March 16, 2010

State Dept Unviels Public Opinion Website

The US State Department launched a website on Monday where people from around the world can leave their views on global issues and US-foreign policy.

The site, "˜Opinion Space"˜, is dedicated to promote "global conversations on foreign affairs," said the State Department.

It will "harness the power of connection technologies to provide a unique forum for international dialogue," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. This provides a unique opportunity to extend our engagement beyond the halls of government to the people of the world. "I can't wait to be a part of this exciting new conversation," she said.

The site will be accessible worldwide and allows visitors to share their opinions and ideas on US foreign policy. Users will only need to provide a valid email address and identify the country where they live to participate in the conversations.

Ideas that result in the most popular discussions and those that are judged as most insightful by the community will be illustrated by a visual "opinion map".

Opinion Space was developed by the joint efforts of the US State Department and the University of California at Berkeley's Center for New Media (BCNM), the State Department told AFP.

BCNM director Ken Goldberg said the map "is not based on geography or predetermined categories, but on similarity of opinion." He added that the site is "designed to 'depolarize' discussions by including all participants on a level playing field."

The State Department kicked off the conversation by posting the first discussion question: "If you met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, what issue would you tell her about, why is it important to you, and what specific suggestions do you have for addressing it?"

Users will also be asked if they either "strongly agree" or "strongly disagree" with statements made on the site.

The State Department has embraced the Internet and the social networking tools it offers with much enthusiasm. Its recently revamped website, state.gov, features links to the State Department's blog, DipNote. It also has links to its YouTube Channel, Twitter feed, and Facebook page.

The link to the Opinion Space web community is www.state.gov/opinionspace.