Wouldn't it be great if you could take a look at a map and be able to click anywhere on it and have a person pop up, someone that you can learn about in depth, with a personal photoblog and video? Our idea is to attach real faces and lives to the U.S. electoral map, with a sample of Americans from all regions. In addition to their profiles, which will create a live snapshot of the U.S. in 2010, we will put our group of Americans into a weekly online conversation with each other.
We propose to combine the idea of the Deliberative Poll (as developed by the political scientist James Fishkin at Stanford University) to the interactive visual potential of broadband internet. In a Deliberative Poll, the participants discuss questions in a group, like a jury. Our sample group will converse online, with video chats, on a weekly basis.
Our proposal is designed to bring average Americans, from red states and blue states, together in mixed sets (five or six participants in a panel, with up to 50 participants online at once, speaking to each other in small groups) to talk about the issues and get to know one another. Our initial trial platform would be based on the same method, using a smaller sample group of 20.
A description of deliberative polling from an article in the NY Times: "This is a picture of what democracy could be like if people had a dialogue and heard more than the usual campaign sound bites."
The original idea for One-Country.com, a multimedia documentary portrait of the U.S., was developed in 2004 - 2005. The contents of that proposal are archived here.
Recent projects show us the graphic potential of a broadband media portrait of the U.S.
For example, this site from the cable channel USA Network:
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Now, visualize the USA Network map portal above, but about public opinion.
Choose two topics, climate change and the economy, that make for excellent pilot issues.
Provide weekly Q and A's with experts. Engage the participants (about 100 total) in small online chat groups (juries), each group diversified geographically and demographically.
We would adapt James Fishkin's well-tested methods for conducting town-hall type discussions, which have been used by Channel 4 in Britain and PBS in the United States.
We would pull highlights of the conversation among the juries out for a potential broadcast spinoff, and make the rest available through a web design like the USA Network portal. A sample pitch for a televison use is here, in a proposal structured for the Sundance Channel in advance of the next election.
The growth in video tools for opinion and debate show the potential for creating citizen dialogue around a national project; but instead of pundits, we aim to create an MRI image of the idealized democratic society, with roles played by normal Americans.
Our project would also address the question: what is the future of journalism, as technology changes? Our national polling method may prove particularly valuable in educating the public on complex issues like climate change and the economy. By creating a proxy audience in ideal conditions for learning, and with access to experts, the information discussed is given a platform and context that can help make it accessible, understandable, and persuasive to ordinary Americans.
And also important is the demonstration effect itself -- for policy makers and for the public -- this is what a group of ordinary Americans would believe if they had the chance to learn from experts and then talk about what they've learned in free and open dialogue.