- WikiCitizens - A Project Proposal for the Wikimedia Foundation
WikiCitizens will serve as a forum for providing individuals with (1) a neutral account of various political issues and (2) a database of the various actions their fellow citizens (be them politicians, teachers, businesses, NPO's, or students) are engaging in to either oppose or support them.
By logging onto WikiCitizens, an individual will be able look up and read about any political topic, learn what it means to be against or in favor of the issue, and see how other people are acting in order to affect it. WikiCitizens is not meant to spark debate amongst individuals, but provide individuals with the information necessary to form their own opinions and act upon them.
WikiCitizens is meant to accommodate each individual regardless of her values or affiliations. The information made available by this website should be helpful in supporting any combination of beliefs.
Background and Further Details
As a political/community activist, I've come to see that there are two major obstacles for progress in the world: (1) people are not informed about the issues, and (2) people who are informed about the issues do not know what they can do to affect them. WikiCitizens will be a nonpartisan community forum built to remedy both of these problems.
The creator of this forum endorses the view that everything each individual does has an influence on society and on political policy. For example, are you familiar with the idea of voting with your dollars? Most people in the United States who exercise their democratic right to vote, do so just once every two (or four) years. Yet the behaviors they engage in on a daily basis influence policy infinitely more than any single vote in a political election ever could. This is a reality that most people never consider. As a consequence, their political votes end up counting for almost nothing because they don't use their economic votes to back them up. People will claim to be in favor of universal healthcare, but they will continue to solicit companies that refuse to provide their employees with any healthcare benefits. This principle applies not only to our monetary decisions, but to all of the actions we take. Some people will vote in favor of helping the environment, but at the grocery store they never think to ask for paper bags instead of plastic. Individually, these actions seem small--but added up, they dictate everything that happens in the world around us.
You can't just voice your vote, you must live it. Of course, this is easier said than done. How many economic votes do we make in a day? Which businesses should we support? Which candidates should we vote for? No single person can keep track of so many decisions on his or her own, but many people working together can do this if they are given the right tools.
WikiCitizens will serve as a forum for sharing information relevant to these topics. The goal is to be able to type in any topic and be provided with the reasons to support or oppose either side of the issue. The website will also allow one to see a list of things being done to support each position. This would encompass organizations to join, businesses to solicit, products to buy, political candidates to vote for, representatives to write, bills to support, petitions to sign, and small lifestyles changes to make in order to push policy in favor of that particular cause. It is my hope that this information will be made available at the local, national, and international levels.
The key to democracy is an informed populace. WikiCitizens will inform individuals by providing information about (1) the issues that affect them, and (2) what they can do to affect those issues. The ultimate goal is to educate the individual, to connect him or her with those who share his or her ideals, and to empower all by aiding in their ability to live and act in a manner that is congruent with their beliefs.
On the Neutrality of WikiCitizens
While WikiCitizens will inevitably deal with many controversial issues (and hence have to take into account vandalism and other forms of foul play or misinformation), the website is in no way intended as a tool to persuade or influence users toward one point-of-view or another. The goal is two-fold as outlined in the original proposal. The first goal is to provide individuals with the facts necessary to learn (and then perhaps form one’s own opinion) about the issues. The second, and in my mind more important goal, is that WikiCitizens should serve as a resource for learning about how individuals on either side are supporting their beliefs. This will include information that affects the particular issue with regards to legislation, organizations, businesses, political candidates, consumer choices, etc. Again, the goal is not to influence other people’s beliefs, but to aid in the ability to live according to one’s own beliefs. WikiCitizens is not meant to be a forum for debate, but a resource for organizing the facts about the issues, and providing information on what actions are being taken by either side.--e.m. 00:33, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Relation to Wiki Activism
It seems that WikiCitizens is the same basic idea as Wiki Activism which was posted on the proposals talk page. Perhaps the only difference is that WikiCitizens aims to focus on smaller issues and current hot-topics as its primary unit, whereas Wiki Activism speaks in social movements which seem much broader and more historically-grounded. In addition, the primary goal of WikiCitizens is to keep the individual citizen informed and allow her to live congruently with their beliefs and values. The explicitly stated goal of Wiki Activism is to provide an in-depth documentation of social movements, past and present. Though described differently, whether or not these differences would prove trivial in the long-run is debatable.--e.m. 05:32, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I think that this is a very good proposal, however, I don't think that it is right for the Wikimedia Foundation. It would be very hard to be NPOV on Wikicitizens, and the project would be open to vandalism and inflamatory content even more than some articles on Wikipedia. However, I wish you the best of luck! (If you want, please look at and comment on Wikiscope, my own proposal here). Dbmag9 18:34, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
I would be interested in helping with such a project; the idea of a site where people would express non-neutral points of view, work out their differences and arrive at some kind of group consensus has been in my head (for some time now) as a necessary complement to my somewhat political non-NPOV site, Issuepedia. It may be that more than one such site will eventually be needed in order to better accomodate vastly different philosophical paradigms (this is another discussion unto itself), but certainly you have to start somewhere, and the first such site could work out the kinks and be a model for others to follow.
I can create the site, host it, and help moderate. I believe the objections raised by Ashibaka are valid but can be dealt with. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in pursuing this project. (I would probably have done something with this on my own eventually, but with others involved it could go much faster.) --Woozle 14:22, 8 June 2006 (UTC)
Wikia has several sites that cover aspects of that
Wikia, founded by well-known Wikipedians Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, is a fast-growing collection of MediaWiki (and GFDL) communities that are suitable for that sort of forum (more suitable than WikiMedia, I believe, as expressed by previous contributors above).
See, for example:
- A couple of dozen listed on the Central Wikia "Politics" portal
Robin Patterson 06:17, 9 June 2006 (UTC)
Um... Please no.
Listen, it sounds like a great idea, we could use a community-editable database of simple ways to make change as a single citizen and what companies are good little boys and which ones screw up the environment and toss around their employees. But this is not the place. Wikipedia is so far a pristine fountain of knowledge and humanitarianism. If we drag politics into this, and especially if we make ourselves the enemies of big corporations, no matter how righteous we may be, we will be demonized beyond all repair. This is something that should be done, but not here. Wikipedia is an apolitical, objective, honest and forthright and that's all database of information. It is a source of information and everybody loves that. But if we try to turn it into an engine for changing society, we're going to make hundreds of thousands of enemies, and millions more will simply have a distaste for the project's partisanship and subjectivity, even if it's only imagined partisanship and subjectivity.
A wiki to organize movement and human action to further society is a great idea, but it does not belong here. If it was created as part of the wikimedia foundation, it would only slander wikipedia's good name with its politically explosive nature. Those are my thoughts at least. --Ghosty Cat.
Proposer's Response to "Um... Please no."
Thanks for the comments Ghosty Cat. I appreciate the concern that WikiCitizens would threaten Wikimedia's status as neutral and apolitical. Neutrality is something I wish to be a central aspect of this project whether it is launched here or not.
Perhaps the examples I use in my proposal are somewhat misleading. I myself am neither a Democrat, a Progressive, nor am I anti-corporate, and I didn't want to give off the impression that WikiCitizens would be either. WikiCitizens is meant to make people aware of what the important, current issues are in their communities, and how their fellow citizens (be them politicians, teachers, businesses, NPO's, or students) are responding to them. Perhaps your idea of a "pristine fountain of knowledge" does not include such droplets of information. I don't blame you; it's hard to know where to draw the line. However, it seems to me that anything that can be verified as a fact rather than mere opinion falls "inline with the Wikimedia Foundation goal of spreading and promoting knowledge" (as stated on the main proposal page). It is my full intention that WikiCitizens deal only in facts. Anything else would be counter-productive.
If you have other concerns outside of battling corporate goliaths (again, I don't wish for WikiCitizens to be anti-corporate) and furthering society (I thought this was a goal of Wikimedia) then please make them known. All comments are and have been very helpful.--e.m. 03:30, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Project claims that it aims to be nutrual yet it is so americanocentric that it manges to be POV even in it's name (there are after all many supporters of monacies constitutuional or otherwise)
Then we have the statement:
As a political/community activist, I've come to see that there are two major obstacles for progress in the world: (1) people are not informed about the issues,
Which of course implicty reject the POV that benevolant dictatorships are the ideal form of goverment.
Then: (2) people who are informed about the issues do not know what they can do to affect them.
Even more blatent pro "power to the people" POV.Geni 03:34, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
This is a very interesting point. The WikiCitizens proposal is undoubtedly grounded in the idea that democracies would fair better (or perhaps, be actual democracies) if the populous is well-informed, but would making this information available necessarily be indicative of a WikiMedia POV or bias? The inspiration is American-Centric--naturally so as it came from an American--but I'm not sure that it would be American-Centric in its execution. It seems to me that information is information, regardless of what people decide to do with it--i.e. whether they use it to make informed votes in democratic populations, access it out of pure curiosity, or use it to look up trivial pursuit answers from the various living rooms of their proud monarchies. Will those living in dictatorships be offended when WikiNews or Wikipedia features candidate rap-sheets for the upcoming 2008 elections? I know this is not the same since WikiCitizens would be an entirely different project by itself. But it seems that the information alone is still neutral. Furthermore, I imagine that individuals in non-democratic societies could still benefit from the knowledge of issues like trade, international law, foreign policy, etc. --e.m. 04:11, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
P.S. I realize that this dialogue should be taking place on a WikiCitizens talk page. I will be moving this content to such a page shortly.
It appears to me that an idealistic POV such as "information is just information" is pure esoteric. If it comes to "hot" issues, information is always anti-government somewhere, somehow. There are no activists against the 3-valley-dam inside China, are there, according to Chinas goverment, and they block acces to blogging sites having reports saying the opposite truth. Can you imagine the US government - in the days before the ongoing war in Iraq had been begun - tolerating "information" about the now confirmed fact that massive false evidence against Saddam Hussein had been forged by US government agencies? Do you have the least idea of the risk that people under dictatorships run when entering "information" into online systems? That might be true even in the US, where the government continually and massively works its way around constitutional rights of people inside and outside the country, for hundreds of years now. Assume, the situation is worse almost everywhere outside the US. -- This is not meant as a criticism against the project, merely pointing out one of its gross limitiations. Another one being the fact, that "information" would very often mean p.r. materials of some kind, which is almost always inherently biased, incomplete, offers a narrowed views, etc. -- Who is going to dig the true "information" part out of it? Who is going to judge? Necessarily, this will ignite discussions, ... Anyways, the intended project goals seems appealing ... -- Purodha Blissenbach 18:31, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
Further discussion of the proposal is available at Issuepedia: Issuepedia:WikiCitizens