WeDialogue is a global experiment to test new solutions for commenting on news online. The objective of weDialogue is to promote humility in public discourse and prevent digital harassment and trolling.
Problems and Purpose
There are numerous problems resulting from online harassment and trolling, but the solution is not obvious. Developers have proposed new platforms, but these have not been tested rigorously. weDialogue is a participatory action research project that aims to combine academic expertise and citizens’ knowledge and experience to test potential solutions.
Background History and Context
The idea to test solutions to the growing problem of online harassment and trolling was conceived by researchers interested in online civility and dialogue. The use of an experimental approach allows for the control of factors that are different between groups or participants.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
weDialogue is funded by Humility and Conviction in Public Life, a project of the University of Connecticut, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. The grant is for USD 250,000. The real cost of weDialogue is significantly higher. Most members of the project team are volunteering a significant amount of time because they believe the objectives of the project are so important. weDialogue is not linked to any political organization. It is a non-partisan research project led by university researchers whose political agenda is to improve online discussions so that they become more civil, safe and meaningful.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The platform is open to anyone with an internet connection willing to complete an entrance survey. Participants will be chosen randomly and each group will comment on the same news items. New participants will not be admitted once the experiment has started and the discussion groups will be closed to the public to ensure any differences in the quality of discussion and group experience are related to the design of the platform.
Methods and Tools Used
WeDialogue is a participatory action research project based on a large field experiment. The objective is to combine a rigorous research design with a more exploratory phase (the debriefing). weDialogue is an experiment: participants will be randomly assigned to a discussion group that uses different commenting platforms. This allows researchers to rigorously study the impact of these different environments. During the experimental phase, particpants will have access to only one platform.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Participants are asked to fill out a survey, then wait until the experiment begins. Participants will then be given a login for their platform where they will be able to read and comment on news as if it was a normal online newspaper or blog. Participants will be allowed to comment as much as possible.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Research and data will be publicly available at the end of the project so that others can build upon it. Both the Deliberatorium and Pol.is are free software that can be reused. The data created and the resulting publications will be released in an open access environment.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Analysis will be complete at the end of the project.
First submission of this entry was adapted from the weDialogue website, published under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0