ESSENCE09 Workshop

FIRST FACE-TO-FACE FORUM ON ‘ESSENCE’ ONLINE EXPERIMENT

May 5-6, 2009
KMi, The Open University
Milton Keynes, UK

The ESSENCE challenge

090503_essence1ESSENCE is the first public event organised by Global Sensemaking (GSm), a network formed in 2008 to develop human-centred computing tools to help tackle wicked problems such as Climate Change.
The overall idea behind the project is that digital discussion and deliberation technologies have the potential to provide a structured medium for building collective intelligence from diverse stakeholders, who often disagree.
Within this context the ESSENCE online experiment has been conceived with the overall goal to improve how climate science and policy deliberation is conducted, in local networks, national organizations, and inter-governmentally.
In particular, ESSENCE has been designed to develop a comprehensive, distilled, visual map of the issues, evidence, arguments and options facing the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15), and being tackled by many other networks, which will be available for all to explore and enrich across the web.

Research

Within the ESSENCE project we study and develop technologies for online discussion and deliberation, with the overall goal in mind to help to build online environments for:
•    scientists to explore and discover common grounds and agendas in a very complex and extensive domain as environmental science is;
•    policymakers to identify problematic issues to be faced in order to reinforce public policies and make them more accepted or even agreed;
•    the Public to widen or build understanding on climate change issues and consensus about new climate change policies.

Outcomes

The workshop seeks to develop a roadmap for ESSENCE to COP15.  We will also discuss strategies for further research lines and challenge to address for the ESSENCE team/GSm community.

Organizing Committee

Simon Buckingham Shum (KMi, Open University)
Anna De Liddo, (KMi, Open University)
Aldo De Moor (CommunitySense)
David Price (Debategraph)

The full program can be found here.

Postscriptum

  • My presentation:
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D-Day for Communities and Networks Connection

As you know, the field of community informatics is a very fast moving target. Trying to keep up with even only the most basic developments in research and practice, from the softest social psychology intuitions to the hardest network infrastructure deployment, is the best way to get completely overloaded. Sometimes, you just want to give up and zone out (try clicking the square in this digital sandbox for some wonderful R&R if you reach that state of emergency!) However, when you feel the “Force Is Starting To Embrace You Again”, a brand new Jedi sabre is awaiting to help you cut through the conceptual tangle and quickly zoom in on the most relevant developments: the Communities & Networks Connection blog portal.

090217_mcs_cnc_badgeIt is not a single blog, nor a group blog, but a true portal that combines a blog roll of featured bloggers  in this area with  advanced search and newspaper-style presentation options. It distills the most important keywords from all the contributing blogs, and makes it possible to navigate easily and in multiple ways through the federated content. For example, after selecting a particular blog, the site shows you the latest and the best from that blog, as well as related content from other blogs. It also shows the subset of the collective keywords covered by this blog, etc., etc.

The Communities and Networks Connection portal launched only today, and is still under some construction, especially with respect to the finetuning the keywords.   However, it already has a very pleasant look and feel to it and is addictive in that it draws you into examining related content you would otherwise not really be bothered delving into. Cheers for Nancy White and Tony Karrer who have managed to pull this off!

Digital storytelling tools

I am currently attending an interesting session at the E-Campaigning Forum on digital storytelling. Stories are very powerful ways of motivating people to take action, to reflect on the implications of policies, to make abstract concepts concrete and so on.

In this age of Web 2.0 and user-created multimedia content, the old linear textual technologies for supporting storytelling like discussion forums are being complemented by a multitude of innovtive tools supporting new forms of content, interactivity and user involvement. Here are some telling examples of this new wave of tools. They still need to find their niche in the Internet landscape, but it is already becoming very clear that they provide powerful incentives for people to become more (inter)active and engaged.

  • Animoto: automatically generates professionally produced videos using their own patent-pending technology and high-end motion design. Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music. Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.
  • Viddler:
    • Use webcam to record directly to website
    • Tag specific moment within video
    • Post comments to specific moments within the video
    • Have complete control over who sees video
  • JibJab: allows one to put one’s face on video and share it.
  • SproutBuilder: Sprout is a quick and easy way for beginner and pro users to create living content including websites, widgets, banners, videos, music, photos, RSS feeds, calendars and more.
  • Living Cultural Storybases: Nurturing the oral heritage of minority cultures in a digital world.

Good reference source:

  • NFP2: what happens when not-for-profits, social media and people meet

Efficient Task Management

Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.

Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.

As to the tools that best support this methodology, I have settled down on the following two, MonkeyGTD and Remember The Milk.

MonkeyGTD

MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.

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