Mapping the Political Contours of Cyberspace

William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace”, for his 1982 short story Burning Chrome to create a “a narrative engine, and a territory in which the narrative could take place”. Twenty years on, cyberspace is the world’s narrative engine: and an uncharted territory to which the world is still coming to terms.

Political, industrial, and civic leaders are gathering at the Foreign Office’s London Conference on Cyberspace next week to think through the implications, opportunities and contradictions of this emerging world.

The conference will explore key themes – prosperity; social good; freedom of access and expression; cyber crime and international security – with the aim of deepening mutual understanding and beginning to outline a political, social and economic strategy to secure the benefits of cyberspace while addressing the concomitant threats to personal and national security.

The Foreign Office would like the dialogue at the event and online to be as broad as possible – and, in support of this process, Debategraph will be mapping and curating the dialogue as it unfolds live and online.

To start exploring the map – which we have seeded with the initial framework of the conference – click on the small bubbles to move deeper into the debate and on the larger bubbles to move back up.

You can gain an insight into the range and scope of the debate by watching the map evolve here, but you are welcome to add your voice to the debate online by adding new ideas and comments to the map and by rating the ideas, or by suggesting new ideas and questions via Twitter using the #LondonCyber hashtag and/or the Foreign Secretary’s Facebook channel (both of which we will be monitoring as well).

As discussed before, the whole structure of the map is like a wiki – every aspect is provisional, and open to further refinement – and everyone can add new issues, positions, arguments and evidence to the map.

The aim is to weave together all of the arguments into a rich, transparent, non-linear structure that anyone can explore and understand quickly.

As with the other maps in the The Independent series you can keep up to date with developments via @TheIndyDebate on Twitter, and you are welcome to embed the map (like a YouTube video) on your own site or blog using the code shown below:

<iframe src=’http://debategraph.org/Flash/fv.aspx?r=121532&sc=smalll’ frameborder=’0′ width=’480′ height=’500′ scrolling=’no’></iframe>

*Cross-posted at: The Independent

Controlling Persistent Infectious Diseases

The first in a quick series of posts to catch-up on some of our projects in 2011 so far.

At the start of March 2011 I was privileged to map a 5-Day workshop on “Modelling and analysis of options for controlling persistent infectious diseases” at the Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Discovery and Innovation; part of the breathtakingly beautiful Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.


The workshop gathered 40 leading mathematical modellers, infectious disease researchers, clinicians and public health officials from around the world to explore the past and future contribution of the mathematical modelling to public health policy, the priorities for future research, and potential ways to enhance the relationship between the research community and public health officials.

Debategraph was used throughout the five-day workshop to the map the live discussions and to facilitate the group dialogue around the key points arising – with group members contributing directly to the map as the workshop proceeded.

The map resulting from the discussions – which the group is continuing to develop beyond the workshop – is embedded below:

CNN, Amanpour and Debategraph

As you may have spotted already, the collaboration between Amanpour and Debategraph launched on CNN last night, with Christiane’s new live global program featuring interviews with the Secretary General of Nato and the Prime Minister of Spain.

If you missed lat night’s episode, it’s available via Podcast here.

Debategraph’s working with Amanpour’s production team and viewers to create debate maps around the interviews and global issues addressed in the programs – and to provide a forum for non-linear, interactive and cumulative debate to complement the program’s thought-provoking analysis and interviews with the global leaders confronting those issues.

Christiane’s aims for the program “to offer multiple perspectives… and serve as the hub for a global community of inquiring minds, hungry for a more daring perspective and a strong, clear, thoughtful take on international stories” emphasize the resonance between our mutual approaches and the reason why Peter and I are delighted to be collaborating with Amanpour’s New York based production team.

 art_amanpour_cnn


“I want this show to stir the global conscience. I have witnessed so much that it’s time to start making real sense of it all”


 
The program airs on Monday to Thursday at 2100 CET, with a round-up of the best of the week on Fridays on CNN International and Sundays on CNN in the United States – and tonight’s show features interviews with Tony Blair, Terje Roed-Larsen (UN Middle East Envoy), Dan Meridor (Israeli Intelligence Minister), and Saeb Erakat (Chief Palestinian Negotiator).

In conjunction with the launch of program, Peter and I have released a new interface for Debategraph (which will also feature  in the forthcoming WAVE climate change project for the European Commission). More on both later — but for now here’s a quick video introduction to the new Debategraph Stream interface:

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Public Services 2.0

Thanks to David Osimo‘s pioneering energy and imagination (and the enabling support of FutureGov and Headshift), I was privileged to have the opportunity to outline some of the thinking behind Debategraph at the European Commission’s Public Services 2.0 workshop in Brussels last month.

As David described in the agenda for the workshop:

“Over the last 3 years, we have seen a dramatic rise in user driven, web 2.0 style initiatives in and around public sector service provision. Initiatives such as Patient Opinion, Farmsubsidy and Theyworkforyou all seek to challenge, disrupt and improve on traditional models of public service delivery from the outside, built on the web 2.0 principles of openness, transparency and sharing.

Against this background the workshop “aimed to bring together the best experiences from all over Europe” to: share experience and knowledge between the people running the web 2.0 initiatives; promote a surge of collaborative initiatives; and raise awareness and better understanding between government officials about why and how to promote web 2.0 in government.

The workshop was a great success across all these dimensions, and the slides and videos for all of the presentations are worth exploring in depth.

On a personal note, one of the joys of the event was the chance it afforded to meet people whose work I have long admired from a distance including James Munro, Lee Bryant, Anna Maybank, Dominic Campbell, Justin Kerr-Stevens, Emma Mulqueeny, Richard Stirling, Ivo Gormley – whose highly recommended film Us Now features Debategraph briefly and tantalisingly on screen at a key moment – and Søren Duus Østergaard.

In the aftermath of the workshop it has been delightful to see the same sense experimental adventure bubbling up elsewhere, and in the European context, the next collaborative step, emerging as spontaneous initiative from the workshop, is to imbue the European Commission’s imminent consultation on the i2020 strategy with more of the same spirit.

Of which more later.

Visualizing Middle East Peace

The events in Israel and Gaza this year have prompted gloomy prognoses for the prospects for peace; a mood deepened by the mixed signals from the Israeli election and the latest developments with Iran.

Lord Patten, writing for European Voice last month, struck a particularly bleak note:

"However tough things looked in the past, I have never felt such a sense of despair about Palestine and Israel. Reason has been drowned in blood. It seems as though the politics of hope have given way to the politics of the cemetery. Poor Palestine. Poor Israel."

Independent readers and the Debategraph community have started to explore the options for peace in the Middle East over the last few weeks, and, though the map is still at an early stage of development, it already provides a succinct insight into the nature and scale of the challenge; showing how strong views at either end of the spectrum pull the peace proposals towards the gyre of despair.

One of the advantages of visual mapping in this context, though, at least at the outset, is that it’s not asking anyone to take sides: just asking everyone to pool their understanding to map the contours of the problem.

The visual mapping process also opens up the possibility of creative brainstorming and lateral suggestions, such as the proposal to relocate the UN headquarters to Jerusalem, illustrated below – and we would like to see more contributions of this kind as the map develops over the coming weeks.

unhq

(click here to view live)

Given the progress made with the map so far, and the work still ahead, we’re extending the first mapping phase through the spring, and, will be including other partners in the process as we seek to engage the main actors in the region.

Anyone who would like to join us in this process is welcome to do so, and, if you would like to involve your own blog or website readers in the debate, you can embed the map—like a YouTube video—using the embed code shown below:
 

<iframe src=’http://debategraph.org/flash/fv_indep.aspx?r=11474&d=2&i=1′ frameborder=’0′ width=’490′ height=’650′ scrolling=’no’></iframe>

In the meantime, I will be examining different areas of the map in detail on the blog over the coming weeks and will present the mapping community’s work-in-progress to a conflict resolution forum in Haifa later this year.

Cross Posted at: Independent Minds

Obama: Making Sense of the World?

And so the kaleidoscope turns, and we see the world anew.

Or do we?

Barack Obama’s inauguration today as the 44th President of the United States of America, marks the end of a remarkable personal and national journey. Arrival at such a destination is a cause for global celebration. But as with all great journeys the arrival is also only a beginning.

inaugration

Obama is taking a leading role in a world system that is severely perturbed on multiple levels. Such perturbation often proceeds collapse: and can proceed the emergence of a more sophisticated and better-adapted system.

It’s not clear—it never is—to what extent the choice of branching paths is open to us. But it surely behoves us to act as if it is.

My (personal) sense is that we face a mess of complex, interrelated and non-linear problems; sane responses to which lie beyond our existing methods and tools. In essence, we need to re-configure our modes of political thinking and organization to enable us—as local, national, and international communities—to move significantly closer to collective maxima of intelligence (both reasoned and emotional).

For those for whom the analogy is familiar, we’re awaiting The Mother of All Demos in the political realm to match Doug Engelbart’s technological masterpiece 40 years ago (which pre-figured much of the technological landscape that we inhabit and take for granted today). It’s the social dimension of Engelbart’s vision of augmented collective intelligence that lags behind our technological achievements: and it needs to catch up quickly.

The signs are that Obama, and the team around him, are mindful of this. As others have noted already, one of the most encouraging aspect of the Change.gov experiment was the speed at which the interaction on the site improved iteratively across the transition. The challenge now is how to crystallize this process—to enable genuine and deeply collaborative sensemaking—and how to set this process in motion in the first few months of the administration when the opportunity and receptivity to change are greatest—and when the character of the administration will be forged.

Readers of The Independent and others who have joined in developing the Obama and Gaza maps over the last couple of months have demonstrated on a smaller scale and in vitro that different and radically collaborative models of sensemaking are possible—and we are grateful to everyone who has participated directly so far, blogged about and embedded the maps, and to the BBC World Service’s Digital Planet, BBC Technology and PRI’s The World: Technology podcast for their support in spreading the maps more widely.

Both maps will continue to develop as exploratory exemplars of the kinds of cumulative, comprehensive and distillative sensemaking processes that the web is starting to enable—with the Obama map, in particular, shifting to a focus on the first 100 days.

Deeper challenges remain. The emerging set of collaborative sensemaking and deliberation tools of which Debategraph, is one example, are still nascent, still figuring out the basic principles—still more VisiCalc than Excel. The tools require a basic visual literacy that itself is only just beginning to emerge in society. And the maps, and other sensemaking constructs, require time to build and time for reflection in an impatient and attention-poor age.

But, today, of all days, is a day for optimism. The day on which Barack Obama embodies the realization that long journeys towards distant mountain tops can reach the summit.

Cross-Posted at: Independent Minds

What should Obama do Next? The Independent series launches…

In the build up to Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009, The Independent and Debategraph have teamed up to give the world a chance to map and explore what Obama should do next. Click here for the map.

Over the next 10 weeks, Independent readers and the Debategraph team will develop a series of interrelated debate maps of the key policy and political questions facing Obama as he prepares for office.

Whether it’s tackling the global financial crisis, deciding who to appoint to key cabinet posts, or determining how to proceed on climate change, Iraq or the crisis in the Congo, you are welcome to join us in building comprehensive maps of the political choices open to Obama, the arguments for and against the different options, and the path you think Obama should follow.

Each week, we’ll be seeding the maps with an article from The Independent or The Independent on Sunday and beginning to layer in the positions and arguments from the Obama team’s published agenda and public statements.

You can watch the maps evolve in the build up to the inauguration, or better still register and begin to comment, suggest new issues, rate the options and arguments, and add new options and arguments of your own.

I’ll describe the process in more detail over the coming weeks, but for now we have seeded the opening map on The Independent’s website with the arguments from Philip Bobbitt’s article The flag-waving is over. This is how the president can change the world (examining some of the international policy options open to Obama), and Leonard Doyle’s Obama Starts to Build a ‘Team of Rivals’ (considering whether Obama should appoint Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State).

Introducing ESSENCE 2009…

ESSENCE is the world’s first global climate collective intelligence event—designed to bring together scientists, industrialists, campaigners and policy makers, and the emerging set of web-based sensemaking tools, to pool and deepen our understanding of the issues and options facing the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The event, starts online in January 2009 and culminates with the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of this year.

During the pre-launch phase, we are beginning to identify and assemble teams of scientists, industrialists, campaigners and policy makers to work with the tool developers on specific aspects of the complex set of issues around climate change.

The aim is to develop a comprehensive, distilled, visual map of the issues, evidence, arguments and options facing the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, that will be available for all to explore and enrich across the web.

The project is founded on principles of openness, transparency, and discovery; with no preconceptions about the conclusions that will emerge from the event.

If you are scientist, industrialist, campaigner, policy maker, tool maker—or someone with other ideas and resources to contribute—and are interested in learning more about and participating in ESSENCE, please get in touch.

Ready?… / …Engage

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Debate Mapping Obama's VP choice…

In the wonderful way of the web, a generous invitation from Seb Schmoller to guest blog an overview post about Debategraph, led to encouraging and deeply insightful feedback from David Weinberger about Debategraph.

In a subsequent post, David called for transparent debate about Barack Obama’s choice of vice-presidential running mate, noting that:

Obama

“Barack Obama has promised to tear down the stone wall and dense bushes with which the current administration has barricaded the White House. Good. Democracy without transparency is at best assumed.

And, Obama has promised to take advantage of our new connective technology — the Internets and all its associated tubeware — to enable a level of citizen participation undreamed of since our population outgrew the local town hall.

So, how about if the campaign starts now by opening up the vice presidential selection process?”

…so here’s a debate map featuring some of the mooted VP candidates and the arguments for and against their candidacy. Anyone can add new candidates and new arguments. Anyone can rate the candidates and the arguments for and against. And anyone can embed this (automatically updating) map of the debate on their blog; so that changes made anywhere will be displayed everywhere.

Which is about as transparent as it gets.

Help us share the debate as widely as possible, and let’s find out what the collective and connective wisdom of the web makes of Obama’s potential running mates

Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test…

A double thank you to Dan Pink (and Mike Sporer) today, for introducing me to Tom Chapin’s guitar-based critique of trends in modern education policy:

Obviously Tom’s closing observations about the importance of teaching of students how to think and engage in rational discourse strike a chord here. And our belief in the potential multiplier gains to society from helping children to develop their thinking skills explicitly rather than implicitly, has been one of our primary motivations in making Debategraph freely available to schools and colleges as an open education resource.

Viewed as a whole, though, what do you think of points Tom’s making? What are the other issues and voices in the debate?

I have embedded a rough starting point for the debate map below, using the arguments presented on Tom’s Not On the Test site, and would welcome input from teachers, students and educational policy specialists to help develop the map into a comprehensive overview of this vital debate.