From Mali to Norway: Opinion Space Creates a Global Digital Conversation

Posted by Katie Dowd
June 2, 2010
Opinion Space Screenshot June 2, 2010

About the Author: Katie Dowd serves as New Media Director at the U.S. Department of State.Opinion Space, the U.S. Department of State's experimental website, has brought together over 4,000 people from around the world -- from Mali to Norway -- to discuss a range of foreign policy issues. When we launched Opinion Space, we asked participants: “If you met U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, what issue would you tell her about, why is it important to you, and what specific suggestions do you have for addressing it?”

Since its launch on March 15, 2010, we're seeing opinions and ideas that span the spectrum: world peace, women's education, the war in Afghanistan, and food security. We are even seeing foreign students encourage their communities to use Opinion Space to discuss student visas. The opinion map pictured above shows the distribution of the top keywords.

Opinion Space, launched in partnership with UC Berkeley's Center for New Media, seeks to engage global online audiences on a variety of foreign policy issues. We want to listen, learn, and open new conversations with the global community. On the cutting edge of data visualization, Opinion Space groups participants in a new way, plotting personal opinions based on similarity, not liberal or conservative, domestic or foreign.

As Secretary Clinton said, "Opinion Space will harness the power of connection technologies to provide a unique forum for international dialogue. This is an example of what we call 21st century statecraft and an opportunity to extend our engagement beyond the halls of government directly to the people of the world."

Opinion Space gives participants the options to rate each others' comments, and then uses these ratings to highlight the most insightful responses, listed under "Top Authors." A new "Rising Authors" list highlights responses from new participants in the community. For example, our participants have written:

“One of the big problems right now is the lack of visibility of the Foreign Service as an arm of American foreign policy...the State Department could do more (a) to educate Americans and others about what diplomacy does and does not do, and (b) educate military personnel about how to be more skillful public diplomats.”

“I am concerned that we are losing lots of innovative and highly educated people to other countries due to visa issues. This is a growing problem, and without these types of people, the U.S. will lose its advantage and position on the world stage. The U.S. needs to rectify their visa policy.”

This month, we are launching the next discussion question: "How can the international community strengthen global efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation?"

What is your opinion? We want to know what you think, and listen and learn from one another. The State Department also welcomes suggestions about the system and future discussion questions. Please visit the Opinion Space page and click "Feedback” and let us know what you think.

From coffee tables and Internet cafes around the world, Opinion Space is creating a new community to share ideas and opinions, about today's most pressing challenges. To join the discussion, visit and tell your friends on Twitter using #opinionspace.



Alek R.
June 3, 2010

Alek R. writes:

How can I see this map in my opinion space view finder? I want to be able to see that but I don't seem to be able to activate it?

United States
June 3, 2010

O.C. in USA writes:

It's an interesting tool but does the State Department really use the data? Also I'm unable to view the discussion section.

June 4, 2010

Ali in Iran writes:

It would be interesting if there is any follow-up system for the highleted issues in state department. will you take any actions for these issues to get fixed?

Texas, USA
June 5, 2010

Lillene in Texas writes:

Thank you for creation Opinion Space to facilitate global dialogue and resolutions of problems using a representative selection of voices. This is a giant step for resolving issues like women education. If I could meet Secretary Hillary Clinton again I would ask her to include a section where teachers could teach women at all levels and in most languages so we can reduce illiteracy. We will need to provide internet access and cell phones so women can participate! This may be expensive but with research we can reduce the cost of access and of cell phones to advance global education as part of our State security expense especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mohammad G.
Michigan, USA
June 9, 2010

Mohammad H.G. in Michigan writes:

"What do your parents do?", my Korean lab-mate asked me when I told him that my parents couldn't get a visa to visit me this summer. I had no answer, as both my parents are retired from work and their only hope is to see me again.

As an Iranian PhD student in US, I wish it was possible for me to get Multiple-entry visas to go back and see my retired parents without interrupting my research.

Connecticut, USA
June 9, 2010

Vahid in Connecticut writes:

I'm saying what's the reason for the visa hassle for Iranian students? Who is making these policies? All the terrorists and trouble makers are from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and all the problems are for Iranians!! Still don't understand the difference between Iranian people and the stupid government over there?

Katie D.
District Of Columbia, USA
June 9, 2010

DipNote Blogger Katie Dowd writes:

Just to make an editorial note, the graphic at the top of the map is not in fact clickable but is displaying responses and topics of the previous discussion question.

To view Opinion Space please visit:

Thank you so much for your comments, and I look forward to continued feedback.

District Of Columbia, USA
June 15, 2010

Behdad in Washington writes:

I really appreciate if people in the government reconsider the Iranian's single-entry visa condition. US policy toward Iran was always trying to make distinction between Iranian people and the government but when it comes to the visa particularly F1 and H1 visa it is not fair at all. I mean lets be honest how many Iranian do you know that blew himself?!! or made a terrorist act(I am talking about Iranian people not the horrible and dishonorable Iranian's government)


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