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Facilitating Community through Information

A suite of software-enabled participation tools (Part #1)

Project proposal (rejected) in response to Intelligent - Information - Interfaces to European Commission DG XII
Submitted in 1996 by Union of International Associations (UIA), Belgium as Coordinating Partner

  Associated partners: Swedish Institute for Social Inventions (SISU), Sweden; Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), Denmark; Global Action Plan for the Earth (GAP); IAPCO Institute for Congress management Training (IAPCO-ICMT); International Association of Professional Congress Organizers (IAPCO); Institute for Social Inventions (ISI, UK); Lebensgarten Community (Steyerberg, Germany); Findhorn Foundation (Scotland)

Context theme: Territory as interface
Context theme: Community as database
Context theme: Computer-supported real-life
Context: Active participation
Research challenges

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The proposal describes investigations to provoke and reinforce action, by companies and organizations with appropriate resources, to develop software tools which support real-life communities. Prototypes, know-how and operating procedures will be developed and tested with communities. These complementary tools involve a variety of overlapping research challenges. The proposal focuses on developing application of tools rather than on the tools themselves.

The proposed research would explore and specify a suite of 18 complementary modules which can enhance community dynamics and the sharing of information between people in local communities under a variety of conditions.

The immediate research goals would be to review, examine, test and augment relevant existing software in a variety of community environments. Much of this work would build on existing initiatives and interests of the proposers.

The modules in the suite are overlapping and interrelated; all have direct practical relevance to full-featured and complex local geographical communities in Europe, subject to erosion of quality of community life. However, certain techniques are more easily and rigorously investigated in simplified, rudimentary or transitory communities. The proposal, therefore, extends the definition of 'geographical community' to include other spatially-delineated environments such as: bus stops and airport lounges, multi-session conference venues, office complexes, village administrations, town councils, and other thematic or intentional communities, including refugee camps, hospitals, special care homes, and prisons.

Real meeting, living and working environments will provide 'laboratory' situations for rapid testing of a number of the community process techniques in this proposal, as will pre-existing and proto-groups whose activities in a common geographic territory can be readily augmented with virtual environments (EcoTeams, Eco-villages, LETS communities and their networks).

The modules described include: Crowd-to-community transformation; Territory as the map; Sustainable community database (and content integration); Micro-community facilitation; Commitment database and relationship contracts; Meeting participant contracts; Participant messaging in conferences; Refugee camp satellite link; Interface on community problems and initiatives; Ecology-based role metaphors of opportunities of community participation.

The research challenges identified include: Software issues, (especially in relation to profiling and non-hierarchical information); Hardware issues (especially in relation to mixing levels of technology); Database content structure and acquisition; Access and input issues (especially of a non-textual nature); Socio-dynamic issues; Copyright issues; Timing and Production issues.

The work will be performed over a year through a series of meetings, assisted by regular e-mail contact among partners. Module prototypes and operating procedures will be developed by partners where possible, subcontracting software development where work is beyond the their competence. Modules will be specified and tested through contact with communities that form part of the extended network of the partners. According to the nature of the challenge for each module, results will take the form of tested prototypes and operating procedures where this has proved possible, or specifications for further developmental work.

procedures where this has proved possible, or specifications for further developmental work.

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