can you build consensus on the web? (ICM 522)

Can you “build consensus on the Web”? Or maybe the question would be better posed: Can you “reach consensus on the Web”? Either way, when you put those two phrases into Google, you come up with zero results. That’s right. None.

Change them slightly to “reaching” or “building” and you end up with a single relevant entry: “Building Consensus on the Web via the Eaton Model of Collective Communication.”

Venture further out to “consensus on the Web,” “online consensus” and “consensus online” and you start finding the good stuff:

Jeneane writes about Web 1.0 and 2.0 terminology and says you can’t have consensus on the web. That’s an excellent point. We had agreement about the web. We agreed on the tech, the naming schema, the hardware, the protocols, and the languages–but that’s primarily because a couple of big players Pushed Their Weight Around at Strategic Times. But web and consensus–would this be the same consensus that rules at the Wikipedia? There is none. When there is, you’ll know because the Wikipedia will look like one great big Power Point presentation. Same with the web, only much bigger. [Shelley Powers]

True, this is more about “reaching a consensus about what the Web is about” but it begins to edge into the subject this paper will explore: If Web 2.0 (c. 2006) is all about MySpace, what about OurSpace?

Recently, Bill Schreiner, former CEO of Love for AOL and now its VP/GM of Community Programming, said that “in the future, each of us will be the curator of our own gallery” and “you’ll be able to subscribe to ‘people.’ ” That sounds rather lonely to me. I prefer the direction Second Life is taking: a collaborative space in which we all have a hand and a stake.

But can you really build consensus on the Web? What are the requirements for that? What are the ground rules, the definitions? What does it look like? Is it as numerically calculable as an eBay auction producing a final selling price? Is it socio-political, as practiced by the mediators and consensus builders moving online [Nominal Group Technique, Lawrence Susskind (coauthor of Breaking Robert’s Rules), et al.]?

Let’s look at some of the history of BBS, forums, Slashdot, wikis, and other “consensus engines” [RuleNet, DecisionPoint] and bring it right up to today to e-thepeople.org and AOL’s Daily Pulse-to see how folks are using the tools of the new media to forge a new type of collaborative/shared/group communication/expression that might qualify as “consensus on the Web.”

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