My main focus right now is to work on the design of new tools and approaches to aid collective decision making, whether in the context of an organization or society. I am especially interested in the cases where a common course of action should be decided and acted upon in a certain amount of time; where the issues are too complex to be well understood by a small group of people; the opinions are so diverse that the set of options, or even the very definition of the problems are not agreed on, at least initially; and the population involved is too large to be able to discuss the issue through meeting as a group.

I believe that many issues that face collectivities now fall in this category: for example, many features of national policy will turn out to have unforeseen indirect impacts in the social fabric and the natural environment. However, decision processes used in many collectivities (including representative democracy) do not ensure, by themselves, that the people most directly affected by a decision will be able to provide input.

To answer these issues adequately, decision-making processes should make it practical to include input from as many stake-holders as possible; to ensure that all are heard; and to ensure that arguments will not be ignored just because they are complex or require specialized knowledge. This, I propose, can be achieved through collective authoring of collective projects.

Collective authoring has recently entered the mainstream, through Wikipedia; but Wikipedia is not designed to achieve a binding decision for its users, and even allows to register dissent on issues that may remain unresolved indefinitely. I would argue that most existing groupware is not yet ready to take on the challenge of large-scale, multi-issue decision making; and we would go as far as to say that no strictly technological solution is appropriate for that task. However, technical tools that support collective deliberation have been developed, and I intend to examine where and how these tools can help; to point out some of their limitations and, in some cases, how they could be improved; and to propose some elements towards the design of a better collaborative deliberation tool.

  1. Why public deliberation?
  2. Why online tools for public deliberation?
  3. A survey of online tools for public deliberation
  4. A survey of methodologies for public deliberation (coming soon)