Sunday, January 25, 2009

Community Involvement

So I'm preparing for my interview with ZenBiz radio. I was approached by Bruce Stewart because of my activity in using social media in community based initiatives. I believe society is just getting going with using the internet as the platform for citizen led electronic government initiatives. There is a lot going on in this space right now, and the "coronation" of President Obama has really legitimized citizens being able to ask for openness and transparency (municipal, regional and national) and for this information to be available as an API via the internet. Bruce asked that I have a quiet space and a landline for the interview. He also let me know I should expect questions in four themes. This post is my preparation for this interview.

1) Who am I, my relevant background

I would say the biggest impact upon why I am becoming increasingly involved with citizen based initiatives is a value given to me by my parents. Its the value of leaving somewhere in a better state than when you arrived. In general, I just don't see the "collective" we doing that. I believe if we increase citizen participation in caring for our neighborhoods and localizing our needs then we will be much more sustainable. I also believe government transparency will assist in this considerably.
I also believe my technology and educator background combined with my work with Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) have also influenced me. I think my work with ICT4D has influenced me in how I think the "collective" we (in the developed world) expect to much. To be blunt I think in the west we have become lazy and are overly entitled. Its time we collectively stopped consuming so much and started being more grateful for what we have and put back.
Lastly, I believe this YouTube presentation by Hans Rosling really taught me the importance of access to data and the social change it can assist.

I am involved with citizen based electronic government because I believe;

  1. Citizen based initiatives are more sustainable

  2. The developed world needs to give more back (or take much, much less)

  3. Government transparency will be created from the grassroots
2) What I am doing regarding e-Gov't on Bowen Island (BOWEGOV)

With these beliefs what am I doing about it? When I reflect, I'm doing a fair amount. I continue as a contributor and council member for WikiEducator, and this experience has taught me a lot about self-organization. I am continually assisting organizations to be successful with social media, organizational learning and technology architecture. I have brought my understanding of all these things together by initiating the use of BOWEGOV as a tag / hashtag to tie everyone's work together. As with any community there are a lot of differences among the different people, groups, neighborhoods, etc. What else would you expect!?! I felt if we chose a social media (web2.0) approach that was technology agnostic and was platform independent it would have greater appeal. So with tagging people can use the client side tools (Mac, PC, Nokia, iPhone, Browser, Linux, Etc, Etc.) they want without the whole thing getting tied to a single technology platform (Wiki, Blog, Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, Google, Etc, Etc.). After some discussion with others we came up with the idea that the internet is the platform. So we're not tied to any single platform and as the internet evolves, innovates and improves so do we.

3) Reaction from the powers that be

The short answer, there has been no reaction. So far this initiative is only starting. We have contacted a couple of council members and had social conversations with the mayor about BOWEGOV tagging. Its a small town of 4000 so these conversations happen. I think it is way too early to expect any traction. The idea of using social media for government really got started around the same time as Obama became a democratic candidate Though their is earlier evidence of this, it really didn't get traction/acceptance till Obama. And the conceptual learning curve is steep for people indoctrinated into traditional forms of governing. I have sent an email to our municipal council (see related post). I think this email will be most useful to refer back to in a Kolb kind of a way. I believe the learning has started... when it gets traction is the unknown.

Recently I have been seeking ways to coordinate citizen based approaches in preparation to meeting with the powers that be. I think this needs to be a good experience in a more coordinated way. In my seeking I have found the visible government website. I really like how they describe themselves; is a non-partisan non-profit dedicated to promoting the planning, funding, and implementation of online tools for government transparency in Canada.
The visible government group has also recently hosted change camps to get local groups to start working toward this initiative. There will be a change camp in Vancouver on 28 March 2009. I believe all this work in creating transparency to government will have an impact. Even upon our local municipal government(s).

4) Citizenship involvement

On bowen Island we are fortunate in that we have a number of citizens active and involved in the community. And a lot of the efforts are toward influencing local politics (though this could be for better or worse). I believe it is a part of living in a smaller community. I do see it increasingly important that citizens start doing more for their neighborhoods. I believe that our current expectations for what our governments will provide is unsustainable. I believe citizens need to let go of government even sustaining the current levels of service. Services are going to become increasingly expensive and the tax dollars aren't there to increase service. What this means is that citizens have to become more active at a neighborhood level to offset the need for services.
On Bowen Island we have had a number of people starting using Web 2.0 technologies to gather and communicate information. Here are a few;
I do believe all these technologies are useful, but I think the face to face activities of getting neighbors together are more productive. I think the electronic tools will compliment the physical neighborhood activities. As these Web 2.0 tools mature they will provide increasing abilities to gather data and provide transparancy. This transparency will go both ways it will allow citizens to see into the depths of how government decisions are being implemented (tax dollars spent), and it will provide community information sources to politicians as well as citizens. It is hoped that this increase in information sharing (or transparency) will enable citizens to make better decisions at a personal and neighborhood level as well as assist politicians make better decisions for their constituents.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear Bowen Island Council

A number of Bowen Island citizens with interest in social media are beginning to put together online citizen led approaches toward increasing citizen participation in our neighborhoods and community. The belief behind this activity is that if citizen participation increases from a grassroots level more will get done and people will feel increased responsibility and connection to their neighborhoods and community. It is also believed that citizen based neighborhood activities are a step toward lessening our environmental impact (the 100 mile diet could be considered and example, On bowen island there have already been activities where neighbors have taken the time and energy to complete projects for the good of their neighborhood. I can see these neighborhood activities increasing and current technology trends provide online tools to assist.

All the changes occurring with politics, social media and transparency creates unprecedented opportunities for communication and openness. I believe their is an opportunity for the Bowen Island Municipality to be an exemplar in using technology to bring openness to municipal government. A project is forming to support this kind of initiative, see visible government;

A simple example of how this could work, could be for Bob (and or other council members) give brief online conferences of the provincial and federal rules and policies for running a municipal gov't. I am sure their are many simple and important municipal administrative topics that could occupy a 15 - 30 learning experience for the citizenship of Bowen Island. Increasing citizens knowledge in such matters could help in understanding how tax dollars are spent, how BIM adminsitrative processes work, public works function, etc... DimDim ( is a free social media service that could be used for such an activity.

There is already a building knowledge base using social media. This is being facilitated with the use of tagging, in particular the BOWEGOV tag. If you were to click the following links you would see how this tagging approach is connecting knowledge and allowing people to engage in ways they feel comfortable.

1) A search on Google (a shared reference to information related to bowen e-government);
2) Delicious tagging (the beginning of a taxonomy for electronic government);
3) Twitter (a number of brief conversations about bowen e-government and related issues);

Where all this social media and transparency will go in relation to small municipalities is still to be seen, as it is still being "invented". I look forward to your support in building greater transparency and increasing citizen participation in local gov't. If you would like to discuss any of these topics further. Please do not hesitate to contact me,
or any of the others connected to these activities.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Teaching with Web 2.0, long-tail applied.

I created a power point stack two years ago for a series of workshops I was providing to the faculty and graduate students of Memorial University. This stack has since been used a few times to assist in describing how the Web 2.0 can be used for teaching. Now, two years later I will be interviewed regarding the content of this presentation. Its the long-tail applied to teaching materials... Something I created years ago still has value today. Surprisingly, the presentation does not seem dated. Though, I would add tagging, micro-blogging and Communities of Practice (CoP). The interview is to be loosely based around a number of questions regarding this power point presentation. The questions and related answers are as follows;

Q) Define Web 2.0 and how it can enhance teaching?
A) I like Tim O'Reillys' definition of "What Is Web 2.0" and I particularly like the idea of the wisdom of crowds. I am often amazed at what I learn from my social network. In a nutshell I see Web 2.0 as the read / write web with access to the collective intelligence found within the people who participate in reading and writing to the web. I believe it enhances teaching by having the learners reflect more deeply than they would if the potential for being read by millions wasn't also a part of the web. I believe it is a big motivator in deepening knowledge by being articulate and researching more thoroughly. I believe the act of writing has positive impacts to learning. The web 2.0 also connects you to people who share interests and development of understanding. Many of these people cn become mentors and cohorts in learning.

Q) The "Teaching with Web 2.0" pdf is used for professional development workshops in Colleges?
A) Yes, I have used it a few times... Mostly with Memorial University in NL. It was used for both faculty and graduate level workshops.

Q) Social Constructivism, Progressive Inquiry and the accompanying image. How do these concepts relate?
A) I believe Social Constructivism is a variety of constructivism that emphasizes the collaborative nature of learning. Progressive Inquiry models itself on proven practices in building knowledge. It includes the knowledge of expertise and the importance of engaging this expertise as a learner builds knowledge. Social constructivism, progressive inquiry and the accompanying image all relate back to knowledge building is a social activity... that can be well facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies.

Q) What are the educational uses of blogging? And what are Mash-ups?
A) Exploring the educational uses for blogging is too big a question for a single post. I believe blogging (particularly when you consider mash-ups) should also be described with RSS. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is the technical protocol behind blogging. A great way to explore blogging and RSS is through a pdf titled "Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators" written by Quentin D’Souza. This pdf also has many great suggestions of how to use blogging in teaching. Mash-ups are the idea of re-combining and modifying existing works to create a derivative work. This has traditionally been the realm of multimedia, yet it can be a very powerful tool for learners to dive deep into content and create something new and meaningful while learning along the way. I believe the idea of the mash-up in education has yet to be explored fully, I do believe the day will soon come where learners will use mash-ups to fulfill assignment requirements.

Q) Why did you bring David Kolb (see pages 12 & 14) into this presentation?
A)I really like the immediacy of Kolb's experiential learning and how it all starts with the first exposure to a subject. Even if the exposure is a glance at an image. The idea of using the poem was to show how a blog could be used with podcasting to encourage listening to, critiquing and writing poetry. And how that would be done with a Kolb based approach. It really is about tying Web 2.0 techniques to solid pedagogical practices. The second example I used was in using the periodic table and how the teacher could post a basic periodic table and engage the students in looking at the table and providing initial reactions through commenting on a blog or creating their own blog post. this would then continue into coloring the periodic table and further examining its contents. All of the experience with the periodic table would bring a greater familiarity and experience.

To build on these topics even further I would suggest everyone read the "Minds on Fire" article by John Seely Brown to be well aligned with how I also see social media, learning and all the related changes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Current events and BOWEGOV

I have recently been involved in a number of discussions about citizen led and electronic government. In one of these engagements I wrote the following reply to an email. I feel it was worthy of a blog post.

It is hard for me to disagree with most of what you say here. So I wont. I will tell you my story and what I am doing about community issues. Over the last few years my beliefs regarding centralized government have changed. I see Gov't as more concerned with getting re-elected and servicing special interests. They no longer serve the basic needs of citizenship. And with the environmental and economic realities we are all faced with we need to start living with less and think about becoming small, self sufficient communities (Neighborhoods). I also see most people more concerned about what they can get out of a system instead instead of what they can put into it. I believe history will look at the human species at the end of the 20th century at its most selfish and overly entitled. I believe the level of comfort we in the west have become used to is no longer sustainable. This dissonance of what we expect with what we can afford will cause infrastructures to increasingly fail. Our society can no longer afford garbage collection and street clearing like we have been used to... I believe this is just the reality of our time. I also believe there is a huge upside for people at all levels (mental, emotional, financial, spiritual...) to be more involved at a grassroots level with their neighborhood. In a way its all about love.

So what am I doing about it?
I try to put into the system more than I take out. This is difficult for it seems to go against the status quo. If something needs to be done i try to do it myself and if people show up to help, that is good. I try to be transparent with what i do by publishing it to the internet as public record and to attract interest. This is what I did with snow clearing in our cul-de-sac. I just started doing it, slowly I was making progress. Others joined in... eventually the municipality also helped. I am learning as much as I can about e-Gov't and self-sustaining communities. I have engaged the internet and others from Bowen who also use the internet to encourage self-sustaining activities and to look for ways the support each other in getting things done. I tag everything related to this with the BOWEGOV tag. This provides a way to begin building a body of knowledge. I choose tagging because it does not force people to use any single platform (the bowen forum is a platform) it gives people the freedom to choose how they engage and if they want their activities to become a part of the collective online Bowen Island intelligence, all they have to do is tag it with BOWEGOV. What comes of this tagging approach, i don't know... I do know it is an ongoing longterm project and i have faith positive results will build. I believe it is a positive step in the right direction. Only time will tell.

Thanks for engaging me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ready or not, here they come!

I am still somewhat enamored by the six classifications that the forrester writers can up with for the different participants in social media. I believe this is a solid way to look at the community surrounding your business.
Social Technographics Explained
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: social media)

Ready or not, here they come!