Internet Framework for Creative Dialogue on Irreconcilable Policy Differences

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Project date: 1998

This was a project proposal to the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission. Full title: Developing an Internet Framework for Creative Dialogue on Irreconcilable Policy Differences: Experimenting with New Approaches to Democratic Governance.

The focus of this proposal was on the opportunity for distinctive European initiatives that rely less on innovation in software and hardware and more on innovative application of existing and emerging facilities addressing cultural, cognitive and behavioural challenges, especially in areas consistent with European cultural skills as they relate to democratic governance and differences of perspective.

Considerations for this project were the rapid evolution of Information Society as it related to the European Commission, and the challenge for other continents, notably with respect to hardware and software. Despite considerable support by the Commission, especially with respect to infrastructure, competitive advantage had yet to be ensured (Convergence: Wall Street Journal Europe, Spring 1998). There was also an emerging concern with the exact nature of the contribution of the Internet to processes of governance.

The project objective was to engage in practical experiments using adaptations and extensions of communication technology (listserver, groupware, etc) in order to create a communication framework within which people of divergent cultures, languages and views could interact creatively in response to current and emerging issues of governance. It also intended to take account of the constraints evident in existing Internet-facilitated interactions within, and between, emerging coalitions, notably with respect to elaboration and implementation of new strategies. It sought to identify a 'European style' of Internet interaction and dialogue capable of moving beyond the consensus-dependence characteristic of dialogue dominated by homogeneous communication environments, such as those based in North America, which were considered ill-adapted to the polarized situations affecting Europe (Balkans, Middle East, 'Clash of Cultures', Northern Ireland, 'social exclusion', 'immigrants', etc). The concern was to demonstrate how competitive advantage in quality of governance can be derived from the divergence and cultural diversity that tends to undermine strategies based on inadequate paradigms.