[p2p-research] The National Assembly

Smári McCarthy smari at anarchism.is
Fri Nov 20 15:01:06 CET 2009

In an interesting development on this case, the government of Iceland 
has decided to enter into formal cooperation with the organizers of the 
(crowdsourced) National Assembly to ensure that the results be taken 
into account in the coming future and that the ideas brought forth at 
the assembly be implemented.

Score one for chaos, eh?

  - Smári

Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
> Smári McCarthy wrote:
>> An article my friend Sam Knight wrote about the National Assembly in
>> Iceland yesterday, which he describes quite aptly as the "first attempt
>> to crowdsource a socio-economic-political manifesto in history"
>> http://ohmygov.com/blogs/general_news/archive/2009/11/13/in-iceland-trying-to-reprogram-government.aspx 
>> The results are in. A brief English distillation is at
>> http://thjodfundur2009.is/english/ but the Icelandic datasets are
>> fantastic: http://thjodfundur2009.is/
>> I hope (and expect) there will be more translation of them in the coming
>> days.
> That's all great news.
>  From the first link it says: "It is a nationwide calamity that will 
> affect Iceland for generations."
> I don't see that. :-) We're maybe twenty years to a complete reordering 
> of the core principles of global society, if for no other reason than 
> increased robotics and improved materials.
> Is it coincidental that student protests are happening at the same time?
> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-November/006005.html 
> Or is this all part of a larger global trend -- both as "capitalism hits 
> the fan" and as people also have at least unconscious hopes for 
> something much better from all the technology and information we have 
> built up?
> I look at that picture at the first link of the room with all the 
> computer screens presumably connected to the internet, and 2D printers, 
> and I can't be anything but hopeful. :-)
> Anyway, on how to proceed using all those computers, the article says:
> """
> At the assembly itself, the masses will be broken down into groups of 
> nine. With the help of discussion facilitators who have been trained to 
> ensure the roundtable discussions are healthy, participants will  
> discuss what values defines them as a nation. To ascertain exactly how 
> these groups of nine will arrive at a larger consensus, when each 
> participant comes up with a proposed value – Mr. Gudjonsson expects 
> 20,000 ideas to be proposed – it will be “tagged” by that group 
> electronically, like on a blog.
>   Tags will be monitored by a backroom staff who will ascertain which 
> values were deemed important most frequently. The top nine will be 
> considered Iceland's moral pillars for the purposes of the National 
> Assembly. From there, slightly larger groups will discuss how to build 
> social frameworks — economic, educational, justice, and health care 
> systems — based on these core values. For each value, the assembled 
> groups will come up with nine ideas on how to improve society (nine, 
> according to Mr. Gudjonsson, is an ideal number for group work.)
>   Mining the data for a consensus in this section will be relatively 
> more qualitative, but at the end of the day participants will have 
> drafted a manifesto that will give the country a better idea of what 
> sort of future society it would like to build. Not bad for a Saturday’s 
> work.
> """
> That sounds like a fantastic start.
> If you want to continue improving on that, my wife (Cynthia Kurtz) has 
> written extensively on using stories (narrative) to help with that sort 
> of thing. Here is a free online book she wrote about that:
>   http://www.workingwithstories.org/
> """
> When you work with stories, you can ask people to tell stories about 
> their experiences related to some subject of importance to you (and 
> usually to them), and you can also ask them to answer some questions 
> about those stories. When you do these things, you can find out things 
> and make things happen that wouldn't be possible otherwise. You can:
>     * find things out,
>     * catch emerging trends,
>     * make decisions,
>     * get new ideas,
>     * resolve conflicts,
>     * connect people,
>     * help people learn, and
>     * enlighten people.
> This online book is an informational resource for people who want to get 
> started working with stories on a small scale in their communities and 
> organizations.
> """
> When you get people telling stories to each other (essentially, p2p done 
> with stories), the whole interaction often changes, and people will 
> often talk about things in different ways than "focus groups" or another 
> approach that just focuses on collecting ideas. One thing that stories 
> often convey is the emotional context for the ideas and situations 
> described.
> For example, I look at this list:
>   "9 themes: Here are some of the main results from each of the 
> categories discussed"
>   http://thjodfundur2009.is/english/
> and while the ideas are nice, they lack the emotional connection that 
> stories can bring. Stories help people to go from the specific to the 
> general. So, for example, to pick one result at random, consider:
>   "Formulate non-partisan comprehensive policy with emphasis on 
> sustainable utilization, nature conservation and education"
> That sounds nice, but connecting that with stories about it will be more 
> persuasive and illuminating. So, what is a story about when some part of 
> this did happen? Or what was a consequence of a situation when it did not?
> Also, the emotional aspects of stories may help you prioritize which of 
> these issues to focus on first. Is that issue more important to most 
> people than, say, another item from that page:
>    "research and innovation to create strong alternative industries"?
> People can tell stories and then you can ask them to rate them on things 
> like "emotional intensity". Then you can analyze the results 
> statistically in various ways and look for trends.
> And how do the two issues interlink, assuming most people deeply care 
> about them? Sometimes stories can have themes that show how different 
> issues overlap, like if both involved an archetype (theme) of "the 
> innovator" or perhaps "the conservationist" for example. You can do that 
> in other ways, but an emphasis on the narrative (story) aspect, can 
> often help in making sense of all that. If you have you stories tagged 
> with themes or archetypes that have emerged out of group sensemaking 
> exercises, then you can use that information to look for more patterns 
> and connections.
> You may already have a lot of stories in what you have collected, so you 
> may just be able to connect them up even with what you have, either as 
> is, or with some more group exercises (perhaps on smaller or larger 
> scales). She has these pages that might help, based around the idea of 
> "Look, Think, Talk":
>   http://www.workingwithstories.org/look_findingpatterns.html
>   http://www.workingwithstories.org/think_makingsense.html
>   http://www.workingwithstories.org/talk_connectingpeopleandstories.html
> My wife has done dozens of projects of this nature for governments, 
> corporations, and non-profits, and the techniques can help people make 
> sense of what they feel and believe as a community. A key aspect of what 
> she understands is how the people in a community can themselves come to 
> better insights through an interactive process as a community (through 
> various semi-structured exercises), rather than just use the community 
> to collect data and mine it later by someone else.
> But, like anything, there are tricks to doing this well depending on the 
> situation. Here is a chart about what methods work best in different 
> situations, base on her experience:
>   "Summary of method recommendations"
>   http://www.workingwithstories.org/summaryofmethodrecommendations.html
> For example, in many settings, it is generally best not to ask directly 
> for stories in many settings for various reasons, so in some settings if 
> you asked, "Please tell a story about Kreppa babies?" people might not 
> think of something they want to say, but if you use "eliciting 
> questions" you can often get people talking about stories anyway, like 
> "So, you found out your friend was pregnant, and then what happened?" 
> Examples of how to do that, depending on the context:
>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/askingforstories.html
> (Hopefully I'm not mangling her work too much in my explanation of it or 
> made up on-the-spot examples. :-)
> So, if you do this again as another iteration, a focus on stories may 
> help with continuing to improve your data analysis and collection, even 
> though it seems like you have done amazing stuff already. You may be 
> asking for stories already, of course. But most people don't. It's a 
> slowly growing area of expertise, and there are not that many people in 
> the world who focus on this yet, relative to the vast number of 
> information collection projects. Many information gathering projects 
> have a goal to extract something from the community for use by a center 
> of power and profit-making, and so information collecting techniques 
> have been shaped by that perspective; these narrative techniques are 
> also often used for that, sadly, but they have the potential to help 
> communities in other ways, and that bigger picture has been my wife's 
> aspirations for them. Most work on stories is also about storytelling 
> (often as propaganda), not story listening (understanding and insight), 
> so it's not that common a perspective, even for people who know a lot 
> about stories in other ways. And, as above, you may find you already 
> have a lot of stories that you could do something new with, including 
> present them back to the Icelandic community and have people rate them 
> on things like "emotional intensity" or "estimated frequency of 
> occurrence" or lots of other things. So, a story-based approach could be 
> a next step to build on the data you have already collected and use it 
> so the Icelandic community can get even more useful information.
> As one caveat, her methods have generally been tuned for small groups 
> and divisions in companies. I'm not sure how they would apply on even 
> the scale of Iceland. You could talk to her about that.
> If someone in Iceland (you, Sam, or someone who trains those 
> facilitators) wanted to talk to her about this in more detail, feel free 
> to contact me (or her) directly to set up a phone call or Skype chat 
> with her.
> She also has some free and open source software for small groups to 
> share their stories with each other, but it is still in beta:
>   http://www.rakontu.org/
> "Rakontu is a free and open source web application that small groups of 
> people can use together to share and work with stories. It's for people 
> in neighborhoods, families, interest groups, support groups, work 
> groups: any group of people with stories to share. Rakontu members build 
> shared "story museums" that they can draw upon to achieve common goals. "
> She designed it to be easy to modify to support other languages, so by 
> editing a few template files, someone might even have an Icelandic 
> version in not that much time. :-)
> But, you can use these sorts of methods even without any specific software.
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
> http://www.beyondajoblessrecovery.org/
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