Another thing happened recently in a suburb of London. One of my colleagues facilitated a series of conversations with people from his large multi-ethnic borough. Small groups convened and then shared in large groups what they came up with. They also used an online program called Polis where people can share what they think about an issue, share information and offer solutions. Other people participating can respond to each of these ideas and say “I agree” or “I disagree” or they can “pass”. There’s an artificial intelligence in the background which organizes all this input into groups and visualizes similarities and differences between the groups. It’s highly participative and he got more than 1000 people involved. Polis can go up to 10,000 people and more.
This guy created a flow between the modes. People who were part of the conversations would add information and their perspectives into this Polis discussion, and online results from Polis would become part of the face-to-face conversation. The dynamics between face-to-face and online participation got really interesting. I could also imagine including issue briefing videos. People would make little documentaries, they would go into the community, talk to people – to stakeholders and experts – about a given situation. In their 5-15 minute video about this particular issue, they would share what’s going on: Here are some of the choices we need to decide, here are possible consequences,… These briefing videos would be posted on the web, out in the world. Anybody could check them out. So having video informational input would be another media mode to engage people.
As mentioned before, we have games. I have an idea for an online game where people join teams to come up with recommendations on a particular public issue. Depending on how diverse their team is and how high a level of agreement they get on their final recommendations, the more points they get. So people who come to a 50-50 agreement among a group where everybody was a member of one political party would get few points. But if you have eight people in your team and they’re all really different like the people in the Canadian Maclean’s experiment and you get them to agree one hundred percent, then that’s like “Wow, you have done a fabulous job! Here’s a thousand points!”
I designed that game to move towards agreements by soliciting and addressing people’s concerns. That’s another one of patterns – “All Concerns Addressed”. The game software would help people find or form a team with the right kind and level of diversity they’re comfortable with, and then the results would get published online. There could be a competition between teams to get points and to generate fabulous ideas. Then those ideas could be fed into the kinds of public conversations I was just talking about – or into activist advocacy networks to actually get the government or population to act on them.
There can be lots of different dimensions feeding into each other, lots of different ways of looking at how we engage people. So if you are visual learner, you can get lots of information from the world. If you are a verbal or word person, you can get lots of information. If you just want to sit and listen and learn, that’s one way, but you may want to engage and put your two cents in, which involves other kinds of engagement… All these things involve interactivity, as well as having aesthetics and beauty to help engage people.
The word “attractive” means that something attracts, it draws people into the aesthetics and beauty of things. Words like entertainment or infotainment suggest that a game will tend to pull you in. Having accessible meaningful information is important, but that depends on how you think or how you respond to things. So all these are dimensions to consider.
Then there’s movement – movement on a screen or physical movement, having people move while they’re learning. There are various ways to position yourselves in a group in regard to different issues, so that its visible for everyone to consider. There are different practices were people are actually up and moving. In a prioritization process called “35”, participants are milling around exchanging cards, and the energetics of that is very different from sitting and voting. Even though the results may be similar, the energy is totally different. So that is a different form of engagement – things that involve movement, activity and energy.
And we need to consider the trade-offs between face-to-face and online engagement. When you’re face-to-face there is a level of communication you pick up, the pheromones of people, their body language and nuances that you don’t necessarily get online. Even if it’s video like Zoom calls or FaceTime or whatever. There’s a lot you get on video – and it’s much more than you get from email or chat. But email and chat can be done kind of outside of time, and that is an advantage of them as an engagement mode. Sometimes people can’t always get together at the same time. So then it’s important to be able to relate “asynchronously”, as they say.
So I’m offering those examples as things to know about, things to think about. Obviously this topic is way more complex and there are many more possibilities and things to know about than I am giving you here – or than you could possibly get from experts. But this pattern is about having an inquiry and attitude: “We want to engage these kinds of people in this activity, how do we pull them in, how do we make it accessible and interesting?”
We go back to the Prime Directive: “We want to evoke and engage the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole.” Multimedia Engagement is fundamental to that, because we are talking about pulling people in and having them interact with each other in ways that will be generative for the larger whole. So that’s the way we are thinking and the various media provide resources for doing that well.