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Tools for Collective Sensemaking and Civic Engagement

Page history last edited by Paul Fernhout 12 years, 6 months ago Saved with comment

No video available :_(


This workshop was led by Paul Fernhout on the theme of tools for collective sensemaking and civic engagement.

The first part of the workshop consisted of developing a simple IBIS concept map in Compendium as a demonstration of how creating an IBIS map can create a spirit of camaraderie, collaboration, and mutual respect even among people who do not agree on divisive topics.

The rest of the workshop involved presenting and discussing the following links. We explored the difference between collective sensemaking inside a specific organization and participatory sensemaking involving all stakeholders both inside and outside of an organization. In the background was a theme of (in Manuel De Landa's terms) considering the appropriate balance between meshworks and hierarchies, as well as the issue of the interplay between reason and values/emotions. In general, IBIS represents a tool that emphasizes engagement through collective reasoning, whereas Rakontu focuses on engagement through collective real-life narrative stories (with emotional content). Unfortunately we ran out of time before being able to discuss Rakontu in detail. We also discussed an issue raised in a previous day's developer conference session by someone handling municipal public records about some public fears of too much information being either collected or made available by government, and talked about how participatory processes might help address that issue in part.

Search: Seven Tribes (now Eight Tribes) « Public Intelligence Blog (Many types of organizations collect information and do sensemaking about it in various ways)

EFF: TIA:Genoa II (A US government program for datamining and sensemaking, supporting multi-perspective thinking through narrative approaches)

HSC - Home (A program in Singapore for datamining and sensemaking within the government that is not intended to be participatory)

HSC - The RAHS Programme

Son of TIA: Pentagon Surveillance System Is Reborn in Asia (A criticism of data mining programs like the above)

Unwired: Cognitive Edge (A rebuttal of the above as a defense of multi-perspective tools, but there remains the issue of meshwork/hierarchy balance and participation)

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - Wikipedia (Movie poster is a representational image of people's fears about bigger smarter government as a huge shark if it is unconnected to essential human values; from a movie with the plotline that goes, essentially, scientists create smarter sharks for supposed humanitarian motives, the smarter sharks then thank the scientists by eating them. :-)

Communication 4D: The role of citizen journalism in promoting good governance in Sri Lanka (An alternative image of government as a computer-enabled cooperation resting on values of service and accountability)

Virtue - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (An example of how many different virtues/values there are out there, which can lead to disagreeing about the relative priority of each, yet, virtues and values are what drive decisions and keep systems healthy and accountable)

File:Inglehart Values Map.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Different priorities about virtues may have some broad geographical clusterings based on shared local history)

Zero News Datapool, MANUEL DE LANDA, MESHWORKS,HIERARCHIES AND INTERFACES (All real systems are mixes of meshworks and hierarchies; the US form of government itself is a republic with elected representative decisionmakers, and also a civil service, and with many other ongoing social proceses like businesses and NGOs big and small, all interacting -- so the issue is, what is the right balance of meshwork and hierarchy in different contexts?).

Descartes' Error - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (All reasoning needs emotion and values to drive it to a conclusion -- there is no "reason" to reason or prioritize otherwise)

HowStuffWorks "Pump It Up" (Technology is an amplifier; what virtues and values do we want it to amplify? Intelligence by itself is not enough as with the smarter sharks example; what values/virtues direct intelligence?)

Douglas Engelbart - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Inventor of the mouse and an early pioneer in the 1960s of the idea of participatory collective computing to resolve difficult problems, although Theodore Sturgeon also had a related Xanadu vision in the 1950s which inspired Ted Nelson and thus hypertext and the Web, as did others like Vannevar Bush in the 1940s with Memex.)

Stigmergic collaboration - Meta Collab (Small groups can solve problems through discussions; large collaborative social systems are generally made possible through stigmergy -- or artifact-mediated cooperation)

Issue-Based Information System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (IBIS)

The what and whence of issue-based information systems (IBIS pros and cons)

SEAS Homepage (Proprietary, used for structured arguments by intelligence analysts)

Angler: A Thinking Tool (Proprietary, used to overcome bias by intelligence analysts)

NICs - Doug Engelbart Institute (Networked Improvement Communities, co-evolving tools, content, processes, and human learning)

Institute for 21st Century Agoras (Another approach to participatory democratic discussions)

Compendium (software) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (FOSS concept mapping desktop tool used in the demo)

File:Compendium.v1.5.2-Screenshot.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cohere >>> make the connection (FOSS concept mapping tool for the web)

Narrative - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (The idea of listening to stories as a way to understand cultural values and priorities)

Rakontu - Home (FOSS software system for helping a small community tell real-life experiential stories, listen to them, and make sense of them together in a participatory way)

Rakontu - Elevator pitch

Rakontu - Screenshots - Members

Story colored glasses: Steal these ideas (Attendees were encouraged to use the Rakontu ideas in their own ways)

Other items that were referred to:

"The argumentative theory of reasoning" (Humans may be adapted to find solutions to problems and approach the truth through arguing with each other in small groups)

"Michael Sandel: The lost art of democratic debate" (An argument for restoring civil debate to US society instead of emphasizing partisan positioning and stoking divisive conflict)

"Scott Page on Diversity and Pluralism" (A diversity of perspectives can lead to better decisions if they are all considered)

A New Way of Thinking -- ANWOT (A website about moving from "black/white" binary thinking to thinking in "color" to deal with difficult issues)

"Participatory Narrative Inquiry" (An explanation of what Participative Narrative Inquiry is and how it helps groups move to better understanding of themselves and better collective decisions)

Related humor: Monty Python on The Argument Clinic

Other systems for having online debates:




More resources:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0923/Class-warfare.-War-on-teachers.-War-on-business.-War-in-America (Article on moving beyond extreme partisanship in discussions.)

http://www.nolabels.org/  (A group trying to transcend partisanship in politics.)

http://www.constructivedebateblog.com/ (Discussions of issues related to constructive debate and omni-partisan thinking.)

http://teaching.uchicago.edu/pod2/pod2/95-96/Attackingideas.html (On how to attack ideas and not people)

http://www.ai.sri.com/~genoa/aml/resources.html (Towards a standard for marking up arguments)

http://www.beyondintractability.org/audio/morton_deutsch/?nid=2430 (Morton Deutsch on conflict resolution issues)

http://scar.gmu.edu/parents-of-field/10837 (About Morton Deutsch as a founder of the field of conflict resolution)

http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/change/left_and_right.html (Ways to understand the strengths and weaknesses of left/right thinking in different settings)

http://areas.fba.ul.pt/jpeneda/Cook-Greuter.pdf  (A document on "Ego Development" about where different people are coming from and how few are at a "unitive" stage at any one time)

http://www.changemakers.com/morehealth/entries/health-sensemaking (Suggestions for applications of these ideas to health sensemaking)

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ (Research by Bob Altemeyer on Authoritarianism and how some people are just not persuaded by well-reasoned arguments, to acknowledge the limits of sensemaking; however good stories and more life experiences might help some with getting people to consider alternatives.)


Here is the example concept map we developed (with contributions from Andrew, Jenn, and Sam, and a bit of cleanup by Paul later). It does not cover all the issues we discussed, as it was intended more as an example at the start to show IBIS in action and illustrate some ideas about collective sensemaking rather than be a definitive map. It should not be taken to imply any individual involved in making the map supports or disavows any particular position or relation.