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d : 15 September 2006 • 5:54AM -0400

[DDN] Engaging low-literacy groups online
by Lars Hasselblad Torres


Dear DDNers:

I am currently thinking through some options for engaging low-to-no  
literacy groups in web-based public deliberation.  Generally the way  
we work at AmericaSpeaks, there are three distince stages to anything  
we would do:
     * Outreach
     * Public meetings
     * Monitoring and accountability (follow-up)

There would be a steady presence of community/unity-building  
activities as well, for example audio, video, and photo blogging tied  
to discussions and priority-setting input processes. For example, I’d  
like to develop a public comment process that could automatically  
capture cell phone data to geotag an audio post to GoogleEarth and/or  
Maps locations.

Some core values for the "solution":
     * The web environment must appeal equally to literate and non-
literate groups (know of any that might already?)
     * Web-enabled discussions should minimize the privilege and  
influence of highly literate, computer-competent groups

Some initial ideas i've had are:
     * Develop web-based discussion guides for community  
conversations designed to solicit group feedback (kind of a “kit for  
     * YackPack-like technology that can convert discussion posts to  
audio and audio posts to text
     * Asynchronous video dialogues (need to think more about this,  
the structure and format in particular).

A couple of questions for the group:
     * What are some leading examples you know of where participation  
on the web is able to overcome traditional literacy barriers?
     * What tools do you think might be particularly useful in this  

I really look forward to some of your ideas!  Deepest thanks in advance,

Lars Hasselblad Torres
Researcher & Web Developer

Download AmericaSpeaks' Latest Report,
"A Manager's Guide to Public Engagement": http://
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