TED Conversations

Scott Nesler

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Let's build a better media to facilitate democratic debate!

Audio version of the idea:

Michael Sandel started an idea requiring support. He said, "One thing the world needs, one thing this country desperately needs is a better way of conducting our political debates. We need to rediscover the lost art of democratic argument.". Professor Sandel is doing his part, but more needs to be done to provide a media to facilitate public participation in a civil debate. Tools are required to motivate more to develop better arguments.

The Do Good Gauge is a research proposal seeking others interested in developing a solution to the problem Professor Sandel describes. Applause is not required. Needed are a group of individuals willing to set aside their ego, to set aside a desire for financial gain and focus on a new media to motivate participation and give higher demographic viewership to the best arguments regardless of fame or status.

Here are a few essays to continue Professor Sandel's thought:

What is the Do Good Gauge?

I Had the Dream

A Better Way for Political Discourse

Please, let's give a try. The first step is to continue the discussion.


Closing Statement from Scott Nesler

I approached this idea as if there were two sides in developing a democratic media, the media and the public. What was learned is appreciated but a typical path in the attempt to sustain dialogue in the conversation. Going into to this TED idea I was more critical of the existing media and its inability to provide a wider representation of citizens thoughts. Upon the expiration of the TED clock it was realized how difficult it is to develop a thought understood and respected by the reader. How difficult it is to acquire feedback and sustain attention in a dialogue.

There were a few successes. Edward Long's streak of questions started with scepticism and ended in a hope for the idea. Though his questions did not traverse the entirety of the idea they did give opportunity for better clarification.

Wayne Tod started a dialogue which extended to private email. What Wayne Tod brought to the conversation was the importance of self reflection in developing a thought.

Feyisayo Anjorin comment motivated what is probably the best summary of this idea. The fourth post down, written on June 2nd, should be read as an extension of this closing statement.

External to this idea TED exposed the difficulty and the lack of good tools to facilitate an individual to advance an idea. Don Wesley's TED idea illustrates a man wrongly pushed to homelessness wishing to respectfully illustrate his case. Existing technology does not provide the public an efficient and respectful means to guide him through the many iterations required build a case worthy of broader appeal.


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    May 10 2012: The immense value Prof. Sandel brings to the table is his ability to moderate a debate. Without skill at the helm the course may vary erratically. The media for debate exists. The mechanisms are in-place. The problem is staffing. I don't think one person in a thousand can do a good job of moderating a debate in an active, participatory way. I think that is why valid, robust, edifying debate is in intensive care today. Thanks for your time Mr. Nesler.
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      May 11 2012: Audio Version of this Post:

      I side with your description of today's debate. Existing tools provide little incentive for an individual to focus on a solution. Having no voice in the discussion provides little incentive to develop a reasoned argument to back up one's words. More importantly the existing media does not provide an iterative method to refine a thought. Today's approach to argument is one and done or shoot from the hip. Few take the time to consider alternative suggestions.

      Yes, we do have a media for debate, but it is not democratic. Professor Sandel is suggesting a democratic form of debate giving more a chance to participate. Our existing system is based on a republican model. We hire people to speak on our behalf.

      The inefficiency of communication and dispersement of citizens across a large region in the day of Benjamin Franklin did not provide the efficiency of communication as we have today. The pony express was considered fast, but not fast enough to refine a democratic thought. Internet has advanced communication such that it can provide members of the general public the means to contribute reason and quality to the political discussion. Tools, such as TED is providing here, are a starting point for advancing an idea. TED is close. What is required is the means to motivate an individual to build a finish product for their topic. A finished product worthy of higher demographics. A product worthy of the one in a thousand level of quality the consumer expects from the debate.

      Thank you Mr. Long for engaging in this idea.
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        May 11 2012: Do you advocate an online, forum-type arrangement where (registered?) participants choose a seat on one side of the aisle (aka the question) and a Moderator runs the debate? I apologize if I am oversimplifying.
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          May 11 2012: Audio Version of this Post:

          How we are accustom to the word debate may confuse the idea. Maybe the word argument as it is used in critical analysis is better. The idea really builds on what Professor Sandel lectures in his online course at www.justiceharvard.org. The idea of an argument having many sides. Unlike the hierarchical forum-type system facilitated through internet comments, I suggest a living document as the focal point of an argument. Comments are only intended to motivate the author to improve or change an argument. This process of refinement will hopefully help the author articulate an intelligent thought.

          Mr. Long I think what you are suggesting is more of a point in time type of debate. My suggestion is longer term. A quality argument may take days, weeks, even months to come to fruition. The starting point may be unrecognisably compared to the end product.
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        May 11 2012: It is not the purpose of debate to qualitatively effect an issue or subject, but to support one interpretation (aka. side of an argument) over and against all other interpretations. What you describe sounds like crowd-editing of a submitted work, a living document. I think you should use the word "Argument" in place of "Debate". OK. Call me pedantic.
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          May 11 2012: Audio Version of this Post:

          I agree "Argument" is the more accurate term, though there are those who confuse the meaning of that word as well. Living document yes, though I wouldn't call the idea crowd-editing. The crowd does participate in helping an individual develop an argument, but an argument is owned by an individual or like thinking group.

          This is how the idea differs from Wikipedia. An argument owner controls who, when, or what portions of an argument can be edited by others. In most cases an author would never allow others to edit the content. He or she would take the advice received from others and refine the thoughts into a new draft.
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        May 11 2012: I understand your idea. I think it has merit. Keep pushing.

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