Tom Munnecke

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Activities Report

Tom Munnecke

Visiting Scholar

Stanford University

Reuters Digital Visions Program

Munnecke at sign csli.stanford.edu

June 30, 2003

Introduction

This is a summary of my activities as a fellow in the Reuters Digital Visions Program at Stanford University, 2002-2003.  A journal of my activities is located at www.munnecke.com/blog, and a letter to future fellows is presented at the end of this report and on the web at www.munnecke.com/papers/futurefellows.htm.

In February, 2003, GivingSpace was given a grant by the Omidyar Foundation to test "whether intra- and extra-community network dynamics can be enhanced by the creation of an Internet-based system for collaboration, complementary currency, and focus on areas of "uplift" as opposed to more typical media-driven discourse of problems and emergencies. At the completion of the project, The Foundation will have a living example of network dynamics and Inform, Inspire, and Engage through a technical foundation. The source code will be released under an open-source license for others to build on."

This paper reports on the activities of the group to date, as well as plans for future activities.

This phase of the project culminated in a three day workshop in the redwoods north of Santa Cruz.  One idea which emerged was to send gift packages of school supplies to the children of Iraq, to be handed out by US Marines. Following the philosophy of connecting people at their positive core values, we were able to get people to cooperate from a wide variety of roles, including an anti-war protestor, a group supporting US Marines, an Iraqi Imam and former UN diplomat, and a former US Navy Admiral.  The Love to Iraq project is more than just a project to deliver packages to children, but rather an exercise in trustraising in even the most difficult and emotional situations.  Similarly the HIV/AIDS orphan support program will be used to Uplift Scholars in Africa, which will teach us how to communicate with and learn from people across the world via the Internet.

As a tool for collaboration, we have begun the use of a pattern language to describe patterns of uplift.  This will facilitate both interpersonal and computer-mediated discussion of uplift.  In order to make sense of the wide diversity of information, we are employing topic map technology

We are pleased to present our progress on this task, and our plans for the next few months.

Activities 

  1. We launched a web site www.upspace.org as a prototype of the Uplift Academy model.  This web site models ways of connecting uplift communities, people, and patterns together.
  1. We held four design workshops at Stanford and at a lodge in Ben Lommond, Ca. These events were each attended by about 20-30 people, including attendees from Japan, Canada, Lithuania, India, Kenya, and Holland. These workshops included the following speakers:
    1. The February workshop had a presentation by Toshio Yamagishi Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Behavioral Studies, on the role of reputation systems in the quality of Internet auctions.  He implied that a larger body of people with persistent identity, involving both positive and negative reputation systems maximizes the quality of the auction.
    2. The March workshop featured Larry Harvey of the Burning Man arts organization, discussing the dynamics of self-organization coupled to a gift economy which allows them to build a city of 30,000 in the Nevada desert each summer, then tear it down without leaving a trace.  He also spoke of the organizational value of having a specific project to work towards.
    3. The April workshop  featured Sergio Lub of Friendly Favors, describing their approach towards building social networks and a complementary currency based on the notion of a “thank you.”  It also had a session on the technology of pattern languages as a way of discussing and building reputations for patterns of uplift.  This meeting also marked a shift in interest to adopt specific projects as case studies for applying the theories we have been discussing.  HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa was selected as one of the first areas to work on.  We began using software based on Stanford’s Open Knowledge Base Connectivity (OKBC) standards as a basis for representing patterns as knowledge bases based on Nooron.org
    4. The May workshop was held May 6-8 at Ben Lomond, Ca.  The meeting was facilitated by Mac Odell, a leading practitioner in the Appreciative Inquiry method, particularly in Imagine Nepal.  The workshop continued the transition from the theoretical to the applied, (from a “Think tank” to a “Do tank”) with two major interest areas emerging for initial application.  In addition to the HIV/AIDS Orphans in Africa group, a strong interest developed to create an “Uplift Connect with Iraq” project.  Both of these will be used as “use cases” for further development of the GivingSpace approach and technology.  This workshop spawned a great deal of activity, as shown in Appendix A.
  2. We have been developing software in three areas.  All software is open source and is operating on Linux:
    1. The basic web site www.upspace.org using the Plone and Zope content management framework in the Python language.  This technology provides a framework for user registration, workflow, content management as well as internationalization.  This has been integrated with the Friendly Favors system for authentication. 
    2. A pattern language manager using the OKBC knowledge base standard, currently hosted at www.nooron.org written in Python. These patterns could then be used to collect a reputation, allowing users to understand which patterns of uplift have had the greatest success.  It could be used in a graphics program, perhaps creating an “Uplift Tapestry” showing where patterns of uplift have been successfully used, coupled with other areas where they have not been attempted.
    3. A topic map-based federation system which aggregates RSS feeds into a common topic map.  This would allow users to collect information from news sources, blogs, and other RSS syndication sources and view them according to topic map indexing technologies.  This technology would allow sources eventually to mark up there information with specific tags which could then be used for a loosely coupled mechanism to collect stories and patterns of uplift according to a knowledge base.

Results

  1. The most significant and surprising aspect of this project is the emergence of a very enthusiastic community of people.  These people have taken days of their time to participate in workshops and contribute their ideas to the advancement of the project.  They provide a unique mix of technological and humanist perspectives, and while each has their own particular area of interest, have also come together to seek common technology and approaches for a broader segment.  We have also learned the power of balancing both the theoretical and the practical, by way of forming specific projects which then serve as a driver for the theoretical issues we are dealing with.
  2. A web site www.upspace.org which allows user registration, interface to Friendly Favors, Wikis for pattern definition, news events, syndication, and multi-lingual access.  The user interface to this site is based on the Plone system, which is not user-intuitive, and in need of improvement if we choose to continue using this platform.  We have had an expert review of the user interface by Dr. Clark Quinn. We chose to use Zope and Plone for the demonstration based on claims that it was a powerful “glue” technology to bring together different forms of content.  However, we have discovered that the learning curve for the technology is quite steep and long, and that there are relatively few programmers using it.  We are evaluating its applicability for the next stage of development.
  3. A system to support pattern language collection in an open knowledge data base format.  This allows us to collect patterns in a manner which opens them up to future manipulation.  This system is for internal software developer use at the moment, and will be used in conjunction with the Pattern Language workshop in July.
  4. A new organization has been formed, Love to Iraq www.lovetoiraq.org, which emerged as an idea from the May workshop to ship gifts to school children of Iraq, delivered by US troops.  The first shipment of 100 gifts was sent out May 12 as a beta test of the process to see how it is received and if there are any unexpected consequences. 
  5. The seeds of a new organization, Imagine Santa Cruz, have been discussed as a side activity to the GivingSpace workshop in May.  GivingSpace workshop served as a catalyst for this activity.

Future Plans

  1. Continue to support and grow the GivingSpace community.  The caliber of the people and their generosity and passion for humanitarian uplift indicates that there is great demand for meaningful opportunities to give.  We will continue this development via electronic mail, mailing lists, teleconferences, and workshops.  We will be using the collaboration technology from Blue Oxen Associates to support our collaboration efforts, focusing on mailing lists and Wikis as basic tools.
  2. Participate in the PlaNetwork Forum in San Francisco, Jun 4-6.  Tom Munnecke will be giving a presentation; we are also trying to organize a “birds of a feather” session to discuss issues relating to a shared, open identity system.
  3. Hold a three day workshop July 20-23 by Richard Gabriel on the subject of an Uplift Pattern Language.  Dr. Gabriel is a world-class expert on the subject of Pattern Languages.  The output of this workshop will be the “seed” system for an uplift pattern language which we hope to embed in our other efforts.
  4. Continue software development in the context of working communities of uplift.  We will review the technical foundation of the software, and use the other activities such as Love to Iraq and HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa as drivers for the definition of new features.
  5. Continue the Love to Iraq uplift community, using feedback from the May shipment as a guide as to how to proceed.  Dr. Amer Araim, imam of the Concord mosque, is a former Iraqi Diplomat and UN secretariat official, has volunteered to assist us with the launch.  This is being supported by the Larson Family Foundation.
  6. Define an Uplift Scholar program to be discussed at the July workshop, and initiate a pilot program for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa uplift. 
  7. Continue to refine the GivingSpace organization and strategic plan.
  8. Participate in the “Business as an Agent of a Better World” colloquium at Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, September 17-20, and prepare chapter to be published in a book by Stanford University Press. Presentation is “Triggering a Cascade of Uplift with the Internet,” co-authored with futurist David Brin

Acknowledgements

            I am grateful to following people have attended the workshops or otherwise contributed to GivingSpace activities during this period:

 

Aldo de Moor; Amer Araim, Amy Sanger, Allan Saxon; Andrius Kulikauskas; Bernard Lietaer; Bliss Browne; Brian Johnson; Bruce Baumrucker; Bruce Seely; Chris Cook; Chris Eyre; Chris Dent; Clare Hedin; Clark Quinn; David Brin; Dorai Thodla; Doug Engelbart; Eric Eugene Kim; Erin Pond; Gary Gunderson; George Donnelly; Harold Koenig; Heather Wood Ion; Henri Poole; Inne ten Have; Jack Park, Jan Hauser; Jane LaPointe; Jean LeVaux; Jeffrey Ashe; Jim Fournier; Jim Lord; Joan Condon, Jon Larson, John Graham; John Cocoran; Jon Haidt; Joy Tang; Keith Devlin; Keshab Thapaliya; Liza Behrendt; Mac Odell; Mark Watson; Margaret Chambers; Marian Goodell; Matt Hamilton; Mei Lin Fung; Mercy Wambui; Michael Mitchell; Murray Gell-Mann; Nancy Glock-Grueneich; Nic Fulton; Nipun Mehta; Owen Davis; Pat Jordan; Paul Chaffee; Paul Andrews; Ralf Muehlen; Richard P. Gabriel; Richard Stallman; Rita Cleary; Rob Miller; Roberta Baskin; Robert Stephenson, Ron Lichty; Rupert Douglas-Bate; Russ Hall; Ruth Mota, Saadia Sabah, Sam Bowles; Sam Hunting; Sandy Shaw; Sergio Lub; Shawn Murphy; Steven Foster; Stuart Gannes, Suresh Subramanian; Thomas George; Tony Christopher; Toshio Yamagishi; Victor Grey, and my fellow fellows at the Reuters Digital Visions Program.


I am grateful to Stuart Gannes, Amy Sanger and the Reuters Foundation for providing a wonderful fellowship program.  My work was sponsored in part by the Omidyar Foundation, Stanford University Digital Visions Program, Visions of a Better World Foundation, the Jon and Karen Larson Family Foundation as well as many volunteer participants.