ODET 2010: Rean van der Merwe

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Rean van der Merwe
22 June 2010

Rather than looking at the design of particular tools, I am doing research to understand how online settings, from a socio-technical perspective, shape the mediation of governance practices at the level of the village or neighbourhood. In particular, I am interested in the sometimes underestimated interaction of online with the offline, which becomes particularly visible in localised interactions.

The research assumes the local context presents particular challenges and affordances: neighbourhood democracy is not the same as national policy dialogue - and this is reflected in the way in which people use tools, and the potential impact online interactions can have.
In this context, one might make a case to consider governance a process that is deliberative overall, rather than in each of its constituent activities. Realistically, there are typically multiple channels of communication, some supported by online tools - and multiple sorts of contribution.

Should we design platforms that purely support instrumental, problem solving deliberation, voting and decision making - or are local conversations as much about developing a shared understanding of the world, an exploration of options, that forms the basis for action and decisions that occur mostly offline? Does the online environment lend itself to developing consensus, smoothing out disagreements that originate offline -  or do we in stead design exactly for the ability to facilitate pluralist dialogue, to collaboratively manage issues where potentially no clear or final answers exist?

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Rean van der Merwe
10:25 on 22 June 2010 (Edited 10:26 on 22 June 2010)

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