May 2nd, 2014
The Civil Debate Wall allows students, teachers and citizens to share their positions regarding a broad range of national issues such as income distribution, civil rights, and environmental policies, among others. The debates are made possible by a system that by mixes large touch screens with a website and a texting service to connect the opinions and create constructive dialogues across different platforms. The elements of the system are synchronized to deliver a single experience to all the participants and enable the following of a particular discussion.
The Wall is installed at University of Florida’s Pugh Hall. It comprises 5 large touch screens that show the current question, an answer to this question an a picture of the answer’s author. The users can engage by touching the screen and creating an answer to the main question or by giving a reply to another user’s answer. After posting their comment, they can decide whether they want to follow the conversation through text messages.
The text messaging system will send the users the replies posted in the conversations in which they have participated and also allows them to reply through a text message. The website, in turn, has a design quite similar to the screen’s one, and let anyone with an internet connection participate in the discussions. In this way the system connects different participants and establish constructive interchanges about the selected issues.
The questions address a broad range of topics, and are often linked to the current political and social developments. For example in the year 2012 the Wall questioned if the U.S. military should intervene in Syria. A total of 48 answers were posted, 28 of them were against the intervention and the rest for it. Both the questions and the answers are stored and can be consulted online, where they are presented just as the discussions evolved.
The civil debate wall was created by Local Projects for the Bob Graham Center thanks to the financial support of the Knight foundation.
Video: Local Projects
Images: Bob Graham Center