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:

Mapping the Power of Information Taskforce Report

poiwordletwo

As a follow up to the Public Services 2.0 workshop in Brussels last month, and in keeping with the collaborative ethos and intention of the event, Richard Stirling, one of the Cabinet Office secretaries to the Power of Information Taskforce, asked me to receate the Taskforce’s landmark report in Debategraph.

The initial map (shown in the Debategraph Explorer view above) foregrounds the report’s recommendations—although the full text of the report is also included in the expanded text of the relevant elements on the map (which you can view by clicking on the Green + button above).

Once in this format, anyone can comment on, support or oppose, and rate the individual recommendations—and also begin to increase the granularity of the analysis by, for example, breaking out the arguments presented in the report in support of the recommendations by the Taskforce.

This Explorer view of the report (above) can also be shared and embedded on blogs and other websites using the following code:

<iframe src=’http://debategraph.org/flash/fv.aspx?r=14255&d=2&i=1′ frameborder=’0′ width=’450′ height=’600′></iframe>

As ever feedback about the work-in-progress, either directly on the map, or in the comments below, will be very welcome—and, in the meantime, for a quick insight into the way that the ideas articulated in the Power of Information Taskforce’s report are percolating in the US, check out Ellen Miller’s Sunlight Foundation blog.

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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.

Debategraph in the Classroom

When Peter and I first set out to create Debategraph, one of our fondest hopes was that the tool might help to enrich the collaborative and visual learning experience for students in schools and universities.

So it has been a joy for us this semester to be experimenting with Debategraph in classroom with Dr Sharon Chanley and her politics students at Western Illinois University—and we are tremendously grateful to Sharon and the students for having the curiosity and courage to innovate in this way.

circlesmall

 Dr Sharon Chanley and the students of POLS 275

Sharon’s class is exploring issues of poverty and wealth inequality in the U.S. and the historical and existing public policy responses to these, and Sharon explained to us what initially captured her imagination about Debategraph:

When I first came upon the DebateGraph in my search for policy-mapping examples, I felt as if someone had designed it specifically for my approach to teaching — almost as if they had observed my discussion-based classes and then depicted them graphically. In teaching policy issues and the political processes involved, I want students to understand their complexity and the interrelatedness of the issues. DebateGraph allows me to do that in a way that two-dimensional images and discussion alone can’t. Students develop their ability to research their positions, find answers to the compelling questions, and enhance their critical thinking skills while providing me a way to comment on and complete individual assessment of their work — all important to their learning in and beyond the classroom. And, they can do it in a format that fits into their familiarity with the computer, the Internet, and their preference for the visual and importantly in a way that connects them with the rest of the world.”

During the first phase of the course Sharon and the WIU students—Brandon, Colisha, Derek, James, Jan, Jared, John, Julio, Kimberly, Patrick, Robert, and Ruth—are using Debategraph to build an informal collaborative overview of the policy domain. You can see their work in progress below—and in the next phase of the course the emphasis will shift more to deepening the map and developing a more formal structure for the material.

We have been delighted with the enthusiastic feedback from the students so far, who have taken to this new approach to learning in fine style:

I like the DebateGraph as a learning tool because it teaches us how to do in-depth research. It also allows us to open up class discussions, which allows us to hear other people’s points of view.

The DebateGraph is an excellent learning tool which helps students learn through critical thinking. I really enjoy the exercise.

computersmall

I think the DebateGraph is an outstanding learning tool. It forces the student to look in-depth at a particular subject. It makes people come up with questions to see if the particular problem can be resolved.

In general, I like the graphics display as a study tool. The generation tends to like information that is bite-sized, easily accessible, and fast paced, so the point and click nature makes it very easy to find information and explore related topics which may have been otherwise overlooked.

DebateGraph is not only a great tool, but it has allowed me to gain new knowledge. It is also a great tool for students to learn about policy issues, and it is also a great tool to use.

The DebateGraph is a really cool way to debate topics so that there is a structure and much more information can be transferred.

The students’ feedback is all more gratifying given that 40% of their overall course grade is being assessed on their individual and collaborative contributions to the map. And Sharon has been employing the RSS feed, email alerts, and edit history to support her grading process—and the map Message Board to ask, and answer, student questions outside class hours.

From our perspective it has been a wonderful start, and an experience from which Peter and I are learning much too about the ways in which Debategraph can be used in the classroom; a learning experience for which we would like to give Sharon and her pioneering students a wholehearted Anglo-Australian vote of thanks.

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

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.

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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