Monday, March 29, 2010

Peace innovation from Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab

Good news for us: We are not the only ones in the field talking about computing technology and peace.

BJ Fogg, Director of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, has taught a class called Peace Innovation: Learning How Technology Can Promote Global Harmony in 30 Years. The class gave students the task of devising ways to use Web 2.0 technology – YouTube, Flickr, Google Maps – to promote greater harmony. Students worked in small teams to run “peace innovation trials”, creating goals, their own tools for measuring success, and developing tools that “ordinary people” could use to measure the impact of a peace trial.

A main idea was that by creating these materials and making them widely available, high school and college instructors all over the world would be able to lead their own students in peace innovation. The projects ranged from Unplug Now, whose goal was to get users to unplug any unused appliance in their proximity, to Peace and Sticky Rice, an application that attempted to use game-playing as a way to increase participants’ willingness to take action to end hunger, and measure the “stickiness” (or resistance to change) of attitude changes at later points in time. Through not prescribing any one solution, and defining peace by evaluating how to create its antecedents, the solutions can be flexible, efficient, and efficacious.

Fogg, recognized as one of Fortune’s 2008 10 New Gurus You Should Know, lays out his steps for creating a peace technology infrastructure now:
1. peace technology course at Stanford
2. blogging about peace technology examples
3. creating direction of peace technology initiatives
4. developing teaching materials
5. preparing to fund trials
6. systematic insights (resources)

Often, Fogg notes, trying to define peace serves as an obstacle to achieving it, when discussion gets mired down and then prevents the taking of action. Instead, he suggests, we should focus on creating the environment for peace. First, he says, it is important to examine the antecedents of peace, then evaluate the importance of each antecedent and how likely it is to be achieved, and with that information then target the antecedents that will bring about the most change fastest.

Fogg also helped found Peace Dot, a directory of websites that show their interest in peace by registering subdomains with a “peace” prefix.

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