My paper for Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing; Conference on Online Deliberation
Growing a Global Issue Base:
An Issue-based Approach to Policy Deliberation
Current mechanisms for public policy deliberation are failing to cope with overwhelming amounts of information and legitimate, competing interpretations. Online discourse around complex and controversial topics supports neither broad participation nor deep exploration of the issues, options and arguments. Contributions to public deliberation in the popular media, such as speeches, debates, blogs, and op-ed pieces, tend to articulate a particular point of view, simplifying the counterarguments. We urgently need approaches that are designed from the start to illuminate the nature of disagreements, to broaden public understanding of complex debates, make it easier for stakeholders to contribute productively, and to provide analysts and decision makers with cognitive support. Building on two decades of work facilitating small scale, face-to-face deliberation over wicked problems using the IBIS language, this paper proposes that the essence of the approach, augmented by recent technical advances, could scale to support global, online deliberation. A semi-structured discourse scheme like IBIS, delivered via visual web tools, provides a powerful grammar for distilling and inter-connecting speeches, blogs, and other contributions. Just as Wikipedia and related tools have become the world’s repository of consensual knowledge (representing the state of agreement), it is within reach to create robust representations of the knowledge in live controversies (the state of disagreement).