I realise that I keep mentioning it but haven’t actually described what I mean. Here are the main points of the kind of space I am imagining:
- Its designed to incorporate and respond to the next online fad – and the one after that. Its just not efficient for you to keep reinventing your strategy and infrastructure every time the internet herd starts grazing somewhere new. You need a strategy which gets the best out of new technologies and uses new social spaces but always with the aim of bringing the democratic conversation home to a place where it can be had effectively. This really means a native web 2.0 architecture.
- It’s a co-created space. This doesn’t mean its all top down – for a space to be truly democratic it needs to be co-created with all stakeholders having a sense of ownership and stewardship over the space. A single destination for all democracy and engagement activities Your virtual town hall is somewhere where the citizen goes online to act like a citizen – to carry out their civic role. This means it has to have certain ‘rules of engagement’ as does any well run debate.
- Its moderated and managed – by all of the stakeholders. For the sake of sustainability (you can’t moderate all this content with offices) and to reinforce the sense of co-creation you need to have those rules negotiated with and then managed by members of all the stakeholder groups – yes you need community moderators.
- Content is accountable and transparent. Council’s (or other democratic bodies) can’t make decisions on the basis of how many people join a facebook group – you need to know who is saying what. This doesn’t mean you can’t use screen names have people stay anonymous to the general public – but there has to be the sense that you are accountable for what you say in the civic space.
This is turning into something of a manifesto!! I’ll go away and see if I can streamline things a bit more
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In a virtual town hall one might imagine
citizens / avatars deciding how they might construct their relationships
are we allowed to start with a blank sheet ?
simple processes and ways of doing things being designed by citizens with help from relevant professionals
consideration for the needs of the vulnerable and excluded ; young people and old might be invited to take part
ideally a sort of Sims for playing with ; then one might be able to track decisions and outcomes and simulate alternatives
or is this too Orwellian ?
Anyway please let us know if it happens ; in the mean-time we will play in the real world instead