Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

  • WHICH great challenges and social problems should the EVOKE Network tackle next?
1) The most urgent is climate change. Mark Mulkerin, one of my favorite agents here, cited the lack of focus on it as one of the reasons he withdrew.

2) Just as urgent, but more difficult to tackle is the question of how to ensure that everyone is able to participate freely, without fear of being attacked, insulted, scorned or shouted down for expressing their ideas while at the same time being able to identify incorrect information, faulty reasoning and fallacies, and distinguish verifiable fact from personal opinion or belief (while respecting each as important). In Evoke 1 we've seen some people withdraw when someone was suspended or banned and others withdraw because there were no visible consequences for attacks and insults.

Considering that there have been times when virtually the entire community of some 18,000 has fallen silent, I myself believe that many more have been intimidated by the occasionally ugly atmosphere than have withdrawn because of their opposition to what they felt was unjustifiable censorship. I am not sure if there is any way to accomplish both of these important objectives-- ensuring civil discourse and complete freedom of expression-- at the same time. I must say that based on my experience of other on-line communities I am not optimistic. I have never seen an unmoderated-- or even lightly moderated-- community which has not deteriorated to the point where I was no longer willing to remain myself-- and I believe I have a much greater toleration for rude behavior in support of strong opinions than most.

3) There are an enormous number of challenges which are worthy of attention. Perhaps the best way to select them would be to ask agents to reach out into their own communities and poll local people -- especially those who don't have internet access-- about what questions they consider most urgent. Perhaps instead of a single mission we could have a wide range of problems to select from.
  • WHERE in the world should the network try to build up new EVOKE communities?
I would like to see more off-line activity taking place. It doesn't take much equipment or a lot of technical knowledge to make a short video interview and add subtitles. For season 2 Evoke might identify certified agents in poorer communities and provide them with equipment (most digital cameras will now take videos) and video editing software so that they can post discussions or interviews with people from their area. This shouldn't cost more than $100- $200 even if bought new -- and could be much less if we ask the agent community from richer countries to search out used equipment in their own areas.
  • WHO would you encourage to play Season 2?
I would like to find ways to get more non-internet users and non-gameplayers to participate. Schools, nursing homes, the unemployed, the homeless, more people from poorer countries, more people from rural areas and less accessible places.
  • HOW would you change the game for Season 2?
One of the most important things to change is the platform. Not only is Ning enormously glitchy-- (the source of much anger and hard feeling from people who thought they or there friends were being censored when the Ning network kicked them out or was slow to register their activities) but it is extremely confusing and difficult to use, even for many of us who are experienced with blogging and other forms of posting information on-line. I have managed to convince a few friends to sign up for Evoke, but none has ever gotten so far as to be able to post anything here. One had even used a Ning network before and warned me that even with a user community of no more than 10 Ning was doing such things locking people out, mysteriously failing to post information or notify people of new posted information. This is very clearly not the platform to be using for a large group, however attractive the price may be.
  • WHAT new tools would you want as an EVOKE agent?
On that I'm happy to allow myself to be surprised. I've discovered a lot of interesting tools during my time on Evoke-- and I hope that will continue in Evoke 2.
  • WHY would you come back for a second Season? What more would you want from the experience?
The problem I addressed in my first answer-- maintaining an atmosphere where civil disagreement is possible -- as well as the platform problems-- would have to be addressed. I have gotten an enormous amount out of participating in Evoke 1-- but I am not willing to continue if people like Mark Mulkerin are dropping out because of insults and attacks, or if all of my 'real-world' friends find it too confusing to use.

Finally, I'd just like to express my appreciation to the agents-- too many to name-- who have pointed me in the direction of wonderful projects and tools and who have inspired me with their ideas, creativity and courage. Most of all, I'd like to thank Jane McGonigal and all the people who have worked on the game, many of them as volunteers. You've started something which I hope will expand and become the medium for the changes we all want see.

Views: 28

Comment by Iyamuremye Jean de Dieu on May 10, 2010 at 11:11pm
You are so courageous!!!
Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on May 11, 2010 at 3:10pm
Thank you, Iyamuremye! 'Courageous' is such a nice word for what I do. ;>)
Comment by Mita Williams on May 11, 2010 at 3:46pm
Thanks so much Sarah for sharing your very thoughtful and well-expressed insights about Evoke and the Evoke community.

I really like your idea of supporting off-line Evoke play. One idea that I'm putting forward, that I know at least one other agent had mentioned before, is the idea of an Evoke unconference. I've been to two unconferences and they are a great way to get a community talking and working together.

All the best!
Comment by Ken Eklund on May 14, 2010 at 9:39pm
An excellent, thoughtful, and very helpful critique. Thank you!
Comment by ninmah on May 15, 2010 at 3:28pm
Very well said, Sarah. I agree, especially about the platform.
Comment by M. on May 15, 2010 at 4:30pm
Thank you for your thoughtful post, Sarah, and for the tactful way in which you worked in the sad story of what happened to Mark and others like him. You said much of what I was thinking better than I said it myself, and for that I am sincerely grateful.
Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on May 18, 2010 at 2:04am
Hey Sarah, I've walked away from a couple of discussions that seemed to be descending into personal b******ess and also had to force myself not to respond to comments on my own aricles that make me want to slap people around the head.

Idiocy and one-upmanship are unfortunately part of the human condition, and I believe that tight moderating is the only way to maintain a reasonable level of interaction that encourages everyone.

But Evoke is clearly on a very small budget, so what is the solution? I can only see a couple of solutions, but maybe someone else is more imaginative:
1. Help Evoke get more money so they can pay for full-time moderating staff.
2. Evoke appoint community moderators from among the agents. I've done this 'job' before and it's not much fun, but people usually take it seriously and it does make a difference.

A "report this post" button would help moderators find the offending stuff instead of having to go looking for it.

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