Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

South by Southwest (“South by” if you’ve ever attended or SXSW when you type it) began in 1987 in Austin as a Music Conference and Festival attended by 700 people. Since then, it has grown to over 12,000 registrants and now includes a film and interactive component that draws 17,000 participants. (History of SXSW)

For the last two years, I have been one of those who jumped into the fray of the interactive sessions and this year I’m working on the front end to encourage and promote sessions that look at online deliberation, community engagement, technology and democracy, and open government. Fortunately, Tim Bonnemann, Founder and CEO of Intellitics is making that job easier for me by identifying the sessions that look appropriate for the Texas Forums network.

Since SXSW is a very democratic experience, 30% of the decision about what sessions are offered is influenced by the votes and comments using the SXSW panel picker. You can check out the Interactive Sessions and vote here, or just follow Tim’s advice below!


From Tim–

The SXSW 2010 “panel picker” launched yesterday.  You can vote for my panel proposal here (requires login):

14 Ways to Make Online Citizen Participation Work
Using the web to engage citizens in public decision making is becoming increasingly
popular. However,  most online tools are not equipped to support the right processes.
This panel of public participation experts will share 14 tips how you can get results
despite these shortcomings and still make your citizens happy!


And while you’re at it, here are a few potentially related sessions that caught my eye so far:

Community Consensus (Not!) and Online Democracy’s Loose Ends

Get Naked: Online Citizen Deliberative Dialogue

Crowdsourcing Urban Renewal: Designing for Technologically Mediated Change

Taking the Friction out of Civic Engagement With Open Government & API’s

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On July 16, 2009 I participated in a virtual conference on Stakeholder Engagement co-sponsored by Public Decisions and Learning Times and held in Second Life on Squirrel Island. Here is the schedule of the day. The session included a small group deliberation on the topic, “Facing the Challenges of Climate Change: A Guide for Citizen Thought and Action” using a discussion guide prepared by Public Agenda. I was one of the “deliberators” on stage.

I have to admit that I was rather surprised at how smoothly the day went. My head has been spinning with possibilities.

One idea is to use Second Life to demonstrate a deliberative forum.

It is almost universally accepted in the National Issues Forums world that people attending the training sessions (called Public Policy Institutes) have to experience a forum to really understand deliberation. But the experience isn’t always a smashing success. Participants (because they are all attending the training to learn about public deliberation) are likely to be pre-disposed to speak more civilly, hold similar values and perspectives, and be less likely to engage in bad behavior than a passionate, strong-willed, opinionated, closed-minded person. (I haven’t actually seen a lot of bad behavior in the forums that I have moderated, but the Gadfly Hall of Fame – compliments of Pete Peterson of Common Sense California – would indicate that it is possible!)

Role playing different parts usually comes off silly and rarely adds to the experience. The role player usually finds it difficult to remain in character and their performance becomes a parody of different perspectives. They state opinions that they don’t really hold and then giggle or engage in some other behavior that lets you know they are not being authentic. Plus, they become labeled as “that guy” and spend the remainder of the training session overcoming the impression.  But Second Life could actually provide an opportunity for a staged deliberative forum. People could literally take on a different avatar that they could discard after the forum. The limited body language could actually be a benefit. It’s something I’m playing with.

In the meantime, I’m in conversation with Learning Times and Public Decisions about an international Stakeholder Engagement Online Conference.

Save the date and stay tuned.

2-4 March 2010
Presented by PublicDecisions and Learning Times

Showcasing best practices for stakeholder engagement . . . Demonstrating leading edge tools . . . Highlighting emerging technologies.

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On May 15, the LBJ Library and the LBJ School of Public Affairs co-hosted a summit on Open Government. If you weren’t able to join us in person or virtually, worry not. The entire fascinating day is available online for your viewing pleasure. It will be time well spent!

Commencement 2009 05/23/09
Speaker: Bill Bradley
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Bill Bradley
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Texas and Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel on Texas and Transparency: The Hon. former State Representative Sherri Greenberg, LBJ School of Public Affairs; The Hon. former State Representative Talmadge Heflin, Texas Public Policy Foundation; Fred Zipp, editor, Austin American-Statesman Read More
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Transparency and Application Development 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel discussion on Transparency and Application Development:
Conor Kenny, OpenCongress/Sunlight Foundation; Damien Brockmann, billhop.com; Eric Gundersen, President of Development Seed Read More
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Open Government on the Internet – Panel Discussion: Technology and Transparency in the Federal Government 05/15/09
Speaker: Panel Discussion
Panel discussion Technology and Transparency in the Federal
Government: Kshemendra Paul, Federal Chief Architect, Office of Management and Budget; Clay Johnson, Sunlight Labs; John Wonderlich, Director of Policy, The Sunlight Foundation Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Susan Combs
Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs talked about efforts in Texas to increase transparency and the challenges the state faces. Introduction by LBJ School Professor and former State Representative Sherri Greenberg.Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Silona Bonewald
Silona Bonewald, founder and director of the League of Technical Voters, discusses her work with government transparency and the challenges and benefits of an archive of all federal web site content. Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency 05/15/09
Speaker: Vivek Kundra
Federal Chief Information Office (CIO) Vivek Kundra speaks to the Conference from The Archer Center, a part of the University of Texas System, from Washington D.C. on the work the Obama administration is doing to use technology to increase government transparency. Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency: Introduction 05/15/09
Speaker: Gary Chapman
LBJ School Professor Chapman, organizer of the Open Government Conference, talks about government transparency and the role the Internet will play in the future. Read More
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LBJ Students Discuss Open Government 05/08/09
Speaker: LBJ Students
Four students from Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Professor Gary Chapman’s policy research project (PRP) on government transparency on the Internet discuss the Open Government on the Internet conference taking place May 15, the issue of government transparency, and the LBJ PRP experience… Read More
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Open Government on the Internet: A New Era In Transparency



Former Senator Bill Bradley
White House CIO Vivek Kundra
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs
LBJ School's Gary Chapman
The Hon. Former SenatorBill Bradley

White House CIOVivek Kundra

Texas ComptrollerSusan Combs

LBJ SchoolGary Chapman

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information
, a landmark law that has ever since changed how citizens can learn about their government.

President Barack Obama’s “Day One” action, on January 21, 2009, emphasized his commitment to open and free government information, spelled out in his Freedom of Information Act Memorandum, the very first order the new President issued from the White House.

The one-day conference, “Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of Transparency,” will look at these developments through the eyes of nationally prominent speakers and the participation of the audience. On May 15, 2009, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin, in co-sponsorship with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, will co-host this one-day conference with speakers and panelists interacting simultaneously, through videoconferencing, in Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C.

The conference is sold out, but we are offering this opportunity for you to watch the webcast from the comfort of your own home or office!

Watch this video produced by students from the LBJ School of Public Affairs for an overview of the day.


LBJ Presidential Library and Museum
LBJ School of Public Affairs
Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas

The topics to be covered will include:

  • Innovations in fiscal transparency online
  • Technologies for monitoring legislation and spending
  • The “right-to-know” agenda for the 21st century
  • Innovation in the states
  • The future of “i-government”
  • Citizen participation online
  • How technologists can help

This event is meant for public sector managers and leaders, elected officials, nonprofit advocates, technologists and developers, and citizens interested in transforming government with new online tools.

The Day’s Program

8:30-8:45: The Hon. Former Senator Bill Bradley

8:45 – 9:30: Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer, White House Office of Management and Budget

9:30-10:15: Susan Combs, Comptroller of Public Accounts, State of Texas

10:15-10:45: Coffee break

10:45-12:00: Panel on Texas and transparency: The Hon. State Senator Kirk Watson (invited); The Hon. State Representative Mark Strama (invited); The Hon. former State Representative Sherri Greenberg, LBJ School of Public Affairs; The Hon. former State Senator Talmadge Heflin, Texas Public Policy Foundation; Fred Zipp, editor, Austin American-Statesman

12:00 to 12:30: Gary Chapman, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

12:30-1:30: Lunch Break

1:30-2:30: Panel discussion technology and transparency in the federal government: Kshmendra Paul, Manager, Federal Enterprise Architecture, Office of Management and Budget; Clay Johnson, Sunlight Labs; John Wonderlich,
Director of Policy, The Sunlight Foundation

2:30-3:15 Panel discussion on transparency and application development: Conor Kenny, OpenCongress/Sunlight Foundation; Damien Brockmann, billhop.com; Eric Gundersen, President of Development Seed

3:15-3:30: Break – Refreshments provided

3:30-4:15: Silona Bonewald, founder and director of the League of Technical Voters

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I just watched the webcast of Open the Door hosted by Openthegovernment.org. The panelists were:

  • Dan Chenok, a member of President Obama’s “Technology, Innovation and Government Reform” transition team, former branch chief for information policy and technology in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and currently senior vice president and general manager of Pragmatics;
  • Vivek Kundra, newly-appointed federal Chief Information Officer (CIO);
  • Katherine McFate, a Program Officer for Government Performance and Accountability in the Ford Foundation’s Governance Unit; and
  • Beth Noveck, a professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and author of Wiki Government (Brookings 2009).

This was the Sunshine Week 2009 National Dialogue sponsore by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for American Progress, League of Women Voters,National Freedom of Information Coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen, Special Libraries Association, Sunshine Week, and the Sunlight Foundation.

As far as I know, there were no hashtags and I didn’t know if anyone else was twittering, but I posted my share and now I’ve been asked to re-post them for my non-twittering friends, so here they are along with additional notes I took. No offense to host Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org who did a fabulous job moderating, but I posted a tiny tweetplaint (OMG, now I’m making up tweet words) about her chewing gum.

My Chicken Scratch:
More important than ever to get data into hands because of huge expenses going out the door for recovery and stimulus.
Have to look at this as an ecosystem. When data is democratized, we can hold officials  and ourselves accountable.

Vivek (Obama CIO) pointed to two examples of how transparency and open source have been effective tools for the federal government:

1) The NIH Human Genome project. They opened up the data to anyone, led to massive explosion in the number of people working on the Genome project. For a quick history and to see some of the amazing results of this open source research, check out this two-page fact sheet from the NIH: www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/HumanGenomeProject.pdf
2) DOD and satellites when they released coordinates, led to geospatial data.

But we have to remember that it is not just technology for technology’s sake. We have to be focused on what the technology will enable us to do.

Connect people to services rather than to government agencies. Each agency has a separate web site. The services are organized according to the bureaucracy not according to the services that people need and not in a way that can be easily accessed.

Technology is just one element of transparency. It’s not the solution. It has to be embedded in the C.I.O.’s DNA. They have to come to favor solutions that make it easier for citizens to access and understand how their government works.

Driven by three values outlined in Obama’s memorandum

  • Transparency
  • Participation
  • Collaboration

When people understand the basis for a decision and are able to participate in the decision-making process they are more ready to live with the decision even if they don’t agree.
Accountable Recovery Resources:

What can you do to monitor the Recovery money? Do it at your state level.
Look at what states and localities are doing. Do they have web sites? What is on them? Is it helpful? If they aren’t good, tell them, write op-eds. Check out resources at http://accountablerecovery.net/ and tell accountable Recovery if you find good things that are working!

This is a special moment to reshape the way democracy works. We have a president committed to hearing what people have to say.
This is our moment to change the structures so that everyone can be engaged. This is about reinvigorating democracy.

Models from other countries: Singapore has a very open electronic gov’t platform. UK has a government gateway that they run transactions through. There is a huge e-government movement internationally.

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Steve Clift, founder of e-democracy.org hosted two-part webinar on Citizen Media and Online Engagement on February 5. The archive will be available for people who donate any amount between now and March 1, 2009. Donate here and you will receive a link to listen to the archive.

The first part of the presentation highlighted interesting citizen media and online engagement projects. Technology has dramatically shifted the power and control over who gets to tell the story about their community and what stories get told. People are using blogs, twitter, text messages, Flickr and YouTube to report what is happening in their local neighborhood.

In addition to Steve’s presentation, the Knight Foundation has funded a number of projects that provide great resources for citizen journalists, such as:

  • the University of Maryland’s J-Lab which helps communities start citizen news ventures, and
  • Knight Citizen News Network that guides both ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information sites and that assembles news innovations and research on citizen media projects.

Part two of e-democracy’s workshop focused intensively on the secrets of starting an online Issues Forum (or learning from what we do to help your own project). Each section is roughly 50 minutes and well worth the donation!

Check out the slides for Citizen Media and Online Engagement and Issues Forums Webinar.

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New Social Inquiry is a brand new academic journal, but they aren’t just any academic journal. Right on the front page they claim that they will be a different kind of academic journal. They will be publishing social research essays and relative works that are accessible to a wide audience, engaging and relevant for non-specialists, yet sophisticated and complex enough to push scholarship forward.

If the look and feel of their web site is any indication, I believe that they WILL be a different kind of academic journal!

New Social Inquiry

(BTW, what the heck is that thingy called anyway? I can’t remember, but the first person to post answer as a response here will get an LBJ 100 coffee mug.)

Their first publication will focus on public dialogue. Hey, “public dialogue”? That’s something that the readers of this blog (all three of you-I’m not counting the “guy” from Russia who keeps making offers I can definitely refuse!) are interested in. Here’s an excerpt from the guidelines for submission:

Is there such a thing as public dialogue, now or in the past? If so, who participates, who leads, and what forms does it take? If not, how can it realistically be realized? What are the main challenges to
establishing/maintaining public dialogue? What are good examples of public dialogue working in the world today?
What is/are the relationship(s) between public dialogue(s) and social inquiry(ies)?

Shotgun essays should be no longer than 1000 words–we said “short”, and we mean it.

The deadline is January 19, 2009.

So I’m mulling article ideas. Wouldn’t it be exciting to be published in the very first publication? Anyone want to co-author? Any story angles we should explore?

For more information, check out: http://www.newsocialinquiry.org/

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The Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin offers funding for non-profit staff members to take a “paid time-out” to research an issue or question of value to their work.

Three individuals will receive grants of $5000, be paired with UT Austin faculty who will guide them in their research, receive full access to UT Austin library resources, and participate in an intellectual community of other independent scholars, non-profit professionals, and UT faculty and staff. Applications are now available for the 2008-9 academic year at www.humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu.

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 30. Please email Kritika Agarwal at community@humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu

or call the Humanities Institute at 471-2654 for more information.

If you are interested in researching issues of interest such as, public deliberation, community engagement, civic entrepreneurship, social networking tools for civic engagement, contact Taylor Willingham about your research interests and we’ll explore partnership opportunities.

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[Cross posted]

The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”

The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:

1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?

I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:

What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?

This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.

The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.

Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.

I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.

How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?

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The Project on Civic Reflection is hosting a scholarly examination of the meaning and value of reflective discourse. In October, they will bring together 15 scholar-practitioners to examine the nature and significance of reflective discourse in a democracy, with special attention to emerging models that use the arts and humanities to provoke reflection.

As one of the invitees, I have been asked to prepare a 2500 word essay exploring one of the questions below.

Central questions to be addressed

  1. How is reflective discourse similar to or different from individual acts of reflection? In what sense can both activities still be called ‘reflection’? What do we mean by ‘reflection’?
  2. Can we usefully talk about reflective discourse as something distinct from dialogue or deliberation? What are the differences?
  3. What is the role of reflection in a democracy?
  4. Can the arts and humanities play a special role in enabling reflection in a democracy? Have they played this role in American democracy?
  5. Does the practice of text-based discussion enable reflective discourse in especially useful or valuable ways?

I am thrilled to be included in this project and look forward to contributing to this research. The symposium will produce an anthology of essays, a companion webpage, and of course, connections with other scholar-practitioners. I welcome your thoughts about the above questions. See the complete symposium overview here.

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