Integrating reader insights into the news cycle
During a moznewslab lecture this past week, Aza Raskin provided a compelling perspective on being a change maker. You have a vision, but you need to convey that vision. And it needs to be concrete. By analogy to building a transcontinental railroad, the first aspect of Raskin’s perspective is to “lay down the first 100 miles of track” (communicating a concrete starting point). Complementary to this, you need to build a resort town on the other end (the promised land). Other people can then help fill in the rest of the railroad simply by understanding the first steps and what the final destination is.
It occurred to me that in my moznewslab proposal, I laid down some tracks, but did a poor job of building that resort town. So I thought I’d take a stab here.
The web has connected us all. Yet we continue to struggle to understand and address collective problems together, from local issues to national ones like the debt ceiling to global issues like climate change.
The contrast between the connective potential of the web and the disappointing reality of internet discourse is nowhere more apparent than in the comment boards on news stories. Here is an opportunity for constructive engagement with people with diverse opinions about developing issues, and yet internet comment boards have become the cesspools of the internet, rife with trolling, drive-by commenting and knee jerk reactions.
Instead of considering the comment section to be a tacked-on, necessary-though-embarrassing component of a news site, we may be able to build interfaces that create a positive feedback loop between the comment section and subsequent followup stories.
To do this, we need to (1) *improve the quality of the discussion* by encouraging people to listen to each other, build on each others’ thoughts, and identify important takeaways; and (2) create new ways to summarize these insights into concise nuggets of crowd wisdom, such as important claims that readers would like fact-checked, or clusters of opinions organized into coherent position statements. If the quality is improved and the insights summarized, it may become practical and valuable for news organizations to dedicate some portion of their staff to following up the initial stories based on the audience reaction, creating a more interactive experience between news rooms and readers over time.
This is all part of a larger agenda. Lets extend the web to better channel the insights of many so that we can communicate more effectively and intelligently at a societal level. Lets build interfaces that encourage deeper listening to others and oneself, and deeper consideration of tradeoffs inherent in decisions. Lets build the social infrastructure for a more reflective, considerate world. A humane and empathetic hive mind.
This is way too academic, so ideas on how to say this more powerfully and succinctly are very welcome!
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