As someone who uses these platforms often, do you find, in some of these policy areas, the nature of the conversation or the style of the discussion changes when it is done online or in cyberspace?


It is not done “in cyberspace.” We still meet face-to-face and we have face-to-face meetings. I would describe it as a “cyber-physical” system. It is a system that has cyberspace parts and it has physical parts. I think the main difference is that people are held accountable for the words that they speak in such a meeting. Exactly like during the occupy movement; people who participated in the live-stream meetings – which were transcribed – would not want to “perform” or say something just to incite emotion, mostly because it was recorded and it was literally part of history. If some private sector or civil society person came to such a meeting, watched by thousands of online viewers and fact-checked in real-time, they would not want to say something that is out-of-tune with reality, nor would they want to promise something they could not deliver. I think the main part is accountability.
Of course, in the U.S. presidential debates, we see that even in such an environment, there are people who are willing to say things that have a very interesting relation to reality. I think it is because of the design of the space — it is structured as a debate.
In our space, it is designed as a deliberation. We want people to come out of the room armed with a more eclectic, nuanced, innovative positions than when they came in. We are not here to debate with each other, to show how good our views are compared to other people, but rather reach a middle ground and then respond to each other’s questions and issues. And then, to leave with a result that nobody is perfectly happy with, but people are generally okay with. I think if the presidential debates were structured in this way, maybe, we would have better quality debates.