There are plenty of forums for sharing opinions and engaging in discussion out there. Thanks to developments in digital communications technologies, old school forums such as public access television and call-in radio shows are supplemented by YouTube, podcasting, blogging, community radio, and countless other venues and websites that have sprung up to augment the space between the private individual citizen and the formal policy-making process. This collection of spaces, both physical and conceptual, has been dubbed the Public Sphere.

The goal of the project is to knock down the perceived barriers to public discussion about matters of interest to all of us. Most people hate talking about politics! And it’s not hard to see why. In the past, there has been very little return on time spent engaging with our elected leaders. The past eight years alone have shown us that public opinion does not really figure in to the policy-making process. Here’s a good example of this.

Augmented Speakers’ Corner aims to transform peoples’ perceptions about what it means to engage in political discussion. Anyone who wants to speak for three minutes can do so. If they want more time, it is up to the crowd to decide whether they are worth listening to for longer. That’s a pretty simple feedback loop. As we learn how to use the interface, can we as a community get better and better discussions happening?

Many questions related to HOW to make this happen will be discussed on this website. As a member of the public, and a contributor to the public sphere, you are invited to make your preferences and observations known. All that is asked is that we preserve a sense of civility towards one another when we disagree. After all, is there a functional difference between people not wanting to engage in public discussion because they are prevented from doing so by threat of force, versus not wanting to engage because they perceive the atmosphere to be so toxic and aggressive that it is not worth their time? So, let’s all do our part to encourage one another to make our voices heard. I have a feeling that out of this process, something great and unexpected can happen.