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Can we use a new form of Social Network to bridge Cultural Divides?

As Jonathan Haidt has so compellingly explained, the problem confounding our ability to make progress on so many of our shared challenges is the balkanization of society, and the resulting inability to even hear each other, no less understand, learn and collaborate. Might it be possible to implement a social network system that helps people on opposite sides of (political, social, economic...) issues to have a more constructive dialogue? I think so.

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Written by DeletedUser

What if such a system were to: pair members with other members who took the alternate position from their’s on key issues; challenge both with a problem statement at the core of their disagreement; created an online space where the interlocutors could debate for a prescribed period in brief written, video, or visual exchanges; and supported a scoring system entirely based on the ratings awarded by one of these protagonists to her opposite, based on the ability to provide insight into and to persuade regarding their point of view?

This is markedly different from many seemingly similar online (Like / Dislike) voting schemes, in that the only vote counted would be that of someone starting out in clear opposition to one’s point of view. As such, rather than rallying the votes of those sympathetic to your position (most typically by deploying polarizing arguments -- see NY Times Readers’ Comments), the incentive would be on finding a way to bring your opposite number first to an understanding of your side of the question, and then, perhaps, to some middle ground, or all the way over to your view.

Points could be accumulated over multiple such exchanges, with rankings in a community based on aggregate scores over time. Leadership in this would be indicative of an ability to reach across the barriers that divide us and to build bridges. The collected dialogues could be published in feeds that might just bring more light and less heat to the most challenging questions of the day.

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While not a social network, Opposing Views is a resource closely related to this concept. Opposing View is a website debate forum for experts: Users can rate, comment, and vote on issues.

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