What do I actually mean by the virtual town hall?


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

3 comments
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  3. alex

    March 5, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Catherine

    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

    Reply

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