Monday, August 15, 2016

Neither an Optimist nor a Pessimist Be

Originally published @ InternetRevolution.com in September 2010

Far from the public eye, a battle is raging.

The battle is being waged over abstractions but it touches our hearts and, perhaps more importantly, our minds. And although it's a battle with consequences, it's a battle that really shouldn't be fought at all.

The battle I'm referring to is the one between the Optimists and the Pessimists.

On one side are the optimists. They believe that in spite of everything things are getting better. The pessimists, as everybody knows, believe that things are inevitably getting worse.

Although I've been accused of being one or the other of them on various occasions, I'm not a member of either camp. In fact because both sides are wrong, I hope they both lose.

The two views are strangely similar. Both views make wild, unprovable claims. Both views are simplistic. And both demonstrate fatal forms of intellectual blindness: Optimists refuse to see the challenges; pessimists won't acknowledge the opportunities.

Ironically it's the point that both sides agree on that's the most dangerous: that historical momentum makes human effort unnecessary. Both views imply an inevitability that is not only inaccurate but paralyzing. In short, they offer excuses that many people are consciously or subconsciously looking for, reasons for not getting involved.

But, with apologies to Shakespeare, if neither an optimist nor a pessimist be, who or what should we be? Is there a word for a better way to think about the future?

Luckily such a word exists. The word is meliorism.

Admittedly the word is a bit obscure. But it needs to be rescued from its obscurity. And it needs to be the last idea standing after optimism and pessimism have been retired from rhetorical service.

Meliorism is the belief that the world can be made better by human effort. (But note that the flip side — that human effort can make the world worse — is also true.) And also note that that operative word is can. Unfortunately, unlike the virtual guarantees afforded by optimism and pessimism, meliorism focuses on the difficult challenges that we face, not on a fruitless debate.

But what does all of this have to do with the evolution of the Internet?

Plenty.

For one thing the internet inspired the optimists to some of the greatest rhetorical heights of all times. The optimists convinced many people that a golden age was imminent. The governed would achieve parity with the governors. Knowledge would flow equally to all and education would be transformed. The wisdom of crowds would rule the land. And censorship was impossible because information wants to be free.

On the other hand, cynical utopia deniers — dour pessimists — continued to assert that things will always be unequal, the Internet will change nothing at all, and that the human race will never develop the civic intelligence that it needs — Internet or no Internet.

But little by little people are breaking free of the optimism / pessimism trap. They are realizing the Internet is not magic after all. They are learning that it's not immune to the forces that created the commercial television or radio we know today.

The fact remains that the Internet represents an extremely rare opportunity. For one thing, it's a meta-medium that can assume many shapes. Because it's becoming a tool that billions of people use, it could help people of the world work together to address their shared concerns. The "coulds" could be multiplied ad infinitum: the Internet could be used to help mediate discussions between adversaries; it could be used to develop solutions to problems of environmental degradation, oppression and intolerance, and violence. It could

Another critical question surfaces in relation to these issues. Is there a role for business in building the information and communication infrastructure that promotes the civic intelligence that the world needs? And if not, why not?

Unfortunately the standard rules might not apply. For one thing, who is interested in building capabilities for people with few economic resources? And while the costs of despotism and anarchy are high indeed, democracy has no immediate ROI. And would venture capitalists bother with ventures with dubious aims like developing social imagination or improving collective problem-solving capabilities?

Clearly people in business can be counted on for innovation for economic gain. My presumption is that they could retool themselves intellectually for social innovation as well.

Meliorism, unlike optimism or pessimism, doesn't allow us to wriggle out of our responsibilities. In the case of the Internet, meliorism compels us to imagine what the Internet could be and to work for those possible outcomes.

We have the imagination and the resources to build the Internet that the utopians may have envisioned and the dystopians swore we'd never see. It will take the meliorists who have gotten tired of the silly debate over optimism and pessimism to roll up their sleeves and actually make it happen.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Civic Intelligence ~~ Towards a Reconciliation of Disparate Threads

This note is an early version of a summary of the findings and assertions so far in relation to my exploration of civic intelligence. 

As you know I'm trying to develop civic intelligence as a focus for research, activism, education, policy-making, ... , etc. You also of course know that it's not a term that's in common use and I'd like to change that. I would love your comments on any and all aspects of this.

I've been packing the idea of civic intelligence in many ways for quite awhile. Sometimes it's used as a part of social inquiry, sometimes it's meant to be aspirational, and sometimes it's intended to be used as a goal or guideline — and other uses are possible (ranking schools for example). These varieties of uses could be a source of confusion (in either the critique or the exploration itself). My belief and hope is that the diverse perspectives are in fact coherent, although that might not be apparent without the background logic.  

I'd like to think that a graphic depiction can be developed that showed the main elements and regions of the overall exploration. Ideally this would help maintain coherence, reduce misinterpretation, and promote additional work in this area. (And, of course, critique could help shape this effort into more productive ways.)

I'm trying to explore a lot of things simultaneously — including the fact that exploring and practicing civic intelligence seems to be empowering to students, although this isn't addressed in this note.

The following is an attempt to describe one region of the framework which is largely positivistic and should have the necessary rigor and logic to be palatable to social scientists of various types. I consider that everything is subject to modification.

(1) We start with a (working) definition of Intelligence. This seems to be keeping with standard views of intelligence while containing elements that lend themselves to characterization and analysis. I wanted to focus on the potential richness of the concept (of intelligence) rather that be limited to a minimal, quantified and somewhat non-useful construct that some social scientists seem to prefer.

Definition of Intelligence: An integrated set of processes that enable an agent to act in ways that are appropriate to the agent's goals and to the environment in which it exists / acts — particularly areas that present actual or potential challenges or opportunities. 

The "processes" generally include things deciding, reasoning, learning, remembering, etc.

An "agent" can be one or more people, any group, animal, computer program, hybrids of the above, and others as well as any artifacts, natural or otherwise, or system of artifacts that are useful in pursuit of the goals. 

Collective intelligence is a major type of intelligence that is distinguished from individual intelligence (e.g. that of a single person).

Intelligence can also be distributed over space and time. And the results of the diverse processes can be stored in many ways—in human memories, libraries, online, or in tools, systems, or artifacts.

(2) The various components / elements of the definition suggest ways to characterize, analyze, categorize various approaches.

Composition of the "agent"
Environment in which the intelligence operates (Intelligence is context dependent)
Processes that are used and how they are integrated (i.e. the structure)
Goals, values, and norm
The products of the processes

The claim that I'm making is that it is probably possible to identify different versions of intelligence by the goals, types of actions, and composition and coordination of the agent. This might not be 100% certain but it could be useful.


[TO BE CONTINUED]

Civic intelligence can be used to rank colleges and universities!

Civic intelligence can — and ought — to be a key element of education. Especially progressive education.

One use, among many others, would be to actually rank institutions of higher education based on the idea of civic intelligence. My students and I worked on this project and I worked our findings into an opinion piece entitled What is the civic intelligence of your university or college?.

I'm trying to make the case that colleges and universities could / should think about themselves in terms of civic intelligence.

We're hoping to go to the next phase: putting more rigor into the rubric and actually using it to rank some schools.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in relation to this idea.

Relevant patterns include: Indicators, Public Agenda, Education and Values, and Experimental School.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Liberating Voices Pattern Links

Liberating Voices Pattern Language

The patterns that appear in the book and their respective authors are listed below. In addition to the 136 patterns, the book includes several chapters that discuss the motivation, theory, development and use of the patterns and the pattern language.
 

Theory

  
Theory is the most general level of the patterns in the language. In a broad way, the patterns in this section express the assumptions that we are making about the world and, most importantly, how we intend to engage in the world.

Civic Intelligence

 

      Douglas Schuler

The Commons

 

      David Bollier

The Good Life

 

      Gary Chapman
 

Organizing Principles

  
Organizing principles are less general than theory but are still quite abstract. They can motivate and inform any enterprise, yet they themselves are not corporeal, they are ideas that we can employ to orient our work in a meaningful way.
  
As we move forward, we realize that certain guidelines can be used to as help ensure that our work is purposeful.

Social Dominance Attenuation

 

      Douglas Schuler

Health as a Universal Right

 

      Douglas Schuler

Global Citizenship

 

      Douglas Schuler and Lori Blewett

Political Settings

 

      Jonathan Barker

Social Responsibility

 

      Stewart Dutfield, Burl Humana and Kenneth Gillgren

Matrifocal Orientation

 

      Lori Blewett

10 

Collective Decision-Making

 

      Valerie Brown

11 

Memory and Responsibility

 

      Douglas Schuler

12 

Working Class Consciousness

 

      Steve Zeltzer

13 

Back to the Roots

 

      Douglas Schuler

14 

Demystification and Reenchantment

 

      Kenneth Gillgren

15 

Translation

 

      Douglas Schuler

16 

Linguistic Diversity

 

      Douglas Schuler

17 

Education and Values

 

      John Thomas

18 

Dematerialization

 

      Burl Humana
  
Society needs to change in many ways. Some routes towards that end are listed below.

19 

Transforming Institutions

 

      Brian Beaton

20 

Teaching to Transgress

 

      John Thomas

21 

Fair Trade

 

      Burl Humana and Anna Nakano

22 

Sustainable Design

 

      Rob Knapp

23 

Anti-Racism

 

      Lori Blewett

24 

Spiritually Grounded Activism

 

      Helena Meyer-Knapp

25 

Cyberpower

 

      Kate Williams and Abdul Alkalimat
  
If we are to have possible chance at success, information of various types will be needed and it must be available to the widest audience.

26 

Earth's Vital Signs

 

      Jenny Frankel-Reed

27 

Big-Picture Health Information

 

      Jenny Epstein

28 

Whole Cost

 

      Douglas Schuler

29 

Indicators

 

      Douglas Schuler
  
In order to come together and to make the changes that are necessary we will need venues in which this can happen.

30 

Public Agenda

 

      Douglas Schuler

31 

Democratic Political Settings

 

      Jonathan Barker

32 

Big Tent for Social Change

 

      Mary Reister and Shari McCarthy
  
And people must have access to information, discussion venues, and, in general, opportunities for bettering themselves and the whole of society.

33 

Opportunity Spaces

 

      Douglas Schuler
  
People must be prepared to engage in these struggle and there are a great number of skills and capacities that individuals and organizations should improve.

34 

Strategic Capacity

 

      Douglas Schuler

35 

Media Literacy

 

      Mark Lipton

36 

Participatory Design

 

      Douglas Schuler

37 

Citizen Science

 

      Stewart Dutfield

38 

Mobile Intelligence

 

      Douglas Schuler

39 

Techno-Criticism

 

      Douglas Schuler
 

Enabling Systems

  
Enabling systems are concrete expressions of our objectives, often integrating institutions and technological systems. They are enabling because they actively encourage the multiplication of ideas and actions upon which people can help create a better society.
  
Now that the world is so tightly connected the need to develop better support for global systems is becoming more critical.

40 

World Citizen Parliament

 

      Douglas Schuler

41 

Economic Conversion

 

      Lloyd Dumas

42 

Strengthening International Law

 

      Richard Falk

43 

International Networks of Alternative Media

 

      Dorothy Kidd
  
We must build intelligence from the ground up

44 

Design Stance

 

      Rob Knapp

45 

Open Action and Research Network

 

      Douglas Schuler

46 

Alternative Progress Indices

 

      Burl Humana and Richard Reiss

47 

Meaningful Maps

 

      Andy Dearden and Scot Fletcher

48 

Citizen Access to Simulations

 

      Alan Borning

49 

Culturally Situated Design Tools

 

      Ron Eglash

50 

Conversational Support Across Boundaries

 

      John Thomas

51 

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

 

      Helena Meyer-Knapp

52 

Online Deliberation

 

      Matt Powell and Douglas Schuler
  
Some of our communities are under stress and they need different kinds of support.

53 

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

 

      Douglas Schuler

54 

Mutual Help Medical Websites

 

      Andy Dearden and Patricia Radin

55 

Indigenous Media

 

      Douglas Schuler and Miguel Angel PC)rez Alvarez

56 

Peace Education

 

      Helena Meyer-Knapp
  
And of course globalization does not obviate the need to support the local community as well.

57 

Intermediate Technologies

 

      Justin Smith

58 

Durable Assets

 

      Justin Smith

59 

Public Library

 

      Stewart Dutfield and Douglas Schuler

60 

Digital Emancipation

 

      Gilson Schwartz

61 

Community Networks

 

      Peter Day

62 

Online Community Service Engine

 

      Fiorella De Cindio and Leonardo Sonnante

63 

Community Currencies

 

      Burl Humana and Gilson Schwartz
 

Policy

  
Although largely invisible, policy nevertheless is a major force upon our lives. As a set of public rules, guidelines and programs, policy creates and demolishes barriers. Policy represents an arena of public affairs which, ironically enough, is often closed to the public.
  
Some basic principles are needed to underpin public policy and make it open and accountable.

64 

Transparency

 

      John B. Adams and Douglas Schuler

65 

Privacy

 

      Douglas Schuler

66 

Media Diversity

 

      Douglas Schuler

67 

Ethics of Community Informatics Research and Practice

 

      Randy Stoecker
  
Some policy is best advanced through systems.

68 

Free and Fair Elections

 

      Douglas Schuler and Erik Nilsson

69 

Equal Access to Justice

 

      Donald J Horowitz

70 

E-Consultation as Mediation

 

      David Newman

71 

Participatory Budgeting

 

      Andrew Gordon and Chris Halaska
  
Global economic systems mean that vast amounts of money is being transferred every day. How can this phenomenon better serve the public good?

72 

Transaction Tax

 

      Burl Humana

73 

Powerful Remittances

 

      Scott Robinson
  
Society runs on information and access to certain types of information is essential.

74 

Positive Health Information

 

      Jenny Epstein

75 

Accessibility of Online Information

 

      Robert Luke

76 

Open Access Scholarly Publishing

 

      John Thomas

77 

Mobile ICT Learning Facilities

 

      Grant Hearn
  
And the community itself should lead in other initiatives.

78 

Grassroots Public Policy Development

 

      Douglas Schuler and Michael Maranda

79 

Multi-Party Negotiation for Conflict Resolution

 

      Helena Meyer-Knapp and Stewart Dutfield

80 

Users' IT Quality Network

 

      Aake Walldius and Yngve Sundblad

81 

Academic Technology Investments

 

      Sarah Stein
 

Collaboration

  
How effective people are in their pursuits depends on how well they can work together. This realization motivates the patterns in this section and in the next. People and groups -- both informal and formal -- must actively engage with the world "outside" to achieve their goals. This, of course, can assume many forms from the purely cooperative to the openly combative.
  
Collaboration can often be better served when new ways of looking are employed.

82 

Wholesome Design for Wicked Problems

 

      Rob Knapp

83 

Voices of the Unheard

 

      John Thomas

84 

Design for Unintended Use

 

      Erik Stolterman
  
In order to continually improve the effectiveness of our collaborations it's essential to build intelligence capabilities

85 

Civic Capabilties

 

      Justin Smith

86 

Strategic Frame

 

      Douglas Schuler

87 

Value Sensitive Design

 

      Batya Friedman

88 

Future Design

 

      Douglas Schuler

89 

Experimental School

 

      Douglas Schuler, Steve Schapp and Thad Curtz

90 

Service-Learning

 

      Norman Clark

91 

Citizen Journalism

 

      Lewis A. Friedland and Hernando Rojas

92 

Document Centered Discussion

 

      Todd Davies, Benjamin Newman, Brendan O'Connor, Aaron Tam and Leo Perry
  
We'll also need to develop and strengthen institutions and programs that promote collaborations.

93 

Citizen Diplomacy

 

      Douglas Schuler

94 

Mirror Institutions

 

      Douglas Schuler

95 

Patient Access to Medical Records

 

      Amir Hannan

96 

Citizenship Schools

 

      Lewis A. Friedland and Carmen J. Sirianni

97 

Community Building Journalism

 

      Peter Miller
 

Community and Organizational Building

  
A group is effective insofar as it integrates the insights, knowledge, skills, interests and resources of its members. Beyond this, a group must reflect on its own state, including its aims, methods of interpreting, decision-making, and planning and adjust its behavior accordingly. An effective group, moreover, must understand and adapt as well as shape the "environment" in which it finds itself.
  
Organizations must take part in collective learning.

98 

Informal Learning Groups

 

      Justin Smith

99 

Appreciative Collaboration

 

      Stewart Dutfield

100 

Sustainability Appraisal

 

      Nick Plant

101 

Shared Vision

 

      Stewart Dutfield and Douglas Schuler
  
And we need to think about organizations that can motivate and orient our work.

102 

Community Animators

 

      Justin Smith

103 

Online Anti-Poverty Community

 

      Penny Goldsmith

104 

Sense of Struggle

 

      Douglas Schuler
 

Self Representation

  
The world contains a vast diversity of viewpoints and voices. These patterns in this section celebrate and strengthen that diversity while seeking ways to reduce conflict and encourage dialogue and understanding.
  
Thinking about ourselves in a new light will mean redefining the agenda.

105 

Self-Help Groups

 

      Justin Smith

106 

Self-Designed Development

 

      Justin Smith

107 

Engaged Tourism

 

      Christine Ciancetta

108 

Appropriating Technology

 

      Ron Eglash
  
And although much of the work is outwardly directed much of it needs to be home grown as well.

109 

Control of Self Representation

 

      Douglas Schuler

110 

Homemade Media

 

      Douglas Schuler

111 

Arts of Resistance

 

      Douglas Schuler

112 

Labor Visions

 

      Nancy Brigham

113 

Universal Voice Mail

 

      Jenn Brandon
  
Stories belong to communities and our shared human experience. It's time to take them back and rediscover b and reinvent b stories

114 

The Power of Story

 

      Rebecca Chamberlain

115 

Public Domain Characters

 

      John Thomas and Douglas Schuler

116 

Everyday Heroism

 

      Douglas Schuler
 

Projects

  
These patterns represent tangible projects that any community can initiate. Though these are generic in some way, the local situation will vary in every case and these projects will assume a "family resemblance" rather than a uniform one.
  
Building a new world requires new spaces and places to encourage innovation and collaboration. Here are two b and there may be others.

117 

Telecenters

 

      Michel J. Menou, Peter Day and Douglas Schuler

118 

Thinking Communities

 

      Aldo de Moor

119 

Great Good Place

 

      Douglas Schuler
  
Communities are often faced with chores that they haven't anticipated or adequately dealt with. The patterns below are intended to help them roll up their sleeves and get to work.

120 

Soap Operas with Civic Messages

 

      Douglas Schuler

121 

Emergency Communication Systems

 

      Douglas Schuler

122 

Community Inquiry

 

      Ann Bishop and Bertram (Chip) Bruce

123 

Illegitimate Theater

 

      Mark Harrison and Douglas Schuler

124 

Environmental Impact Remediation

 

      Douglas Schuler and Jim Gerner
  
Some of this work will involve technology development;

125 

Open Source Search Technology

 

      Douglas Schuler

126 

Socially Responsible Video Games

 

      Douglas Schuler

127 

Open Source Everything

 

      John Thomas
  
Some will involve engaging the powerful;

128 

Power Research

 

      Douglas Schuler

129 

Citizens' Tribunal

 

      Douglas Schuler
 

Tactics

  
These patterns describe activities that can be particularly effective even if only applied sporadically. They are limited in space and time, yet they can focus attention, unite disparate efforts, and help create conditions for future collaborations. These patterns appear last but are not insignificant. Indeed one of our most important tasks is discovering more of these tasks.
  
Many of these tactics involve probing and engaging.

130 

Whistle Blowing

 

      Tom Carpenter and Douglas Schuler

131 

Tactical Media

 

      Alessandra Renzi

132 

Media Intervention

 

      Douglas Schuler

133 

Peaceful Public Demonstrations

 

      Douglas Schuler
  
Many involve learning with a mission.

134 

Activist Road Trip

 

      Douglas Schuler

135 

Follow The Money

 

      Burl Humana
  
Finally, although these patterns are intended to help people engage with the world with dedication, strength, creativity and love, it's not really possibly b nor desirable b to engage all the time. Don't forget that for your actions and thoughts to be effective, you must periodicallyb&

136 

Retreat and Reflection

 

      Douglas Schuler

Monday, January 12, 2015

News Flash! "Humility" Added to Civic Intelligence Framework

The latest version of the Framework for Civic Intelligence. Based belatedly on a suggestion by Grazia Concilio, I've added "Humility" to the "Attitude and Aspirations" category. (And I know that I need to add "Sense of Humor" at some point — per Sergei Stafeev.) But will I be done even then?


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Civic Intelligence in a City ~~ Is There Any way to Characterize it?

As many of you know, I’m interested in understanding, describing / defining, and cultivating civic intelligence. Civic intelligence is the collective capacity of groups of people to work together to address significant shared challenges effectively and equitably. We don’t have a word in common usage for this phenomenon but I feel that “civic intelligence” is the best expression for the job. 

One of the things I’m doing as part of this work is trying to come up with ways to characterize (if not measure) the civic intelligence of various collectivities (for example colleges*, towns, or NGOs). Ideally through this work we’d be able to better understand the state of civic intelligence and, possibly, be able to compare and contrast diverse collectivities to some degree. 

I’ve now come up with a set of 10 proposed proxy measures (below) to determine the degree of civic intelligence in a city, state, or other political unit. Ideally I would like to use these proxies to begin to work through a process where we came up some viable outcome based on these. 

I’m realizing that although I do not have the resources for this (time, money, knowledge, or brain power for starters) I still want to proceed. (I’m of the opinion that if something is worth doing, it should be done!) The question is how could this be crowd-sourced** to get around the various resource deficits. 

I’d like to see some findings from Seattle — where I live — but wouldn’t it be great if we could do this in other places simultaneously. Also, of course, the people working on this under-funded labor of love could learn more over time and modify and improve the process. 

Here they are — the list is still a draft; the order might be wrong and  there might be redundancy or missing patterns.***

(1) Responsive government
(2) Knowledge — shared throughout the city and diverse — about the environment — natural and otherwise 
(3) Social (political, educational, cultural) engagement
(4) Social capital
(5) Health and well-being
(6) Opportunities — economic and other
(7) Relative equality of inhabitants
(8) Integrity (transparency and lack of corruption)
(9) Good neighborliness (doesn’t take more than it needs; or export its problems…)****
(10) Availability of open and  diverse information and communication systems

I'd love to have your thoughts on this.


* I don’t like the term “crowd-source” — especially in a situation like this!


** I do also have something related to colleges and universities that’s reasonably well-developed — I think. I’m also hoping  to move  forward with that. 

*** But my strong feeling is that the point is not to get this down to a very small number of proxies.  

**** Basically this is related to evaluating  the effects of consumption or production of  policies, social mores, economic transactions, pollution, people or products, climate of the city being  looked at in relation to other cities, rural areas, etc. 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

10 PATTERN CATEGORIES for a Minimally Successful People’s Campaign

What we would need to actually help create the information and communication systems that would empower civil society to address the significant problems that the world faces.

These categories are placeholders for a living pattern language that would help cultivate those systems. 

I'm putting this list up without commentary. I hope to add more soon...

Vision and Purpose
    Why get involved? What would we really like to see in our information and communication systems?

Resource Development online and otherwise, a people’s Google?!

Education
   ourselves, our students, general public, venues, needs and approaches

Collaborative Venues and Values
   visioning, building, deliberating, experimenting

Network Development
   roles, infrastructure, branding, mission(s), outreach, other groups

Engagement
   with government, business, conferences, internet bodies, manifestos, critique

Community Interaction and Dialogue
   partnerships, community inquiry

Open Communication
   schedules, protocols, shared documents, forums

Early Warning and Rapid Response

Products
   events, white papers, op-eds, petitions, testimony

Self-Governance
   guidelines, procedures, documents, self-evaluation, using our (not developed yet) patterns