Latest Public Sphere Project News

Mobilizing for the Current Emergency

Now Available! A new narative for civic mobilization using the Liberating Voices patterns.

Invitation to join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

Invitation to join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

We would like to invite you to participate in a new research and action community network that focuses on Collective Intelligence for the Common Good. We hope that our collaborative efforts will help address our shared challenges.

Our first group event was a workshop in London in September, 2014 ( that 30 people attended. We now have an opportunity to publish our work in a journal and we are planning for other collaborations.

We plan to continue this work beyond these specific opportunities through a variety of approaches that are outlined in our Statement of Principles ( and, especially through engagement among our members. The Statement of Principles presents our commitment to engagement, multiplicity of perspectives and approaches, support and promotion of the integration of related efforts, and the actual design and implementation of socio-technological systems, media, policy, events, critiques, social actions, etc.

Our web site should be available in early 2015. Ultimately it will have links to the projects of our members as well as documents and news.

Members of our community / network are engaged in a wide number of projects including deliberative and systems, empirical research, policy development, community networks, etc. etc. By building on these efforts, we plan to explore and implement a variety of approaches towards lightweight coordination, in which relatively small efforts by all of us can result in big wins for all of us — and the greater public.

If you are interested in at least hearing about this work, the easiest way to proceed is to register on our email distribution site,

Statement of Principles ~~ Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / NetworkStatement of Principles, May 23, 2014


This statement is a statement of broad directions, principles and aims, not an oath that demands full compliance.

In light of this theme, a need for a statement of this kind seems obvious.

The statement is intended to help focus and reinforce research and action that is directed primarily at the conscious, cooperative efforts of people in this diffuse community to explore, understand, develop, and promote collective intelligence for the common good. In this statement we use the expression “common good” to mean something that approximates a universal benefit, something that everybody — in theory — would want. Admittedly imprecise — like many of the words we commonly use, such as democracy or community — the pursuit of the common good will generally mean finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict, building a more equitable society, securing a healthy and diverse environment for ourselves and future generations, and respecting cultural diversity.

Here, the means align with the ends. We believe that this focus is likely to require a redesign of our some of our own approaches, including what we construe to be our own sphere of influence. Further we believe that modeling the world we’d like to see can provide invaluable insights that won’t arrive in time any other way.

With the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Internet and other information and communication technologies at this historical juncture, the development of a broader community or network becomes more-or-less necessary if civic society is to establish and hold any influence over the establishment and governance of information and communication systems, resources, and policies that are open, allow unhindered access to information, and encourage civic problem solving. Our goals include advancing research and more action-oriented approaches in a number of relevant directions at the same time.

As members of civil society who are not coordinated directly through government or business dictates, indirectly through the market, or through coercion, we recognize that informal associations, sharing, and responsibility, will be necessary if we are to organize effectively in the face of challenges to the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it.

Beyond conducting research and developing tools, services, policy, and the like, we are hoping to build the circumstances that help promote this work and the orientation in the world. For one thing, this perspective compels us to think about the inclusive community that this work requires, one that will necessarily be more focused and integrated and organized than currently exists.

Our hope is to consciously and organically nurture this community / network. One approach would be to proceed largely through the actions of members inviting potential members. (One research issue introduced here for our own edification is whether this approach could help instill and reinforce the norms and values that hopefully propel this project.) The intent of this conscious community development is of course not to build a gated community, but to help focus attention on relevant issues including how best to engage the “outside” world and maintain porous borders.

In a general way, a member of the community would agree to:

        • Emphasize work that is explicitly and conscientiously intended to advance the common good;
        • Think about how their work complements other work of the community — and consciously work to integrate or complement that work and extend its effectiveness in the real world (some examples are listed in the next paragraph);
        • Engage in online and other conversations with the rest of the community on a regular basis;
        • Focus on the organization and processes of the community in addition to the specific areas in which you specialize; and
        • Endeavor to use the tools and systems developed by people in the community both as part of our community obligations and and as a way to help improve the functionality and effectiveness of the tools and systems, and hence our potential effectiveness.

We envision the work that falls into the heading of “Collective Intelligence for the Common Good” in an extremely broad way: it includes research and action and products such as deliberative systems, research enterprises and case studies, think tanks, model policy documents, curricula, ruminations and epistles, thought experiments, art works, and many others. While this in no way abandons the idea of rigorous research, it consciously seeks to integrate and build upon other perspectives. We hope to transcend the limits (constraints? Inertia?) of many dominant habits, institutions, norms, and folkways that we routinely face, especially when their strict obedience compels us to work in ways that are likely to be ineffective in addressing the common good of the planet and its inhabitants.

Finally, without being unduly legalistic we’d like also to ultimately “franchise” this work, enabling a multiplicity of systems, resources, events, experiments, etc, etc. — but, still, with the intent of integrating the work into the whole.

Original Signatories

Fiorella De Cindio, University of Milan, Italy
Mark Klein, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
Anna De Liddo, Open University, UK
Douglas Schuler, The Evergreen State College, US
Simon Buckingham Shum, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

CPSR Dissolution and Gary Chapman, Winner of CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award


Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Dissolution and 
Gary Chapman, Winner of CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility
It is my unenviable task to announce that Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), a non-profit educational corporation, has been dissolved. 
CPSR was launched in 1981 in Palo Alto, California, to question the computerization of war in the United States via the Strategic Computing Initiative to use artificial intelligence in war, and, soon after, the Strategic Defense Initiative — “Star Wars”. Over the years CPSR evolved into a “big tent” organization that addressed a variety of computer-related areas including workplace issues, privacy, participatory design, freedom of information, community networks, and many others.
Now, of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and movements that are concerned not only about the misuses of ICT by governments and corporations (and others) but also about trying to develop approaches that help communities work together to address issues related to economic and other inequalities and environmental degradation — as well as broader issues such as war and peace.
CPSR to me provided a vital link to important ideas and to inspirational and creative people. These people believed that positive social change was possible and that the use of ICT could play a significant role. For example, in 1993, CPSR developed a document designed to help shape the National Information Infrastructure (NII) program promoted by the Clinton/Gore administration to help guide the evolution of networked digital communication. Through a variety of conferences, workshops and reports, CPSR encouraged conversations about computers and society that went beyond hyperbole and conventional wisdom. 
Although in many ways the issues that CPSR helped publicize have changed forms they generally still remain. The ethical and other issues surrounding the computerization of war, for one thing, have not gone away just because they’re not prominent on the public agenda. CPSR’s original focus on the use of artificial intelligence in “battle management” etc. and the possibility of launch on warning is probably still pertinent. The advent of ubiquitous and inexpensive drones definitely is. 
Apparently, as many people know, the age of the participatory membership organizations is over — their numbers are certainly way down — and we in CPSR had certainly noticed that trend. I personally suspect that this development is not necessarily a good thing. I certainly would welcome another membership organization with CPSR’s Big Tent orientation. 
On the occasion of CPSR’s dissolution we’ve developed two small projects for keeping CPSR’s spirit alive.
The first is that it would be a good opportunity to catalog the groups and organizations around the world that would be natural allies to CPSR if it still existed. We’ve started this cataloging (see but presumably have only captured a small fraction of these organizations. Please open an account on the Public Sphere Project site and add the information about your organization. 

The second is less concrete but probably no less important. To help the current and future generation of activists as we envision possible futures and interventions, we’d like to put these two related questions forward: What applications of ICT are the most important to human development and sustainability?And, on the other hand, What are the strongest challenges to these applications? Please email me your thoughts on this and I will do my best to compile the thoughts and make them public. 
With this note I also want to announce that CPSR’s final Norbert Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility winner is Gary Chapman, who served as CPSR’s first executive director from 1985 to 1992. The award recognizes outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing technology. Named for Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), who, in addition to a long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" (and, hence, cyberspace) into the language, was also a leader in assessing the social implications of computerization. Writing in Science (1960) Wiener reminds us that, “...even when the individual believes that science contributes to the human ends which he has at heart, his belief needs a continual scanning and re-evaluation which is only partly possible. For the individual scientist, even the partial appraisal of the liaison between the man and the historical process requires an imaginative forward glance at history which is difficult, exacting, and only limitedly achievable...We must always exert the full strength of our imagination.”
Gary who died in 2010, spent nearly three decades working towards peace and social justice as it related to information technology. As Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) stated, Gary “made many people stop and ask hard questions about technology. Not just ‘Is it cool?’ but ‘Does it make our lives better, or more just? And does it make our world more secure?’ ”
Gary’s technology column, "Digital Nation," was carried in over 200 newspapers and websites. He taught and lectured all over the world, most recently as a guest faculty member at the University of Porto in Porto, Portugal. Since his time at CPSR he had been involved in a multitude of related projects including the International School for Digital Transformation (ISDT) that he and others at the University of Texas convened annually in Porto, Portugal. 
Gary was on the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. On the local level, he also worked to bridge the digital divide, the gulf between those with access to technology and those without. In 1995, for example, he worked on the successful grant application that led to the establishment of Austin Free-Net (, which installed the first public access Internet stations in Austin, and continues today as a national model for bringing digital opportunities to low-income and digitally challenged residents. And in 2010, Gary co-founded Big Gig Austin (, which anchored the successful community campaign to bring the Google gigabit fiber network to Austin. 
Gary was a principled and untiring advocate for the use of the Internet a tool for collaboration and other means to bring people together. Also, as a former medic with the Army Special Forces, Gary was especially concerned about the uses of computing in warfare. In his articles in the CPSR Newsletter, he warned that “Automating our ignorance of how to cope with war will produce only more disaster.” With David Bellin he co-edited “Computers in Battle: Will They Work?”, a book on the implications of computer technology in war, and was involved for many years in a rich collaboration with the Pugwash-USPID (Unione Scienziati Per Il Disarmo)-ISODARCO (International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts) community in Italy and elsewhere.
Gary contributed chapters to several books that I was involved with. Most recently, he contributed The Good Life, one of the patterns ( in Liberating Voices, a book that I wrote (with the help of 85 others). The verbiage from the pattern card abridged from the full text reminds us of Gary's humane values, and serves as an important challenge for all of us: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of the "good life" that is flexible enough for innumerable individual circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic, deliberate, progressive social change. This shared vision of The Good Life should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A shared vision of The Good Life is always adapting; it encompasses suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism, with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination. Finally, the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. All this needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small geographic groups that can craft and then live an identity that reflects their vision of a "good life."
Although this will be CPSR's final Weiner award, the work that Gary and other activists from CPSR and other organizations helped launch over two decades ago is now being carried forward by scores of organizations and thousands of activists all over the world, as digital information and communication systems have assumed such a central location on the world's stage. 
Several projects including a Festschrift or other book project or event related to CPSR and social responsibility have been discussed although no firm plans have been made. 
Gary Chapman was patient but persistent in his pursuit of progressive goals and a better life for all. Sadly, Gary left us before he could see his vision brought to fruition. He'll be missed but we all must push forward with his vision.

Lots of updates

There has been a lot of activity on the site behind the scenes. Please stop by the community forum and invite friends to join in discussion. We are working hard to make the site not just a resource, but a community for folks interested in sustainable public spheres.

Pattern Cards are FINALLY available!

We have finally finished the job we started over a year ago!

We have created a card for each pattern in Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution. We are making these cards freely available for download (in three parts at in the hopes that people will use them in creative and productive ways. One approach is to develop a workshop or game that will help lead to effective projects.

Each of the cards in this deck represents one pattern from the book that MIT Press published in 2008. Each pattern represents one idea for using information and communication for transformative social change. 

Please let us know how you plan to use  the cards and how it went.

Pattern Language Network Analysis

Marc Smith used the NodeXL tool to generate some graphics based on the pattern links in the book. Although these are preliminary they're still worth a look. Marc and I are planning more work on this in the near future.