Wikis and #tags, used in a collaborative way, become a means of building common ground, co-innovation and resilience facing climate change.
The internet and social media platforms provide opportunities for collaboration that are not seized at scale yet.
Using systematically defined #tags and wikis on the available social media platforms will yield significant benefits for the community as each #tag (and the associated web-page) acts as a tiny public space, a micro-commons, supporting the public discourse about a specific topic. This micro-commons is open 24/7 to anyone (with access to the internet). All can use the #tag, either for looking up for a topic how the "status including brainstorm" has evolved, or for contributing genuine new content. The #tag timeline will expose "repeated" content and thus counter the familiar "repeater" attitude that currently pollutes media and debates. Liking, plussing, or reposting are encouraged of course. While public meetings and initiatives will continue to matter, absent parties will not be "left out" - simply looking up tagged content brings them up-to-date.
Climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (which includes the actions on climate change) are areas where enhanced collaboration capabilities are necessary. This is in Boulder, but also globally, in all cities of the world. It is also in all industries.
How the #tags divide the public discourse space is an essential feature.
A citizen who likes to verify - transparency -, engage in, or contribute to an exchange of ideas, should find in seconds the #tag corresponding to a topic.
A (proof-of-concept) service for such search is provided by #tagpivots and #tagclouds which present topic maps of one or more dimensions, each dimension being covered for 360°.
My experience has yielded these topic dimensions:
- what is the goal or target? For instance "carbon neutrality"
- which economic activity? For instance transportation, or construction
- which function of government ? For instance, oversight of education, or environmental protection
- what is the territory that is involved: a country, state, city ?
What actions do you propose?
Actions for the engaged citizens
No need for one more registration, no need for email or subscriptions
The citizen does not need to register in any organization or platform to have (read) access to the discourse, or to find the tag for a topic via #tagpivot or #tagcloud. These are essential features as any registration is a hurdle and a step on the road to fragmentation. If a citizen observes that her or his interests are suitably covered in a tagged discourse, she or he can opt not to engage personally for the topic. On the other hand, if the citizen observes that points, or that pertinent contributions are neglected, a comment can be made, or a link to (self) published texts can be posted, with the suitable #tag.
The simple use of the #tag conveys some commitments:
- that the content is contributed to a specific topical discourse,
- that the author/contributor has taken into consideration prior contributions, and supports or rejects them (with arguments), or has shown awareness of them in the new contribution
Comments, and sharing via social platforms may require some registration. Again, we don't want the citizen to register somewhere just for the sake of contributing to a public discourse. So if he or she already uses (the public side of) Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, or Twitter, then we prefer him or her to use that channel. Posting there using the #tag should make the contribution visible in the timeline (this feature is not yet demonstrated on the Actor Atlas, it requires paid-for services, or specific curating actions - for instance via Spundge ).
Looking up a tag
A #tagpivot is demonstrated at http://www.actor-atlas.info/ , it is a single wiki page which supports tens of thousands of views, for looking up individual topics within a dimension, or topics across more than one dimension. An example is education: there is a hash tag for education as an economic activity, and one for education (oversight) as a function of government.
An example of a tag cloud is one with the #tags for all counties in the United States. In the proof-of-concept, alphabetical order search must be used. But sure, by means of apps or some predictive typing functions on the tag cloud, the search can be much faster.
Dependencies via joint use of #tags from different dimensions (categories)
Content that is related to dependencies, for instance between development targets or goals, functions of government and economic activities may need more than one #tag. The different views of the #tagpivot can be set via the selection of tabs in each topic dimension. Thus it becomes easy to add multiple meaningful tags for a single post.
Also the #tagcloud offers a function "show from all categories", for instance for education in the sustainable development targets, we get a "cross dimension" list of pages tagged with education.
Twitter doesn't support (free) timelines for tweets with multiple tags.
Let's now move to the "platform" provider side for the collaboration:
First, the recruiting and engagement (for instance by the city government):
- A small team to get familiar with the proposed collaborative use of social media and wiki (you can avoid ads by registering to wikidot.com, the wikifarm that host my proof of concept).
- The city to convene civil society partners to explain the proposed climate collaboration approach, and obtain their feedback regarding the rollout of a number of discussions (which discussions? how to mix the proposed and more traditional approaches, including meetings? )
- The city to set up a "mission wiki" with pages (and related #tags) that it considers within the scope of the collaborative effort (note that Twitter #tag timeline widgets can be embedded on a site by anyone, especially also by a blogger, interest group, or university lab with a specific interest/expertise in a topic - simply embedding the #tag timeline indicates a collaborative intent. Moderators appointed (from city or civil society partners)
- Twitter offers the best value for #tag users (with memory of up to two years). But only for posts on Twitter. However if the City wants to follow specific topics and #tags across more social platforms (G+, Facebook, ..), there are paid services for this.
- By selecting as #tags some of those that have been proposed at - http://www.actor-atlas.info/ , the city prepares for sharing its findings and discourse with others around the globe, and across languages as the defined tags are language neutral (in the past three years no similar proposition has popped up)
- The city can explicitly promote the hashtags and use them via social media channels, in order to familiarize the target group
- "Contributors" of all trades are encouraged to use either comments per wiki-page, or tagged posts via social media channels, to share ideas, data, .. of all kinds.
Next, the problem solving (collaboratively):
Once we are aware of what is being done and proposed (by all) in a certain area, and we can bring know how, data, ideas, pains together in the micro-commons of the #tag timeline, students, researchers, policy makers can apply problem solving methods such as the one explained at http://www.wikiworx.info/crb-methodology
This problem orientation is already reflected in pages for functions of government and economic activities of the Actor Atlas, with some principles for allocating factors of problems and solutions to public or private sector explained at the social architecture link (further reading).
The importance of the openness and inclusiveness of the discourse in micro-commons is clear from these considarations (taken from http://www.wikiworx.info/start , tab 4 / Ground)
- Multi-stakeholder initiatives must balance many stakeholders' perspectives on what is effective and fair, what is comprehensive and balanced.
- Each stakeholder has its own benefit-cost expectations, and by reasoning translates these into values and indicators to measure these.
- Critical issues emerge where stakeholder expectations are translated into conflicting clauses of statutes (see Statute Books for "positioned" U.S.Codes) or conflicting interests in initiatives.
- For an open and transparent negotiation among stakeholders with equal rights it is KEY that the expectations by various stakeholders are TRACEABLE to values and indicators.
- For an effective implementation it is key that change proposals reflect the current baseline.
- By using wikis, with comments and #tag timelines as a communication channel for initiative content, such a traceability can be achieved alongside, or within multiple initiatives preparation and implementation.
Next Scaling quickly (reaching beyond Boulder)
Other cities within the US and globally can work according to the same approach, wikis and tags differ per country or state, but are built following the same structure to enable sharing among peers.
The agreement on the #tags and their configuration enables a peer-to-peer exchange that is un-achievable by other means in public-private stakeholder constellations.
Who will take these actions?
The required technologies are there.
An enlightened city government can convene civil society partners and together they can take the lead in following the proposed steps to create and promote a mission wiki.
Besides the city government implementing and promoting the mission wiki, all actors expected response is " business as usual," except for:
- no need for registering anywhere
- open, inclusive and topical discourse
- learning the use of #tags and mission wikis.
- search for #hastags across different web platforms by the moderators of a discussion :
- The moderator can pay for a service to look up tagged posts across platforms, and embed the "multi platform timeline of the tag" at the discussion's wiki page;
- On a daily or weekly basis, the moderator can use services such as Spundge or Storify to collect tagged posts from various platforms, the "curated posts newsletters" can be embedded at the discussions wiki page.
The #tag timelines facilitate a public vigilance and transparency alongside open utility. This is expected to guide all intended collaborators to sharing and argumentation practices that are more collaborative. And thus a basis is created for a more capable community, one that can collaboratively address collective problems.
What are the key challenges?
As the technology (except for the structured #tags) is already widely used, the key challenge is the collaborative/collective action. The approach only works when there is a number of contributors that share content and debate problems and solutions in the proposed way.
A city government together with civil society partners adopting the proposed approach in using social media are a very appropriate team to overcome this challenge within a reasonable timeframe.
As the proposal doesn't involve intellectual property, I believe, it is less fit for venture capitalists that pursue Silicon Valley type business models (winner takes the market). In contrast, I have proposed a distributive cooperative business model.
To the question "if it could happen, why hasn't it?' my (brief) response is that the prevailing social platforms are proprietary and run by businesses that seek dominant positions in social networks. Free access for the user comes in exchange for the providers' rights to mine and monetize users' data, and some form of lock-in. Social platforms follow a silo logic and the world is made to believe that such silos are necessary for innovation to happen. In conclusion, it isn't happening because there is no investment in it, dominant players would prefer it not to happen.
There are a few additional concrete challenges, for instance:
- easy social sharing of every page - e.g. via the commonly used addthis buttons, with hashtag in the title of the page > prior to adding a comment, a participant in the discussion may share the wiki page with followers/social network
- multi lingual wiki use, with a single hashtag used for a topic, across different languages
- sharing of background information, including relevant open data, current regulations, court decisions; do all this via wiki (for instance, render regulations with a wiki page per article).
What are the key benefits?
This is an incomplete list:
- transparency that builds trust ( see the problem solving section of the proposed actions)
- single version of the "truth" ( the micro commons per topic/ #tag)
- avoidance of information overload ( the #tag timeline as part of the micro commons, the preference for on-demand access to information rather than the subscriber model)
- easy identification of "forgotten areas" (for which tags is there no content? via the 360° degrees covering of topic dimensions)
- the distributive business model
- making the public-private discourse more inclusive - no one with an interest is left out
- low hurdle to engagement: while other types of initiatives maintain their relevance, with this proposal, the "entry" effort and time required to engage for a specific topic becomes minimal; engaged citizens can chose to put a big effort into a few, or small efforts into many initiatives
- a more humble attitude towards problems facing society, and the contributions each of us can make: at first, the #tag pivot and #tag cloud can seem overwhelming - they may keep us in a "cognitive stranglehold," however, when using it and finding our way in a broad range of topics, we build confidence, while always being reminded that each of us can only make a small contribution - this must be contrasted with the overconfidence that many get when using search engines.
The use of #tags and (city) wiki is a means for the city to be "platform neutral"; Citizens don't need to re-register in order to contribute" and keep control over their work.
- Citizens (with registration on one or more major platforms) need not register on another platform in order to contribute to, or follow a discussion; They might just create a tagged post (or tweet, blog article, ..)
- A citizen without a registration may opt to give a comment at the wiki page (run by the city, or a service provider), or send an sms with a certain tag - to a phone nr - ref services demonstrated by http://wefarm.org/ (WeFarm)
What are the proposal’s costs?
Besides the personnel of the City (or volunteers), the only cost for a basic collaboration platform is the wiki, but this can also be free (community sites).
A suitable mission wiki structure can be cloned free of charge, within a suitable sharing model.
There are also options to earn some money (adds, e-books), as explained here (ref. the business model).
Basically, the whole thing comes for free, or with gains.
The main pain the public is finding the tags for a topic, but as users will have specific interests, they will quickly remember the tags for topics that really interest them.
A pain for moderators is to search tagged posts across social networks (see section who will take actions).
Overall it is a matter of making smart use of what is out there already, and leaving entrenched practices when it comes to communicating on the world wide web and via social media.
Boulder (city and civil society partners) agree on and adopt a collaborative approach in addressing the Carbon Neutrality challenge and co-inventing solutions.
They agree "citizen engagement" metrics (ref. those listed on a Knight Foundation page on measuring digital citizenship:)
(5-15 years) Also, when other topics are selected for enhanced collaboration, the same approach can be applied. Users, moderators and platform owners don't have to adopt other approaches for other topics. If others have already advanced on the topic, a broader collaboration can proceed from their status, all in a seamless manner.
With an improved knowledge exchange, innovative and socially acceptable solutions will be designed and introduced faster, and with a lower cost. The public and private domain will be clearly separated in the sense that what is public is open and low hurdle access to all.
(15-100 years) If we look at history for cognitive technologies that we still use, so called "stable technologies", these include the alphabet, the decimal positional number system, coordinate geometry. Their use has become even more empowering with material technologies such as the printing press which yielded dictionaries and encyclopedia (only after hundreds of years though).
Today, we have the internet and social media which are badly in need of some "soft" structure and agreements so as to seize its collaborative potential and push again our cognitive limits.
The proposition is a step in that direction. Only trying it at scale can proof whether or not we approach a stable technology for collaboration at a massive scale and pushing our cognitive limits and mutual trust again for decades or centuries to come.
Related proposalsWiki & #tags harnessing MIT alumni for society-wide sustainable development
About Paul Otlet and the Mundaneum, these are earlier efforts of structuring information (which me, a Belgian, only discovered as Google featured the Mundaneum on its Search page on August 23, 2015 in commemoration of Otlet's birthday).
"placing new content" as a missing element in the internet and social media eco-system
Eventually, the collaboration has to impact all sectors: http://www.actor-atlas.info/en:isic
About social architecture: http://www.actor-atlas.info/social-architecture
About preventing information overload: collaboratively-scoping-information-and-coping-with-its-overload
The SDG Compass guide describes a process that will have to be performed for all sectors setting "standards" for their member-organisations; in order to contain costs, a collaborative approach is desirable here.
How can we build community engagement and connectivity around climate change?