query: using the Internet to organize opinion

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Tue Mar 30 08:04:52 CST 2004

[ed:  thanks to Larry for the response to Claudius' query.  I have added
his paper to the COMM-ORG Web Advice page, http://comm-

From: Larry Yates <lamaryates at igc.org>


I did some thinking about these issues back into the paleolithic era of 
the Internet, in 1996, and published a paper which is summarized at

I think that paper has stood the test of time fairly well. A major  
point of the piece is that the Internet does not really reach out and 
communicate to people. Its different activities complement organizing, 
mobilization and education activities. For example, a website is a good 
way to pull in and inform those who are already aware of your issue and 
looking for more. E-mail is the best way to communicate with a lot of 
folks a lot of the time. My experience with issue-oriented chat-rooms, 
which is minimal, suggests they are mostly people yelling at each  other,
but there must be exceptions. Focused e-mail lists, with active  managers
(like this one) are a good way to keep an already existing but  scattered
community connected. But I have yet to see evidence that the  Internet
does much of a job of reaching people not already thinking  about an issue
or situation and engages or educates them. (Of course, I  think that's a
highly overrated activity anyway.)

I can also recommend someone who has thought a lot more in depth than I 
have about these issues, a UCLA professor named Phil Agre. He is not an 
organizer, but he is keenly aware of the social implications of the 
Internet. His homepage is at http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/pagre/

Larry Yates
Maurertown VA

> From:           	blau123 at gmx.de
> We are all aware that the Internet is an
> efficient medium for communication and data
> retrieval. Community building via the Internet
> needs however an additional element: opinion
> formation, also called consensus building.
> In my opinion, the usual chat and discussion-forums
> currently available are not efficient tools for
> online-opinion formation. My query to the comm-org
> members is therefore for research and information
> on this topic.
> Of course I am aware that some
> specialized communities, like the open-source
> movement, are able to realized all issues relevant
> for community via the Internet, but it is not clear
> whether their informal approach would be suitable
> for the ordinary web-user.
> The background: I am involved in a project, the
> planned Foundation Future 25 (http://www.future25.org),
> which envisions an international community organized
> dominantly via Internet. We have some preliminary ideas,
> like the `Structured Opinion-Formation via Internet'
> http://www.future25.org/structure.html#opinionFormation
> or the `Result-Oriented Discussion Forums'
> http://www.future25.org/structure.html#discussionForums
> for community-building online-tools, but you may have
> more experience with these issues.
>    Sincerely yours,
>              Claudius Gros  < blau123 at gmx.de >
> -- 
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