We present a model and some design choices to build a mass online deliberation (MOD) system, aimed at supporting orderly, fair, inclusive and purposeful participation of an arbitrarily large number of people in various rule- or policy-making or similar tasks. In our model, every MOD instance (called a “deliberandum”) is a deliberation on a given issue, in a given community and at a given time, performed online, in written, and in one common “virtual room” (rather than split into several small “rooms” as in Fishkin’s Deliberative Polling© model).
A deliberandum progresses through a number of phases, roughly corresponding to ideation (i.e., moving and discussing proposals, with a proposals’ clustering algorithm operating in the background), consolidation (i.e., collaborative editing of one proposal per cluster), and—optionally—reconciliation (of some among the consolidated proposals from different clusters). Depending on a given context of use, a final selection of one among the remaining irreconcilable proposals may be done by vote either among the deliberants only, or by the whole community (a referendum), or else, by a randomly selected panel of community members—if not by a classical elected body of representatives.
Specific mechanisms defined in our model are:
- collaborative moderation and two- or three-parameter appraisal of every submitted proposal or argument by a few participants that are every time selected at random by the system (hence without employing any staff of appointed moderators or facilitators);
- collaborative semantic clustering of a (potentially very large) set of all submitted proposals, this activity being “orchestrated” by a permanently running clustering algorithm that analyses the topology of the “appraisal graph” in which the participants are linked to the proposals or arguments they have positively or negatively appraised (relation of this method to “collaborative filtering” will also be discussed);
- collaborative editing of one consolidated proposal per every cluster, performed by a panel of editors somehow selected from among the participants who have positively appraised at least some of the proposals in the cluster (thus making “edit wars” less probable and less violent); and
- a functionally limited role assigned to experts in the field (of the issue being deliberated), whose participation is limited to providing facts and replying to factual questions, rather than actively influencing participants’ opinions.
Possibility of multilingual mass deliberation will also be discussed.
Cyril Velikanov holds an MSc in mathematics (Moscow State University 1968) and a postgraduate “DEA” diploma in theoretical informatics (Paris VII University, 1976). Born in Russia, Velikanov emigrated from the USSR to France in 1975, naturalized French, then returned to Russia in 1993. His long working experience in ICT includes development of complex communication systems and protocols, and several years of participation as expert in technical workgroups of International standard-making committees (ECMA, ISO/IEC and CCITT), contributing to development of various standards in the field of data communications and distributed applications. He is also expert in patent search and drafting, and has a few patented inventions of his own.
In the field of large-scale eParticipation systems, he works as an independent expert, developing and promoting his own novel concept of “mass online deliberation” or “MOD” (several academic papers in English and in Russian, including a twin chapter in a book recently published by Springer Verlag). MOD is one of the foundational concepts of a large European project including participants from several European universities, administrations and NGOs, submitted in April 2017 to one H2020 call and still undergoing the evaluation process.
Velikanov is a member of the “Memorial” Society, a large Russian NGO known for its civil rights defense.