Human Rights in Darfur, Sudan popped into my email today - and though I don't know much about Human Rights affairs in Sudan, I'd like to applaud Amnesty International to coming one step closer to removing geographic boundaries in the global village. Ask a question if you have one. Certainly, it isn't an online discussion in real time, but it does allow everyone to operate fairly independant of time as well.
It seems that more and more people are becoming awakened to the fact that on the internet, geographical borders melt into the ether of TCP/IP interactions. I recall the eGovernment for All Virtual conference of last year, and because of it's success, word has it that another one will be happening this year.
More and more people and groups are beginning to realize the online ability of such 'meetings'. Instead of being limited by geography and time, we are limited by internet access and time.
There's been a lot of discussion on the internet about discussion itself - from the Cluetrain Manifesto to the U.S. Presidential Election, and it's very good to keep abreast of these things. But the real power is not in using these technological tools to retain the geographical separation of minds which persists.
We can now participate in discussion around the world with people around the world, as diverse as the IP addresses which allow us to communicate. We can discuss human crises outside of the general media, and really research a topic instead of taking someone's word for it. This is the new level of collective intelligence, and we need more people to use it.
YES... but. Online dialogue is way safer and more elite than face to face dialogue with people who may not share your worldview/certainties. We can rag on 'them' online, spread 'our side' gossip globally, feel our power through the net... but far, far, far more real, powerful and worldchanging are face to face meeting grounds in hometown cafes and churches among people across the political spectrum all seeking higher ground than polarized politics. No name calling. No sniggers and quips. Just really listening to a fellow being struggle to tell you, risking your disdain, why they think as they do. If you dare, try it using the tools at www.letstalkamerica.org or whatever tools you like. the polarized idealogues are a fraction and noisy part of our world - the sincere people, believing somehow in what they thought America was, are far greater in number. they are seeking a better way than red blue, left right, us them, bush kerry, win lose. If you host a conversation that is safe for all viewpoints, and can win the trust of those on whom you've loudly pinned your grief and despair and rage, amazing possibilities emerge for REAL collective intelligence that just might save us. If you are game to invite a few people, including someone you disagree with, to such a conversation - and play by the rules - I'm REALLY interested in what you learn. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heh. Well, I think you miss the point of geography - and to better make it, I'll make you an offer. If you fly me to one of these in person meetings and put me up in a hotel, I'll attend.
Or you could invite me online, and there's no travelling and lodging costs.