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In Conversation With Mark Klein

Mary Leong, communications manager of PlaceSpeak, a public consultation organizion, interviewed Dr. Mark Klein, a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

The interview first started off with a discussion of the challenges in the task of summarizing and evaluating the often-very mixed opinions of a large group of stakeholders by decision-makers. Dr. Klein then discusses his tool, Deliberatorium, as a potential option for public deliberation and discussion. In comparison to social media, it is arranged by topic rather than by time, allowing for more productive conversations between users. Furthermore,

with the Deliberatorium, users create content which is organized in terms of four basic pieces. The first is a question. You may have one or more top-level questions. Each question can have one or more answers, and answers can be supported by one or more pro or con arguments. Also, sometimes answers raise more questions. For example, if the question is “What do you do about climate change?” and one of the answers is “Try a carbon tax”, that answer may lead to a question such as “How much tax?” or “Who gets taxed?” and so on. You end up with a tree structure whose skeleton is made up of layers of questions and answers, with the answers surrounded by halos of pro and con arguments. When you organize the content topically, like in a library, you can quickly find what is being said on a given topic and avoid redundancy.

Thus, the organized structure of Deliberatorium forces users to view the questions and thoughts of the opposing side while they are responding, another difference from social media that is only organized into a thread of comments.

Dr. Klein ends the article stating:

this kind of social computing technology is not just a better way of enact traditional top-down knowledge sharing and decision processes. It represents a sea change in how we organize societies, how decisions are made and where the power balances lie, and is likely to be hugely transformational.

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Related tools

A list of tools that are mentioned in this reference: