Difference between revisions of "ELiberate"

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__NOTOC__
 
__NOTOC__
<p>Prepared by Gene House</p>
+
<p>Prepared by [[Gene House]]</p>
<p>Submitted to Douglas Schuler</p>
+
<p>Submitted to [[Doug Schuler | Douglas Schuler]]</p>
 
<p>Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice</p>
 
<p>Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice</p>
<p>Week 10, e-Liberate,  Wednesday, 6/1/2011</p><br>
+
<p>Case Study: [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] </p>
 +
<p>Week 7Saturday, 5/14/2011</p><br>
  
<p><font size="+2"><strong><center>Case Study DRAFT ''Still in mind dump mode''</center></strong></font></p><br>
+
<p><font size="+2"><strong><center>e-Liberate </center></strong></font></p><br>
  
 
<p><h3>'''Introduction'''</h3></p>
 
<p><h3>'''Introduction'''</h3></p>
:Civil societies of antiquity have leveraged both tongue and pen as the primary means of dialogue and deliberation.  From purveyor to interlocutor, dialogue and deliberation centered around “meeting places”. The capacity for deliberation across geographical boundaries in the absence of technologically advanced artifacts was slow at best.  With the advent of Radio and Television, came promises of an enlightened, informed and connected society.  Society soon found the industrial information complex had its own design for civil societies.  For with ownership of airways comes disproportionate access to guide or distract citizens from the significant shared problems of our time.  With an increasing world population, comes the need for increased civic participation.  “Non-Proprietary Civic Collaboration” could be one possible answer, and an approach central to the underpinnings of e-Liberate.
+
:Civil societies of antiquity have leveraged both tongue and pen as the primary means of dialogue and deliberation.  From purveyor to interlocutor, dialogue and deliberation centered around meeting places. The capacity for deliberation across geographical boundaries in the absence of technologically advanced artifacts was protracted at best.  With the advent of Radio and Television, came promises of an enlightened, informed and connected society.  Society soon found the industrial information complex had its own design for civil societies.  For with ownership of airways comes disproportionate access to guide or distract citizens from the significant shared problems of our time.  With an increasing world population, comes the need for increased civic participation.  “Non-Proprietary Civic Collaboration” could be one possible answer, and an approach central to the underpinnings of [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate].
<br>
+
:
+
 
+
  
 
<br><h3>'''Analysis'''</h3>
 
<br><h3>'''Analysis'''</h3>
* <strong>Orientation</strong> <small> ''- describes the purpose, principles and perspectives that help energize an effective deployment of civic intelligence.''</small>
+
* <h4>Orientation</h4>  
  
:  Adaptations by people to a networked digital economy is taking place.  Widespread access to ICT's without the physical restrictions of significant capital financing affords to humans the ability to construct coordinated bodies of work either collaboratively or individually.  Technological artifacts such as computers, smart phones and the internet have fostered an era of ''global'' participatory political movements.  The recent events in Egypt is an example of the power social networking sites.  Real time reporting of world events is now tweeted, blogged and posted using Facebook and Twitter.  Sensitive to this new era, e-Liberate offers a means of deliberation without the proprietary mechanisms of the industrial information complex.  Coming at a time when it is critical that software applications offer platforms that facilitate dialogue, e-Liberate goes one step further.  By leveraging Robert's Rules of Order, e-Liberate, provides a means towards structured deliberation.  One uniquely focused towards participatory decision making.
+
:  Adaptations by people to a networked digital economy is taking place.  Widespread access to ICT's without the physical restrictions of significant capital financing affords to humans the ability to construct coordinated bodies of work either collaboratively or individually.  Technological artifacts such as computers, smart phones and the internet have fostered an era of ''global'' participatory political movements.  The recent events in Egypt is an example of the power social networking sites.  Real time reporting of world events is now tweeted, blogged and posted using Facebook and Twitter.  Sensitive to this new era, [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] offers a means of deliberation without the proprietary mechanisms of the industrial information complex.  Coming at a time when it is critical that software applications offer ''spaces'' that facilitate dialogue, [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] goes one step further.  By leveraging [http://www.robertsrules.com/authority.html Robert's Rules of Order], [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate], provides a means towards structured deliberation, one uniquely focused towards participatory decision making.  It is the aim of [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] that this participatory decision making process will take a proposal though the "life of motion" cycle, culminating in a collaborative and definitive decision, representing group expression and "[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/200 Civic Intelligence]".
  
  
 +
* <h4>Organization</h4>
  
* <strong>Organization</strong> <small> ''- refers to the structures, methods and roles by which people engage in civic intelligence.''</small>
+
: Simply put, [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] is an online software application that facilitates online meetings utilizing standardized ''rules of discourse''.  Current organizational structure is a loosely knit group of individuals interested in civic engagement and deliberative democracy.  "In 1999 a team of students at The [http://evergreen.edu/ Evergreen State College] developed the first prototype of an online version of [http://www.robertsrules.com/ Roberts Rules of Order]. This was later presented at CPSR's DIAC-00 symposium by John Adams and Matt Powell. In 2003 Evergreen student Nathan Clinton, working with [[Doug Schuler | Douglas Schuler]], designed and implemented the system which is now ready for beta-testing with actual users. Clinton and Schuler named the system [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate], which rhymes with deliberate." (Schuler, 2003)  Since 2003 when e-Liberate went live, many organizations have expressed interest in using [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] to facilitate meetings in their own organization.  Utilizing this hidden asset (other companies), [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] could grow exponentially, in both users and program development.
  
  
* <strong>Engagement</strong> <small> ''- refers to the ways in which civic intelligence is an active force for thought, action, and social change. #Intelligence - refers to the ways that civic intelligence lives up to its name.''</small>
+
* <h4>Engagement</h4>  
  
 +
: Dialogue and deliberation can be fraught with abuse.  A cursory glance at television shows, such as Point/CounterPoint, Crossfire, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and many others to numerous to list, illustrates dissenting opinions are met with vitriolic responses.  The political constituents of society (politicians), often fall prey to this form of contemporary rhetoric.  We need to look no further than the latest political advertisement to see defamation of character executed by both sides of the political aisle.  Political ''story telling'' works.  Often framed as good against evil, protagonist versus antagonist, ether way, marketeers know humanity loves rooting for the hero.  This form of pathos laden rhetoric has found its way into the digital domain as well as public and private organizations.  While ICT's affords to humans an increased capacity with respect to communication, it doesn’t discriminate as to the content, or arrangement.  It is this lack of structure that allows online discourse to meander into the realm of irrelevance or worse,  end in hostile and insulting interaction between members.  If you have ever attended an online meeting or engaged in a chat room, than you probably have witnessed the effects of deliberation without mediation.  e-Liberate's approach is a little different.  By leveraging communication technology with traditional parliamentary law, e-Liberate acts a sort of digital mediator that can (in theory) be adapted to fit the needs of any organization.
  
* <strong>Products & Projects</strong> <small> ''- refers to some of the outcomes, both long-term and incremental, that civic intelligence might produce.''</small>
 
: The desired outcome of the deliberative process facilitated by e-Liberate would be one that provides a measurable outcome.  It would leverage group participation in such a way that the majority could not preclude the minority from being heard and similarly the minority could not prevent the majority from making decisions. 
 
  
* <strong>Resources</strong> <small> ''- refers to the types of support that people and institutions engaged in civic intelligence work need.''</small>
+
* <h4>Products & Projects</h4>
 +
: Time is essential in today's fast paced society.  Organizations more than ever are seeking efficient ways to conduct meetings.  Open chat rooms, group emails and the current offerings of meeting software are great communication tools, but lack the defined protocol necessary for structured deliberation.  The desired outcome of the deliberative process facilitated by [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] would be one that provides a measurable outcome.  It would leverage group participation in such a way that the majority could not preclude the minority from being heard and similarly the minority could not prevent the majority from making decisions.
  
 +
: The figure below shows the tool’s user interface: Content below provided by the  [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 Public Sphere Project]
  
<br><h3>'''Conclusions'''</h3>
+
:* The main box displays the discussion thread (different colours represent different kinds of motions);
 +
:* The actions (second a motion, vote on a motion, request the floor, and release the floor) and the most commonly used motions (like main motion, amend, and put to vote) are accessible via buttons displayed in the “Available Actions” and “Available Motions” boxes (other motions are displayed in a combo box).
 +
:* Another box lists the meeting’s participants; this same box is used in case there is no secret ballot on a motion, one vote per participant."
  
 +
:Every participant always knows the current state of the meeting because the main motion and the motion currently under consideration are displayed in dedicated boxes. Moreover, an info box guides participants in the use of the tool.
 +
[[File:e-Liberate.png|border|620px|]]
  
<br><h3>'''Scratch Pad'''</h3>
 
<center>''OBSTACLES TO ONLINE DELIBERATION  -- DRAFT - THOUGHTS- SUBJECT TO CHANGE''</center>
 
<strong>Problems</strong><br>
 
*Non-Linguistic Gesture
 
: "Historically modes of communication have been personalized, for example the personal transmission of knowledge in the era of Socrates and even today via lectures, town halls, community association meetings etc. The use of "nonlinguistic gesture" helps frame the connotation of the message, in the absence of this central component of communication interlocutors must rely on the written word, which in many cases can be a poor form of communication.  ICT as it exists today increases access but not he quality of discussion, as it affords private, individual consumption of information," for example Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Central to the success of meaningful communicative or deliberative democracy afforded by the internet then must consider ways of adopting a more unabridged form of interaction.  One way to accomplish the need for non-lingustic gesture is to incorporate video conferencing in addition to the written (typed) word. 
 
:<small>References: [http://wikis.evergreen.edu/knowcom/index.php/Elements_of_Communicative_Democracy (House, 2011)]</small>
 
  
 +
* <h4>Intelligence</h4>
  
 +
:Some explanation with respect to the connection to "[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/200 Civic Intelligence]" might be useful at this point.  The software itself is not civically intelligent, how can code be anything without human interaction.  It is my understanding that [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] can help civic and non-profit organizations as well private corporations identify a humane approach to business that is all to often missing in todays modern business environment.  By all but nullifying the human tendency to silence the [http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/282 "Voices of the Unheard"] or that of dissenting opinion, [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] has the potential to foster participatory decision making, a central tenet of "[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/200 Civic Intelligence]". 
  
  
 +
* <h4>Resources</h4>
  
 +
:Critical to the success of [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate], will be access to funding.  Acquisition to this monetary requirement could come via grants, non-profit or even for-profit organizations.  The obvious source of income could come via selling advertising space, but sensitive to the idea private funding and or investment steers policy and organizational direction should be considered.  e-Liberate can (should?) leverage an open-source model, by which the product is free to organizations.  Removing the monetary barrier to entry will allow market penetration and financial support by early adopters.  In the hands of these early adopters the software will evolve, as companies seek ways to implement new modules utilizing forms of parliamentary law better suited to their organization. 
  
 +
<br><h3>'''Conclusions'''</h3>
 +
: As with many emerging software applications, user participation is key.  There are many elements that elevate Facebook to its current level of popularity, most notably is the obvious, user participation.  Before Facebook's success was measured in dollars it was measured in eyeballs.  "In a paper by Christiaan Hogendorn titled [http://www.openinternetcoalition.com/files/final_Hogendorn_0108.pdf Spillovers and Network Neutrality], Hogendorn makes the case that the real draw to networks is the connection to people and the greater the number of people, the greater the draw, supporting further network expansion. Hogendorn simply states "Consumers value network effects a lot." (Hogendorn, 2010) Clearly, successful networks leverage both collaboration and widely distributed information. If Facebook has shown us anything it is that people enjoy interaction within a networked community. Central to the success of this model is that Facebook allows the users a space in which individuality can be expressed. In addition, exclusivity of community gives rise to a sense of ownership. Individuality and ownership must then be part of any application moving forward into deliberative democracy. This is not advocacy for an individual first, community second model, just a recognition that humans enjoy some form autonomy as well as the desire to remain connected.
  
 +
:Fiorella De Cindio speaking at [http://evergreen.edu/ Evergreen State college], laid out the framework for a deliberative software application. Three key components to the model were identified as “Community Space, Personal Space, and Deliberative Space.” Facebook comes close to achieving the requisite components, but lacks a deliberative module, in addition to "falling short in De Cindio’s eyes due to the proprietary nature of Facebook." (House, 2011) [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] by design employs Non-Proprietary Civic Collaboration, but if e-Liberate is to realize any form of meaningful success, it must consider allocating the resources needed for further application development.  Organizations will need exclusivity on the app, thus providing the psychologically needed sense of ownership.  In addition, this "organization page" will need a lower root page that is focused and "owned" by the user/participant/employee etc.  This would provide a place for casual interaction among members, thus facilitating the "Community Space" De Cindio speaks of.  It should be noted that exclusivity between organizations would be paramount, as to respect organizational privacy.  The third "place" would be the personal page, and could be constructed much like Facebook's "Info Page", or possible designed following the Linkdin model. 
  
 +
:If e-Liberate moves forward with application development focused on these three components, and with proper funding and marketing, it could realize the same ubiquitous influence, realized by few online applications.
  
<br><hr><hr><big>'''About'''</big>: <small>''All content below complements of  [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/ e-Liberate]</small>''
+
<br><h3>'''Pattern Language Association'''</h3>
 +
*[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/251 Online Deliberation]
 +
: [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] provides the proverbial cones of deliberation, enabling organizations a sort of digital facilitator guiding the group through the meeting process.
  
<br><big>'''Democracy and the Internet'''</big>
 
  
Since its inception the Internet has been touted as a medium with revolutionary potential for democratic communication. Although other media including television and radio have not lived up to their democratic potential, it is too early to dismiss the Internet as being predominantly a tool for the powerful. Certainly civil society has been extraordinarily creative in using the Internet for positive social change.
+
*[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/282 Voices of the Unheard]
 +
:"Emerging or existing institutions and/or design concepts are more easily accepted if all relevant parties have input."  This concept not only applies to institutional structure and design, but to existing entities looking for ways to incorporate all affected constituents.  Not only is this a more humane approach to business and societal direction, it is a viable solution to the dilemma of increasing  competition in a fragile world.
  
<big>'''Deliberation and the Internet'''</big>
 
  
Although a very large number of communication venues exist in cyberspace, one critical function -- deliberation -- seems to have been omitted. The need for computer support for online deliberation can be shown by the fact that many online discussions seem to have no resolution at all; they often dribble off into nothingness, often leaving more confusion in their wake than before the discussion began. Worse, many online discussions degenerate into "flame wars" where online feuds make it difficult for the non-feuders to get any work done.
+
*[http://www.publicsphereproject.org/drupal/node/200 Civic Intelligence]
 +
:"The social and the natural environment face profound challenges at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Society often develops intelligent collective responses to collective problems, often through citizen activism. Civil society and ordinary citizens are often at the forefront of the creation and adoption of new paradigms, ideas, tactics, and technologies that are used to address shared problems and create a better future."
 +
<br><h3>'''SeeMe'''</h3>
 +
* e-Liberate SeeMe Modeling -- First Iteration
 +
[[File:SeeMeFinal.jpg|border|620px|]]
  
<big>'''Roberts Rules of Order'''</big>
 
  
Motivated by a desire to help make online discussions more productive -- particularly among civil society groups who are striving to create more "civic intelligence" in our society -- Doug Schuler proposed in his 1996 book New Community Networks that Roberts Rules of Order could be used as a basis for online deliberation. Roberts Rules of Order was developed by Henry Robert in the late 1800s to describe an orderly process for people meeting together face-to-face to make decisions fairly. One of the most important criterion was that although every attendee would have opportunities to make his or her ideas heard the minority could not prevent the majority from making decisions. Robert labored over his "rules" for 30 years and they are now in daily use by tens of thousands of deliberative bodies worldwide. One of the interesting things that we have learned about Roberts Rules is that the process seems to scale up: small groups of 5 or so can use as can groups numbering in the hundreds.
+
Analysis below is part of my ILC
 +
<hr><hr>
 +
<br><h3>'''SWOT'''</h3>
 +
<center>''Situation Analysis''</center>
 +
<strong>Strengths</strong><br>
 +
*First Mover Advantage
  
<big>'''Development at The Evergreen State College'''</big>
+
:e-Liberate's uniquely focused design leveraging parliamentary procedure could realize "First Mover Advantage", FMA.  Market saturation of social applications is evident, however [http://www.eliberate.opendcn.org/content/view/2 e-Liberate] is an early entrant into the cyber-market of deliberative applications insofar that its schema leverages Robert's Rules of Order.
 +
*Resource Conservation
 +
:With the advent of the internet, organizations have been searching for new ways to conduct business.  Carving out new organizational space, the internet to a large degree, dismantles the traditional barriers to communication, e.g. geographic, temporal and monetary.  As organizations move beyond the local sphere of operation to one of widely dispersed, global activities, collaboration with remote colleagues in a formal way becomes a challenge.  As a result many organizations rely on email, chat rooms and applications such as "Go to Meeting".  All are good communication platforms and aid in resource conservation.  "Go to Meeting" allows document presentation, and video conferencing for up to 15 people.  e-Liberate also provides a platform for deliberation that has the same cost saving benefits as the applications mentioned above, in addition to providing a deliberative framework facilitating meeting progression.
 +
<br><br>
 +
<strong>Weaknesses</strong><br>
 +
*Absence of Non-Linguistic Gesture
 +
: "Historically modes of communication have been personalized, for example the personal transmission of knowledge in the era of Socrates and even today via lectures, town halls, community association meetings etc. The use of "nonlinguistic gesture" helps frame the connotation of the message, in the absence of this central component of communication interlocutors must rely on the written word, which in many cases can be a poor form of communication.  ICT as it exists today increases access but not he quality of discussion, as it affords private, individual consumption of information," for example Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Central to the success of meaningful communicative or deliberative democracy afforded by the internet then must consider ways of adopting a more unabridged form of interaction.  One way to accomplish the need for non-lingustic gesture is to incorporate video conferencing in addition to the written (typed) word. 
  
In 1999 a team of students at The Evergreen State College developed the first prototype of an online version of Roberts Rules of Order. This was later presented at CPSR's DIAC-00 symposium by John Adams and Matt Powell. In 2003 Evergreen student Nathan Clinton, working with Schuler, designed and implemented the system which is now ready for beta-testing with actual users. Clinton and Schuler named the system e-Liberate, which rhymes with deliberate (the verb).
+
:<small>References: [http://wikis.evergreen.edu/knowcom/index.php/Elements_of_Communicative_Democracy (House, 2011)]</small>
  
We of course hope that e-Liberate will prove as versatile as the original Roberts Rules. E-Liberate is intended to be easy to use. It employs a straightforward user interface which is educational as well as facilitative. The interface shows, for example, only the legal actions that are available to the user at that specific time in the meeting. (A user can't second a motion when there is no motion to second!) At any time an "about" button can be clicked to explain what each particular action will accomplish thus providing useful cues that aren't available in face-to-face meetings. Take a look here for a transcript of a sample session.
+
*Proprietary Application Design and Control
 +
:Fiorella De Cindio speaking at Evergreen State college effectively illustrated the negative impact perpetuated by  proprietary control of the application environment.  
 +
<br>
  
<big>'''Testing e-Liberate'''</big>
+
<strong>Opportunities</strong><br>
 
+
*Partnership
We at CPSRs Public Sphere Project are now beginning to work with groups who are interested in trying the system to support actual meetings. We believe that face-to-face meetings are still very important but appropriate use of e-Liberate can help organizations with limited resources. Our hope is that non-profit groups will use e-Liberate to save time and money on travel and use the resources they save on other activities that promote their core objectives. We are enthusiastic about the system but we are well aware that the system as it stands may have problems that need fixing. It is for that reason that we plan to host a small number of meetings over the next few months and gather feedback from attendees. After that we plan to make e-Liberate freely available for online meetings and to release the software under a free software license.
+
:e-Liberate suffers from a lack of continuous software maintenance and development.  Thus partnering with non-profit organizations willing to supplement the monetary expense of development could provide  further market penetration.
 
+
<br>
<big>'''Parameters'''</big>
+
 
+
The system in its current form can support meetings that take place in real-time over an hour or so and, also, meetings that are more asynchronous (and leisurely), meetings that could, in theory, span a year or so, making it necessary for meeting attendees to log in to e-Liberate once or twice a week to check for recent developments and perhaps vote or make a motion. Over the next several months we hope to study a variety of online meetings in order to adjust the system and to develop heuristics for the use of the system.
+
  
<big>'''Using e-Liberate'''</big>
+
<strong>Threats</strong><br>
 +
*Free-Rider Effects
 +
:Proprietary forms of communication is a relic from the age of the industrial information complex.  In a networked society non-proprietary forms of dialogue and communication rely heavily on individual content widely dispersed across popular networks.  The "Tweeting" of the Egyptian revolution comes to mind, as well as the 100,000 new Facebook users Egypt gained on February 1, the day the Internet was turned back on. (The American University in Cairo)  It would be very difficult for a company to develop a social networking application and compete with Facebook at a meaningful level.  However, I believe the free market and some opportunistic cooperation will produce and market a product very similar to e-Liberate in the near future.  e-Liberate does not currently enjoy any form of market popularity, let alone saturation.  It is for this reason that e-Liberate's methodology and unique approach to deliberation is in a vulnerable state.  "Secondary or late movers to an industry or market, have the ability to study the first movers and their techniques and strategies. “Late movers may be able to ‘free-ride’ on a pioneering firms investments in a number of areas including R&D, buyer education, and infrastructure development”. (Lieberman, M. and D. Montgomery, ‘First-mover advantages’, Strategic Management Journal)
  
It is our intent to make e-Liberate easy to use. E-Liberate provides cues to permissible actions and provides online help for all features. The Use of e-Liberate intended to be educational; meeting attendees should become more knowledgeable about Roberts Rules and the use of e-Liberate over time through normal use of the system. Having said that, however, it is still important to acknowledge that some knowledge of -- and experience with -- Roberts Rules is critical to successful participation in online meetings. Groups intending to use e-Liberate should work to ensure that all meeting attendees have basic understanding of the various motions and the basic rules and we have developed an online manual for that purpose. Additionally, the meeting chair should be prepared to assist attendees whenever possible. Finally, the developers will also be available to assist even though everybody currently working on this project is volunteering their time.
+
[[Category:Case Study]]

Latest revision as of 18:48, 5 July 2012

Prepared by Gene House

Submitted to Douglas Schuler

Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice

Case Study: e-Liberate

Week 7, Saturday, 5/14/2011


e-Liberate


Introduction

Civil societies of antiquity have leveraged both tongue and pen as the primary means of dialogue and deliberation. From purveyor to interlocutor, dialogue and deliberation centered around meeting places. The capacity for deliberation across geographical boundaries in the absence of technologically advanced artifacts was protracted at best. With the advent of Radio and Television, came promises of an enlightened, informed and connected society. Society soon found the industrial information complex had its own design for civil societies. For with ownership of airways comes disproportionate access to guide or distract citizens from the significant shared problems of our time. With an increasing world population, comes the need for increased civic participation. “Non-Proprietary Civic Collaboration” could be one possible answer, and an approach central to the underpinnings of e-Liberate.

Analysis

  • Orientation

Adaptations by people to a networked digital economy is taking place. Widespread access to ICT's without the physical restrictions of significant capital financing affords to humans the ability to construct coordinated bodies of work either collaboratively or individually. Technological artifacts such as computers, smart phones and the internet have fostered an era of global participatory political movements. The recent events in Egypt is an example of the power social networking sites. Real time reporting of world events is now tweeted, blogged and posted using Facebook and Twitter. Sensitive to this new era, e-Liberate offers a means of deliberation without the proprietary mechanisms of the industrial information complex. Coming at a time when it is critical that software applications offer spaces that facilitate dialogue, e-Liberate goes one step further. By leveraging Robert's Rules of Order, e-Liberate, provides a means towards structured deliberation, one uniquely focused towards participatory decision making. It is the aim of e-Liberate that this participatory decision making process will take a proposal though the "life of motion" cycle, culminating in a collaborative and definitive decision, representing group expression and "Civic Intelligence".


  • Organization

Simply put, e-Liberate is an online software application that facilitates online meetings utilizing standardized rules of discourse. Current organizational structure is a loosely knit group of individuals interested in civic engagement and deliberative democracy. "In 1999 a team of students at The Evergreen State College developed the first prototype of an online version of Roberts Rules of Order. This was later presented at CPSR's DIAC-00 symposium by John Adams and Matt Powell. In 2003 Evergreen student Nathan Clinton, working with Douglas Schuler, designed and implemented the system which is now ready for beta-testing with actual users. Clinton and Schuler named the system e-Liberate, which rhymes with deliberate." (Schuler, 2003) Since 2003 when e-Liberate went live, many organizations have expressed interest in using e-Liberate to facilitate meetings in their own organization. Utilizing this hidden asset (other companies), e-Liberate could grow exponentially, in both users and program development.


  • Engagement

Dialogue and deliberation can be fraught with abuse. A cursory glance at television shows, such as Point/CounterPoint, Crossfire, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and many others to numerous to list, illustrates dissenting opinions are met with vitriolic responses. The political constituents of society (politicians), often fall prey to this form of contemporary rhetoric. We need to look no further than the latest political advertisement to see defamation of character executed by both sides of the political aisle. Political story telling works. Often framed as good against evil, protagonist versus antagonist, ether way, marketeers know humanity loves rooting for the hero. This form of pathos laden rhetoric has found its way into the digital domain as well as public and private organizations. While ICT's affords to humans an increased capacity with respect to communication, it doesn’t discriminate as to the content, or arrangement. It is this lack of structure that allows online discourse to meander into the realm of irrelevance or worse, end in hostile and insulting interaction between members. If you have ever attended an online meeting or engaged in a chat room, than you probably have witnessed the effects of deliberation without mediation. e-Liberate's approach is a little different. By leveraging communication technology with traditional parliamentary law, e-Liberate acts a sort of digital mediator that can (in theory) be adapted to fit the needs of any organization.


  • Products & Projects

Time is essential in today's fast paced society. Organizations more than ever are seeking efficient ways to conduct meetings. Open chat rooms, group emails and the current offerings of meeting software are great communication tools, but lack the defined protocol necessary for structured deliberation. The desired outcome of the deliberative process facilitated by e-Liberate would be one that provides a measurable outcome. It would leverage group participation in such a way that the majority could not preclude the minority from being heard and similarly the minority could not prevent the majority from making decisions.
The figure below shows the tool’s user interface: Content below provided by the Public Sphere Project
  • The main box displays the discussion thread (different colours represent different kinds of motions);
  • The actions (second a motion, vote on a motion, request the floor, and release the floor) and the most commonly used motions (like main motion, amend, and put to vote) are accessible via buttons displayed in the “Available Actions” and “Available Motions” boxes (other motions are displayed in a combo box).
  • Another box lists the meeting’s participants; this same box is used in case there is no secret ballot on a motion, one vote per participant."
Every participant always knows the current state of the meeting because the main motion and the motion currently under consideration are displayed in dedicated boxes. Moreover, an info box guides participants in the use of the tool.

E-Liberate.png


  • Intelligence

Some explanation with respect to the connection to "Civic Intelligence" might be useful at this point. The software itself is not civically intelligent, how can code be anything without human interaction. It is my understanding that e-Liberate can help civic and non-profit organizations as well private corporations identify a humane approach to business that is all to often missing in todays modern business environment. By all but nullifying the human tendency to silence the "Voices of the Unheard" or that of dissenting opinion, e-Liberate has the potential to foster participatory decision making, a central tenet of "Civic Intelligence".


  • Resources

Critical to the success of e-Liberate, will be access to funding. Acquisition to this monetary requirement could come via grants, non-profit or even for-profit organizations. The obvious source of income could come via selling advertising space, but sensitive to the idea private funding and or investment steers policy and organizational direction should be considered. e-Liberate can (should?) leverage an open-source model, by which the product is free to organizations. Removing the monetary barrier to entry will allow market penetration and financial support by early adopters. In the hands of these early adopters the software will evolve, as companies seek ways to implement new modules utilizing forms of parliamentary law better suited to their organization.

Conclusions

As with many emerging software applications, user participation is key. There are many elements that elevate Facebook to its current level of popularity, most notably is the obvious, user participation. Before Facebook's success was measured in dollars it was measured in eyeballs. "In a paper by Christiaan Hogendorn titled Spillovers and Network Neutrality, Hogendorn makes the case that the real draw to networks is the connection to people and the greater the number of people, the greater the draw, supporting further network expansion. Hogendorn simply states "Consumers value network effects a lot." (Hogendorn, 2010) Clearly, successful networks leverage both collaboration and widely distributed information. If Facebook has shown us anything it is that people enjoy interaction within a networked community. Central to the success of this model is that Facebook allows the users a space in which individuality can be expressed. In addition, exclusivity of community gives rise to a sense of ownership. Individuality and ownership must then be part of any application moving forward into deliberative democracy. This is not advocacy for an individual first, community second model, just a recognition that humans enjoy some form autonomy as well as the desire to remain connected.
Fiorella De Cindio speaking at Evergreen State college, laid out the framework for a deliberative software application. Three key components to the model were identified as “Community Space, Personal Space, and Deliberative Space.” Facebook comes close to achieving the requisite components, but lacks a deliberative module, in addition to "falling short in De Cindio’s eyes due to the proprietary nature of Facebook." (House, 2011) e-Liberate by design employs Non-Proprietary Civic Collaboration, but if e-Liberate is to realize any form of meaningful success, it must consider allocating the resources needed for further application development. Organizations will need exclusivity on the app, thus providing the psychologically needed sense of ownership. In addition, this "organization page" will need a lower root page that is focused and "owned" by the user/participant/employee etc. This would provide a place for casual interaction among members, thus facilitating the "Community Space" De Cindio speaks of. It should be noted that exclusivity between organizations would be paramount, as to respect organizational privacy. The third "place" would be the personal page, and could be constructed much like Facebook's "Info Page", or possible designed following the Linkdin model.
If e-Liberate moves forward with application development focused on these three components, and with proper funding and marketing, it could realize the same ubiquitous influence, realized by few online applications.

Pattern Language Association

e-Liberate provides the proverbial cones of deliberation, enabling organizations a sort of digital facilitator guiding the group through the meeting process.


"Emerging or existing institutions and/or design concepts are more easily accepted if all relevant parties have input." This concept not only applies to institutional structure and design, but to existing entities looking for ways to incorporate all affected constituents. Not only is this a more humane approach to business and societal direction, it is a viable solution to the dilemma of increasing competition in a fragile world.


"The social and the natural environment face profound challenges at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Society often develops intelligent collective responses to collective problems, often through citizen activism. Civil society and ordinary citizens are often at the forefront of the creation and adoption of new paradigms, ideas, tactics, and technologies that are used to address shared problems and create a better future."

SeeMe

  • e-Liberate SeeMe Modeling -- First Iteration

SeeMeFinal.jpg


Analysis below is part of my ILC




SWOT

Situation Analysis

Strengths

  • First Mover Advantage
e-Liberate's uniquely focused design leveraging parliamentary procedure could realize "First Mover Advantage", FMA. Market saturation of social applications is evident, however e-Liberate is an early entrant into the cyber-market of deliberative applications insofar that its schema leverages Robert's Rules of Order.
  • Resource Conservation
With the advent of the internet, organizations have been searching for new ways to conduct business. Carving out new organizational space, the internet to a large degree, dismantles the traditional barriers to communication, e.g. geographic, temporal and monetary. As organizations move beyond the local sphere of operation to one of widely dispersed, global activities, collaboration with remote colleagues in a formal way becomes a challenge. As a result many organizations rely on email, chat rooms and applications such as "Go to Meeting". All are good communication platforms and aid in resource conservation. "Go to Meeting" allows document presentation, and video conferencing for up to 15 people. e-Liberate also provides a platform for deliberation that has the same cost saving benefits as the applications mentioned above, in addition to providing a deliberative framework facilitating meeting progression.



Weaknesses

  • Absence of Non-Linguistic Gesture
"Historically modes of communication have been personalized, for example the personal transmission of knowledge in the era of Socrates and even today via lectures, town halls, community association meetings etc. The use of "nonlinguistic gesture" helps frame the connotation of the message, in the absence of this central component of communication interlocutors must rely on the written word, which in many cases can be a poor form of communication. ICT as it exists today increases access but not he quality of discussion, as it affords private, individual consumption of information," for example Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Central to the success of meaningful communicative or deliberative democracy afforded by the internet then must consider ways of adopting a more unabridged form of interaction. One way to accomplish the need for non-lingustic gesture is to incorporate video conferencing in addition to the written (typed) word.
References: (House, 2011)
  • Proprietary Application Design and Control
Fiorella De Cindio speaking at Evergreen State college effectively illustrated the negative impact perpetuated by proprietary control of the application environment.


Opportunities

  • Partnership
e-Liberate suffers from a lack of continuous software maintenance and development. Thus partnering with non-profit organizations willing to supplement the monetary expense of development could provide further market penetration.


Threats

  • Free-Rider Effects
Proprietary forms of communication is a relic from the age of the industrial information complex. In a networked society non-proprietary forms of dialogue and communication rely heavily on individual content widely dispersed across popular networks. The "Tweeting" of the Egyptian revolution comes to mind, as well as the 100,000 new Facebook users Egypt gained on February 1, the day the Internet was turned back on. (The American University in Cairo) It would be very difficult for a company to develop a social networking application and compete with Facebook at a meaningful level. However, I believe the free market and some opportunistic cooperation will produce and market a product very similar to e-Liberate in the near future. e-Liberate does not currently enjoy any form of market popularity, let alone saturation. It is for this reason that e-Liberate's methodology and unique approach to deliberation is in a vulnerable state. "Secondary or late movers to an industry or market, have the ability to study the first movers and their techniques and strategies. “Late movers may be able to ‘free-ride’ on a pioneering firms investments in a number of areas including R&D, buyer education, and infrastructure development”. (Lieberman, M. and D. Montgomery, ‘First-mover advantages’, Strategic Management Journal)