From my very broad angle, this looks like a fascinating and potent new theme for exploration here.
Lately, I’ve been involved with a passionate discussion of “Transpartisan” politics, that has been convened under the auspices of NCDD – the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.
“The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation is a network of thousands of innovators who bring people together across divides to tackle today’s toughest challenges. NCDD serves as a gathering place, a resource clearinghouse, a news source, and a facilitative leader for this extraordinary community.”
Most of these people are “group process facilitators” or mediators, who work in corporate or civic contexts, often for down-town community or government organizations, figuring out ideal ways to help diverse groups work together in the smoothest way. In a corporate world, this might involve connecting the sales department with the manufacturing department. In a community/civic environment, it might involve bringing diverse community groups together to figure out how to improve the city.
The NCDD Transpartisan discussion involves bringing together innovators and activists working for a transformed (generally USA/national politics) – in ways that help overcome gridlock and all the myriad issues that keep Congress at a 10% or 13% approval rating, and which have generally been getting worse since EJ Dionne reviewed many of these issues in his 1992 book “Why Americans Hate Politics” (see “It’s Even Worse than you Think” by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein).
The Transpartisan group, started only a couple of months ago, now includes more than 200 people, and was founded by twenty-one recognized national leaders on these issues, including activists, visionary philosophers, and people like Joan Blades (MoveOn Founder) and Mark McKinnon (NoLabels Founder).
In this context, my own view involves exploring ideas for empowering a broad citizens movement that might emerge as a “new center of gravity”, if enough people were to begin merging their thinking through a robust kind of computer architecture that could support political dialogue in some kind of “clickable” format (ie, minimize the prose, keep options very brief and selectable by click).
In the context of this conversation, the issue of “standards” is right at the core. How do we work together in the context of huge high-heat disagreement (red state / blue state – tea party /progressives, etc.)? What are the “standards” for that process? What do we agree on?
As many of us see it, a lack of agreement and common standards on this theme is shattering our governance and threatens our nation and our economy. What is causing these huge tensions – and can a computer-based network-grounded system science help overcome these issues, and support ways that human beings can work together to resolve their (very real and often hot-blooded) differences in a context that can stay stable and authentically comprehensive under high load?
One issue of “standards” that emerged as this NCDD/Transpartisan conversation was forming – was a basic kind of “civility agreement”. What should be the basic ground rules for an interactive national dialogue on high-tension issues?
Another concern, that goes directly to taxonomic methods – is the question of forming a comprehensive and flexible/dynamic/expanding “taxonomy of issues” – probably parsed by regional applicability (“where to put the stop-sign is not a national issue”), and involving any stakeholder who shows up. We want to receive their input, correlate and compile it, fit it in to an appropriate regional context, provide a channel for further engagement and activism, and make all of this as simple and intuitive as sending a text message. Get this rolling – so goes the thought – and a new “center of political gravity” might emerge in a natural way, that could begin to exert significant influence on an otherwise gridlocked Congress that many see as failing to address critical national issues.
Would it be possible to design a simple but absolutely comprehensive (probably through drill-down, rather than explicit listing) kind of “citizen’s control panel” (or “dashboard”) – where any participant could follow a natural track of their interests, maybe interact with a simple smartphone interface with a few basic options – and enter their input into a huge collective/comprehensive process that correlates everything automatically and instantly? To me, this looks do-able – even simple, if issues of scale can be addressed. There are a lot of details to adjust and tune – but with the right energy, that could happen.
But there are fascinating questions in semantic ontology involved. If all choices are short-burst twitter-like bullet points designed to be “clicked” (and then compiled and aggregated by the system), what exactly do those points mean? Is it possible to “remove all ambiguity” from such brief statements – such that “they mean the same thing to everybody”?
The answer in most cases is going to be No. Maybe some of these points are pure yes/no zero-ambiguity concepts with very clear interpretations. But many other will have implicitly nested factors that could become confusing. Maybe sometimes we offer ways to create “sub-factors” (e.g., all the possible ways a woman might respond to a particular point of view on the subject of abortion). In other cases, maybe we rely on good will and good intention, and do what we can to encourage constructive interaction among participants.
All of this is highly taxonomic.
My sense is – this thinking is an early-stage push to broaden something like the Code for America initiative, to make it broadly applicable to democratic governance in general, perhaps initially in an supportive role – as http://openreferral.org/ -- intended as the website says, “The Open Referral initiative is developing common standards and open platforms for the sharing of community resource directory data — i.e., information about the health, human and social services that are available to people in need.” Or just in very broad terms, we might be finding ways to take on “every issue that divides caring citizens”- and opening pathways for comprehensive integrated dialogue that interconnects everything – such as the CFA app “Textizen” seems to be doing.
For micro-coders with the sharpest eye for the smallest detail, or perhaps simply a skeptical eye on the unproven level of ambition, this might seem mind-blowingly broad and inclusive. But why not? This approach conceivably brings together all of us, and right now, we’re kinda having a hard time hanging on to everything that is going on in our world without flipping out at one another. From my point of view, this is just a broad way to look at “Coding for America”. Why not evolve a support platform with the bandwidth and technical capacity to contain at least in a skeletal way the entire macro-dimensionality of the American political conversation?
Get stronger, we’ll get into more details. Keep growing, the Congress will listen. “It could happen”
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From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Michael Hiles
Sent: Saturday, April 12, 2014 11:24 AM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Health/Human/Social Services: the Open Referral data standards initiative
Greg, I have a software platform that is already installed at the county level in Georgia. It does just this on a functional operations management level. The application was developed as a services aggregation and referral engine for human services and other 3rd party non-profits and social agencies. It was designed to allow a case worker or intake specialist across multiple service providers to identify and recommend other related services. Built on Java/Oracle.
The existing ERD data model may or may not be the academically pure iteration of a consolidated ontological approach to data design, but it works in practice.
On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 1:45 PM, Greg Bloom <bloom@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I’m coordinating a new initiative to develop interoperability and open data within a particular field of 'human service informatics.' The field is often known as ‘Information and Referral,’ and is concerned with the aggregation and distribution of directory information for health, human, and social services (which services are available, who is eligible for them, and where/how to access them).
Currently, this field is still siloed, fragmented, nonstandardized, etc, which causes a lot of pain for everyone throughout the public and non-profit sectors. New web-based startups like https://www.1deg.org/ are offering great interfaces, but may potentially fragment the field even further.
We’ve got an unprecedented opportunity to fix this. A number of developments have recently emerged that could enable the development of ‘open’ platforms to freely circulate this information — among them, schema.org's schema for ‘civic services’ as proposed to the W3C. Given that this represents Google’s into this field, I believe it creates a political moment in which we can rally various players in this space around a new standard for ‘community resource directory data’ that would be interoperable between incumbents and newcomers, and the web.
In light of this (and other developments), I’ve convened a group of key institutional representatives and local stakeholders, and have offered up a proposal for developing a set of standards (and pilot sites that will test/evaluate these standards). My work is now being sponsored by Code for America, and we have funding for a pilot year to demonstrate some initial potential for success.
Our initiative is called Open Referral: http://openreferral.org
This document includes some more detail on our scope.
Among various challenges, one of the layers of our work is essentially ontological. We’re going to have to establish agreement on things like the differences between ‘services' and ‘programs’ (and/or ways to work around disagreement); and we’ve got a difficult taxonomy problem. I’m told by a couple of the subject matter experts in our network that, if we’re really going to develop a new standard successfully, we have to develop an ontology prior to (or at least along with) the technical artifacts. But I have to admit, whenever I say the word ‘ontology’ in discussions with stakeholders, I lose at least half of them. And frankly I find it daunting to parse the conversations on this list myself, although I have learned a bit from some of you and from some of the texts shared here.
So here’s what I’m looking for from your expertise
- Valuable, well-documented precedents for the role of ontology-development in data standards, from which we can learn by example. The more participatory (i.e. not just involving engineers, but actual users and stakeholders) the better.
- Advice in figuring out whether to attend the ontology conference coming up in Arlington. I think I can make it (at considerable sacrifice to my calendar) but I am highly unlikely to have enough time to really become versed in this subject by then. Will it be useful for someone who doesn’t consider themselves an ontologist, and is just trying to get a thing done?
- If there’s anyone to whom this sounds like an interesting project, we are certainly looking for expertise — anything from the 2 cents kind to the large exciting action/research project for which we can seek funding and field support etc etc.
So that’s my shpiel. Would love to discuss more on-thread or one-on-one, and if there’s some interest I’d even be happy to present on video chat — or, as I suggested, possibly even come to meet in person at the conference.
Thanks for reading,
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