and infrastructure to support deliberation within these groups.
Quorum is designed as a public forum for democratic and deliberative discussion. It allows individuals to "publish" articles on whatever topics that interest them. Visitors then read and respond to the article, creating a "textured record" that has elements of naming and framing of an issue.
Study Circles Resource Center
Although the Study Circles Resource Center specializes in face-to-face, community-wide deliberative dialogue, a good resource exists which outlines an experiment in online study circles. The Electronic Forum Handbook: Study Circles in Cyberspace results from the experience of moderators trained in face-to-face dialogue who experimented with an electronic version on the internet. Two classes - one at Ithaca College in New York and one at the University of Georgia-were paired for an electronic dialogue experience in 1994. Visit www.cpn.org/tools/manuals/Networking/ to view the handbook.
The Summit Education Initiative
SEI is a nonprofit organization created in 1996 to engage and mobilize the community on behalf of the education of all of the children in Summit County, Ohio. SEI has been working with Common Ground and Kent State University to develop a method for online public deliberation, using the National Issues Forums model, to conduct electronic deliberative forums. A report about their experiment in online deliberative dialogue is on file at the Kettering Foundation.
Unchat is a web-based platform for real-time, structured and cost-effective conversation. Unchat adapts the synchronous Internet ?chat? environment to civility, accountability, and deliberative democracy. Participants create their own virtual collaboration "spaces" by stocking libraries with content to use in discussion and configuring a style of moderation that is either un-moderated, moderated, or self-moderated, thereby ensuring that users share control and responsibility. Unchat also offers participant three degrees of "vocalization" during online conversation: users can post responses and comments by "whispering," "speak" and "shout." The result is a forum where a community can debate and vote on issues, exchange viewpoints, collaborate on documents, and teach one another in real time.
Virtual Agora Project
The Virtual Agora Project is a 3-year e-democracy project run by Carnegie Mellon University?s Institute for the Study of Information Technology and Society (InSiTeS) and funded generously by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The research team, led by faculty members Peter M. Shane, Peter Muhlberger and Robert Cavalier, seeks to develop and test software that would enable large numbers of citizens to use the Internet more effectively to learn about, deliberate and act upon community issues. Named for the ancient Athenian marketplace, the Virtual Agora Project will seek to identify how information technology can best be used to support "electronic democracy" and to demonstrate the value of computer-mediated communication for building a widespread and inclusive political community. The software they develop could lead to new forms of online civic engagement, including public hearings to inform government decision-making processes, new forms of public opinion polling, and new tools for community organizing and problem solving.
Web Lab is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing innovative web-based projects that bring fresh perspectives and new voices to the discussion of public issues. Web Lab?s goal is to use the web as a positive, transformative force in people's lives and in society at large. By limiting group size and lifespan, Web Lab creates a structured experience requiring minimal intervention, and "signal-to-noise ratio." Web Lab ran the online dialogues associated with the well-known Listening to the City event. These discussions can still be viewed at http://dialogues.listeningtothecity.org/.
This e-participation platform aims to provide an online environment for the conduct of participatory problem solving, consensus building, mediated conflict resolution, and teaching and consulting. One of the first applications of this tool occurred in the city of Esslingen, Germany to involve citizens in discussion about plans for a neighborhood development project.
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