Debategraph: Mapping the Mind of Government

Wednesday 26 May 2010 18:05
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Building on the initial analysis of the original Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement in The Independent earlier this month, Debategraph has now mapped the full text of the Coalition's Programme for Government.

The map of the Coalition’s programme, outlined in the Queen’s speech yesterday, gives us an extraordinary opportunity for an unprecedented democratic experiment during this parliament.

In essence, we have the opportunity to map the mind of Government as it evolves across the coming parliament: to create a new kind of multi-dimensional, non-linear, participatory Hansard for the 21st century.

The initial map, drawn from the coalition document, allows us break down the Government’s thinking into the individual policy proposals, and then to begin to build around each proposal the debate occurring in parliament and in society about the measures proposed.

The map can grow broadly and deeply without limit around each proposal to express the reasoning underpinning the government’s choices; the counter arguments honed by the opposition; the considerations raised in select committees and commissions; the supportive and opposing arguments raised by different stakeholder groups; and the support and concerns voiced by members of the public—with the objective being to capture all of the arguments and evidence relevant to all of the proposals in as compressed a form as possible, with each argument and point only being represented once.

The Nuclear Politics map, which is currently available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and encompasses over a thousand ideas now; illustrates the way in which large, rich maps can evolve from small seeds.

New policy proposals can be added to the government map at any time, and the map can also track what happens when the proposals are implemented. Is the rationale for a particular measure borne out in practice, and, if not, what changes can/should be made, and what can be learned iteratively from this?

Potential contradictions and inconsistencies between the measures being developed in different areas of government can be highlighted on the map, and the rating system can be used to signal the source and relative levels of support for the different policy proposals and the salient reasons for that support or opposition.

Over the course of the parliament the thinking embodied in the map could also be opened up for mash-up and reuse in different contexts; so that, for example, wherever any discussion of a particular policy proposal was happening on the web the full debate could be accessible in that context to the people reading the partisan fragments.

Of course, this is a colossal undertaking: but an undertaking that is manageable if distributed collaboratively.

British parliamentary democracy was once a beacon to the world: let it be so again.

As with the other maps in the series you can you can keep up to date with the subsequent developments via the Independent Minds blog and @TheIndyDebate on Twitter. And you are welcome to embed the map on your own website or blog (like a Google map) using the code shown below:

<iframe src='http://debategraph.org/Flash/fv_indep.aspx?r=62182&sc=small' frameborder='0' width='600' height='600' scrolling='no'></iframe>

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