Visualizing the Romney Tax Debate

A BlogPoster from DebateGraph

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

Debategraph honored as one of the AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning

Peter and I were delighted to discover last week that Debategraph has been named as one of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2010.

AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning

The award honors the top twenty-five Internet sites for enhancing learning and curriculum development and for fostering the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation and collaboration, with the chosen sites identified as the “best of the best” by the AASL.

It’s a particular joy for us to see Debategraph recognized in the company of sites that we love using ourselves, such as TED, Creative Commons, Prezi and Evernote, and to discover marvellous new sites among the awardees that are fast becoming favorites too.

The full list of awardees is available here, along with the individual citations accompanying the award for each site.

…and, finally, a big thank you to the AASL’s Best List task force, to everyone who nominated us and, most importantly, to the Debategraph community for all your support and inspiration.

Cross-posted at: Open to Persuasion

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

Mapping the IQ2 Green Festival on Climate Change

This Sunday I’ll be live mapping the debates at the marvellous IQ2 Green Festival on Climate Change at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

iq2GreenFestival

The festival, for which tickets are still available, has assembled a fascinating group of climate change speakers, including: Professor Mohan Munasinghe, Sir David King, Stanley Johnson, Professor Chris Rapley, Joan Ruddock, The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, Mark Woodall, Tony Juniper, Fiona Harvey, David Bellamy, Malini Mehra, Christine Loh, Isabel Hilton, Jonathon Counsell, Steve Koonin, Jeremy Leggett, Tom Burke, Ed Crooks, Michael Keating, and Oliver Tickell.

The full schedule encompasses a mixture of debates, seminars, and panel discussions, including: Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity, Countdown to Armageddon – how long have we got?, Can Asia go green? Can technological innovation save us from disaster?, Green Herrings – what we need and needn’t bother doing, Biofuels – essential or a waste of time, UK political parties aren’t serious about climate change, Green Capitalists – a contradiction in terms?, Geoengineering – is it the silver bullet? Renewables – wind, solar & other – are they worth the bother?, and Bioperversity: An obituary for the world’s rainforests and other major ecosystems?

I’ll be aiming to map as many of points being made by the speakers on the day, and building on the initial seed maps over the subsequent days—and you’ll be able to follow the maps developing online on the IQ2 Green Festival website and on the Debategraph home page.

The current work in progress on the existing climate change map is shown below:

Feel free contribute to the debate maps from afar as they are developing, and if you are planning to attend the event with a laptop, join in and we can use the maps as an intelligent, multi-dimensional conference back channel.

I’m delighted to report as well that Anna De Liddo will be joining me to map the debates, and that Anna and I will be using the maps as one of the first building block in this year’s ESSENCE Collective Intelligence project on Climate Change in the build up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year.

Many thanks to Edie Lush and her team for conceiving and organizing the festival—and if you are planning to attend, don’t forget to say hello!

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

Mapping the Crisis in Gaza

As the What Should Obama Do Next? map began to address the unfolding events in Gaza last week, it was soon apparent that the immediate crisis and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict merited detailed consideration on a new map.

To this end, Independent readers and the Debategraph community have begun to seed a map on the crisis; including arguments raised by Robert Fisk and Johann Hari, and some of the questions and answers from the Twitter press conference organised last week by the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

The Gaza map (above)—which will require significant iteration and community input from a wide range of voices to reach maturity—is motivated by two medium-term objectives:

(1) to present the different worldviews that underpin the conflict fairly and succinctly on a common map.

(2) to map creatively and constructively the options open to the participants in the conflict and the international community, and the arguments for and against the different options.

This is an emotive subject, and the map is at an early stage of development; so if you see statements with which you disagree strongly or spot gaps in the arguments, please help us to address these on the map.

After logging-in, anyone can add new issues, positions and arguments, edit and restructure the map, and evaluate the different arguments; so the whole structure evolves as new perspectives are added to the map.

Hence, every aspect of the map at this stage should be regarded as mutable and provisional—with the aim being to enrich the structure iteratively and collaboratively until the map reflects a maximum of community intelligence.

As with the Obama map, you can also keep up to date with developments on the Gaza map via @TheIndyDebate on Twitter.

Cross posted at: Independent Minds

Towards Live Government…

The Independent’s mapping project, What Should Obama do Next? , is one of multiple initiatives appearing across the web linked to the Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

As Jimmy observed in his blog on the Huffington Post, mastery of internet campaigning is not the same as delivering government via the web. So it has been fascinating the observe the first edemocratic steps on Obama’s Change.gov site.

The Change.gov process so far has included blogging, YouTube insights and feedback (example below), threaded commenting, and the admirable step of opening up the content on the site via a Creative Commons license—and the volume and variety of the feedback on the discussions around health care (3,701 comments) and the economy (3,563 and counting) illustrate the potential and the challenges involved in processes of this kind.

Dan McSwain is right to note that "no other transition team has ever opened these types of channels of communication with the American people" and the team’s early energy, enthusiasm and willingness to experiment are praiseworthy; though, no doubt, like all start-up developers in public beta they’ll be attuned to thoughtful and constructive criticism as part of their process of continuous development.

Sustaining this openness to iterative experimentation will be one of the keys to fulfilling the transition team’s early promise beyond the inauguration. In part, this is because the capabilities of the web are evolving rapidly.  YouTube and Twitter, for example, two of the most significant on-line tools used during the campaign, didn’t exist at the time of the last Presidential inauguration (and Twitter was only formally incorporated after Obama declared that he was running for office).

But, more fundamentally, it is because this openness to iterative and collaborative experimentation and improvement is one of the web’s deep lessons and, potentially, contains the means to transform our understanding and experience of governance.

Doc Searls refers to this wider emerging process as the "Live Web", and so, in his honour, we might characterise the opportunity ahead for the Obama transition team as being the chance to the effect significant shift towards "Live Government".

More smart people outside government than within it

For the first time in modern industrial society, governments have the chance to realise the potential embodied in Bill Joy’s observation that there will always be more smart people outside government than within it… 

And, in view of the scale and complexity of the challenges faced in the early 21st century, there has never been a more urgent time to realise this latent, distributed potential. 

Live Government will take many forms that we can’t see clearly yet; however, two dimensions that seem central to the concept based on current trends are:

(1) Making the data of governance fluid, transparent, mashable and easily discoverable in context; getting the data in front of the people who have a contribution to make, and ensuring that the data is continuously up to date. This trend can be seen in the US in the form the Sunlight Foundation and the recent Apps for Democracy competition—both of which owe something to the pioneering work of the MySociety team in the UK.

(2) Externalising the current policy thinking of government in a open structured form to which people can contribute continuously, directly, precisely, cumulatively, and with a high signal-to-noise ratio. This trend, still comparatively nascent, can be seen in a prototypical form in policy wikis, annotation tools and sensemaking tools (of which Debategraph is an example).

It’s against this background that the latest development from the Obama transition team—in making all policy documents from official meetings with outside organizations publicly available for review and discussion on Change.gov—offers a tantalisingly encouraging sign.

As Dan McSwain, again, notes:

"…we’re inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and engage in a dialogue about these important issues and ideas—at the same time members of our team review these documents themselves."

It will be fascinating to see if the Obama transition team can carry this energised enthusiasm into office.

MAP UPDATE: 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the development of the map over the last week, and to the people below for helping the map meme to circulate in the blogosphere:

Visual Mapping, Benchmarking e-gov, Tomorrow Happens, Heuristiquement, and @stoweboyd, @grisvert, @TheMindMapWatch, @jeanlucr

..and incidentally, henceforward, as well as the map email digests and RSS feed you’ll also be able to keep track of the latest developments on the map here http://twitter.com/TheIndyDebate.

 

Cross Posted from: Independent Minds.

Help us map the mind of the blogosphere

Cross-posted from: Independent Minds

To celebrate the launch of The Independent Minds blogs, and as part of our Obama project with The Independent newspaper, we are launching a global experiment to map the mind of the blogosphere.


Source: Matthew Hurst’s Blogosphere Meta-Core.

Not all of it, obviously… not, for example, the part that’s thinking about Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie.

We’re just focusing on the part thinking about the inauguration of the new President and the choices he faces. And we want to transfer the collective insight of the blogsophere into the map that’s already building here.

Can we do it? With your help… yes we can.

We’re not expecting you to learn the pros and cons of argument visualization; though if you want to stretch your mind with something other than a Crossword or Linkudo we’d love to help.

Instead, all you have to do, if you are blogger, is to let us know when you have posted about Obama and any of the policy issues he faces. You can do this in two ways:

(1) Include a link to the map in your blog post:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/article1022466.ece

or,

(2) Embed the map like a YouTube video, using the code below:

<iframe src=’http://debategraph.org/flash/fv.aspx?r=7714&d=2&i=1′ frameborder=’0′ width=’490′ height=’650′ scrolling=’no’></iframe>

Then tag the post TheIndyDebate. When you do this, we’ll detect the post and start to include your thoughts in the map.

Embedding the map will let your readers watch the map evolve in situ on your blog. And, if you link to or embed the map, we’ll publish a reciprocal link (both here and on the Independent Minds blog) back to your blog.

Starting now with: Ideal Government, Contrary Brin, AlwaystheTwain.

If we miss a blog post, email me at david AT debategraph DOT org – and if you’re not a blogger, but know someone who might interested in participating, please pass the links along.

Public Service Broadcasters in the Digital Age

Two quick reminders for anyone thinking about the reformation of public service broadcasting in the UK:

(1) The closing date for responding to Phase 1 of Ofcom’s PSB Review is Thursday 19th June. You can read further details here and here about the Review which was launched in April by Ofcom’s Chief Executive Ed Richards.

Ofcom and Tom Loosemore, in particular, are to be congratulated for bringing the consultation process into the blogosphere, and for experimenting with the CommentOnThis / CommentPress approach to allow readers to comment directly on each paragraph in the PSB Review’s interactive Executive Summary.

I love the simplicity of the CommentOnThis and CommentPress approach, which is clearly motivated by similar urge to transparency and read/write participation as Debategraph.

The document-centric approach of CommentOnThis / CommentPress also makes it comparatively simple to enable public participation once the initial time, energy and resources has been expended on creating the original consultation documents.

Debategraph takes a more radical, subject-oriented approach to the same challenge, which if followed to its logical conclusion could (we think) significantly reduce the overall time spent by the consulting body and its stakeholders on the consultation process.

Instead of creating a long consultation document at the outset, the consultation team could start building a public debate map of the consultation issues, and invite the stakeholders to join them in this process—decomposing the subject matter into the individual issue, positions, arguments, evidence and scenarios, and allowing the stakeholders as well as the consultation team to edit, rate, challenge or support the individual arguments.

To give a sense of how this process might work I have produced a seed map of some of the arguments live Ofcom’s interactive summary executive summary (below).

As each element on the map is also its own wiki-page it’s easy to layer in longer commentaries (up to 50,000 words), images, tables, and charts etc as the map builds towards maturity. And as the core, hierarchical structure of the map is similar to the hierarchical outline of a standard report, it’s relatively straightforward at the end of the consultation period to automatically generate the basis of a final report directly from map—with the a key difference being that everyone’s contributions are already represented in the report.

In this way, rather than having multiple people create multiple documents that redundantly repeat many of the same arguments (each of which has to be written and read multiple times), everyone can focus collaboratively and directly on the issues at hand and ensure that all pertinent considerations and all voices are represented fairly on the map. Visualising and exploring the issues and arguments in this way also enhances transparency and trust in the consultation process and helps to ensure that every issues is surfaced and addressed comprehensively.

As well as potentially reducing the cycle time of the consultation process, the debate map could save further time and resources when the next consultation round on the topic begins; as many of the relevant arguments will already be in place on the map and will not need to be recreated from scratch. Indeed, once created, the debate map can be updated over time by the different stakeholders as new arguments, evidence and scenarios emerge; providing a continuously evolving view of the subject; so that when the next formal consultation process begins the majority of the thinking and work involved may have been accomplished on the map already.

(2) The second PSB reminder is that TechCrunch and the BBC are holding a debate at Broadcasting House on 25th June to discuss the issues around the BBC’s assets and technology prompted by the debates here and here.

The debate will be chaired by Steve Bowbrick, with an impressive list of speakers:

* Tony Ageh, BBC New Media controller of internet.

* James Cridland, Head of Future Media & Technology for BBC Audio & Music Interactive.

* Jem Stone, Portfolio Executive, BBC new media.

* Azeem Azhar, startups angel investor, ex-BBC, proposer of the BBC Public License.

* Mike Butcher, Editor, TechCrunch UK.

Web startups and developers are encouraged to attend, with tickets available here. And for anyone interested in exploring the debate in detail in advance or afterwards I have seeded a debate map here: