About the Author: Katie Dowd serves as New Media Director at the U.S. Department of State.
Today, I am so excited to announce the arrival of a new State Department project called Opinion Space. Opinion Space is an innovative, interactive online tool we are launching in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley Center for New Media. Accessible to anyone around the world, Opinion Space solicits fresh perspectives on U.S. foreign policy and incorporates users' input into a creative visual display, based on the wisdom of crowds, to identify insightful ideas. You can find Opinion Space at www.state.gov/opinionspace.
During her recent speech on Internet Freedom, Secretary Clinton said, "[T]he Internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that's why we believe it's critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms. Freedom of expression...is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas....”
With Opinion Space, we are experimenting to open a new forum to exchange ideas and share opinions, to bring together people around the world to discuss some of the critical issues facing us today, and to encourage the development of communities that can listen to one another, agree to disagree and hopefully learn from one another.
So, how does Opinion Space work? Well, to get started you provide your opinion to several questions based on a range of foreign policy issues. Based on your responses, your point of view is plotted on a global opinion map. Your position, marked by a yellow circle, is based on similarity of opinion: those who agree on basic issues are neighbors, those who are far apart have agreed to disagree. You can instantly see where you stand in relation to other participants on the map. Then, by reviewing comments from others, you help the community highlight the most insightful ideas.
A participatory culture thrives on the sharing of opinions among people over networks. We hope you will engage in this experiment with us, learn with us, and let us know what you think. We will keep you up to date as the experiment unfolds , and what we are learning.
Each month, we will introduce new discussion questions to foster community participation. Everyone in the community will have differing ideas and opinions, and you will see that even those nearest to you might agree on some basic foreign policy issues but might disagree on a response to the discussion question. This month, we ask: If you met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, what issue would you tell her about, why is it important to you, and what specific suggestions do you have for addressing it?
Let us know your thoughts by joining the discussion on www.state.gov/opinionspace and tell your friends on Twitter using #opinionspace.