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January 05, 2009

What I Did On My Winter "Break"

Obama, Obama, Obama ....

Did anyone else get involved with local community meetings for the Obama-Biden Healthcare Transition Team? Oh, you didn't hear about them? When I tell folks what I did for the past couple weeks, I hear from a lot of folks who weren't aware of Daschle reaching out to the American people for thoughts on how to improve healthcare in the United States.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Join the Discussion: Former Sen. Daschle responds on health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/join_the_discussion_daschles_healthcare_response/

This initial discussion in early December was a provocative and interesting event itself. Daschle answered questions about many leading healthcare policy concern, the video was made widely available online, and public discussion ensued.

Obama: Daschle Healthcare Reform Discussion

After about 3500 comments, they started to analyze the discussion (after five thousand or so, they closed comments). One of the tools used was Wordle, which distilled out the 100 top words used in the conversation. Notice the biggest one? Insurance. I don't think that is a surprise to anyone, but I am surprised by some of the words I don't see present -- access, transportation, information, choice, rural, seniors or elderly, and much more. Some words are present, but a lot smaller than I expected -- children, change, available, service/services, free, etc. Oops - etc was present in the Wordle as a word, which sort of skews the results -- this would have been more useful with a filter to exclude generic words like etc, enough, done, going, getting, and such.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Top 100 Words in Healthcare Discussion (from Wordle): http://change.gov/page/-/images/wc_healthcare_full.PNG

Well, the upshot of all this was that on December 5th, Daschle put out a call for USA citizens to partake in the discussion through small group discussion events hosted in your local community. These were all to take place between December 15th and December 31st. Personally, this put a big hole in my so-called "break", but it was important to happen and important to partake when possible. I just wish the timing had been a little different.

Daschle asks Americans to help reform health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/daschle_asks_americans_to_help_reform_health_care/

Most of these took place in people's homes. Most of the events I heard about happened through personal networks - sort of work of mouth from friend to friend. They were not necessarily open to the general public or to walk-in visitors. As a single parent of a special needs kid (you've heard this before if you read this blog often), getting out and about town is hard for me. Basically, not likely to happen. I don't think I was invited to any of the events in people's home. Some of my friends were, but they had so many obligations relative to the holiday season that they did not participate. I was thrilled to hear about first one, and then later two more events that were happening through social media.

The first event was for the autism community and was held via Twitter. This wasn't the only event for the autism community - there was another on Staten Island and in Virginia (see comments), and probably more I didn't find out about. The Twitter one was organized through Causecast, a sort of a social network for "registered 501(c)(3) non-profit" organizations. But I couldn't go to Virginia or New York, and wouldn't have even if the events have been open nationally. In theory, I could have sponsored an event locally in Southeastern Michigan, and probably could have gotten some folks to come. Still, there are a lot of people on the spectrum who are not very comfortable in social situations and who would either have felt excluded by the venue or found it stressful to participate in real life. Having an event online made it possible to include a broader range of participants, with some interesting discussions that happened specifically about the geography of access to care for autism treatment. This type of discussion would have been unlikely or impossible in a face-to-face event. You can read more about the Autism & Healthcare Reform Twitter Day in another blog post.

Autism & Healthcare Reform - The Twitter Event for the Obama-Biden Transition Team: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2009/01/autism_healthca.html

Because the organizer of the autism event (@TannersDad) describes himself as a "paper and pencil" kind of guy, and because after several nudges no one else volunteered, and because I believed it was important, I ended up being kind of behind the scenes tech support to try to archive the tweets for the event (with help from @ajturner). I finished up everything for them on January 2nd.

In between, there were two more events, both in Second Life. The first one was held on December 29th in Port Spinoza, coordinated by Siri Vita (one of my neighbors in SL), and was an open general meeting about healthcare reform without a specific target audience. The event was held primarily in voice (audio over the internet within Second Life) and was videotaped. There is actaully going to be a really wonderful video of the event for the Obama Transition Team, which I will share when it becomes available.

SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team
SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team

For that event, I helped out by offering voice-to-chat transcription in order to make the even more accessible to people with disabilities, and Cotton Thorne (another neighbor) did the reverse -- read chat comments into the voice record for the event. This made it possible for people with a blend of sensory abilities to be able to attend as full participants and still have a complete record of the event. To make it even more fun, there were a lot of Justice League members who attended. After all, they work hard to help keep life smooth for people, both in fiction and in Second Life, and like all good hearted people are well aware of the importance of health and healthcare in making a good life possible. (My son was really excited to see the Green Lantern there, who shared with us that he has heard there will be a live-action Green Lantern movie coming out in the next 3 years.) They were back in for the final closeup shots for the video on Sunday for a couple hours, just for color, with the original event having lasted well over two hours. I was glad the Sunday event was in the afternoon, since the first SL Obama event was timed for the West Coast crowd, making it after 1am before I was able to go to bed.

The final event in which I participated was specifically for the large community of people with disabilities in Second Life and occurred on December 31st in the evening. The structure of the event was very different - they had small groups at several different tables, with a group of coordinators and facilitators -- they had a greeter, a couple guides, a facilitator at each table, and a timekeeper who clocked the discussion questions and kept the various groups on task and on target. The facilitator at my table old us she was deaf, and that this was why we needed to converse in chat (typing). My arms were still sore from all the typing the other night, which maybe slowed me down a bit. This was the first time for me that I was able to participate as a participant instead of as organizational help and background support.

I can honestly say I learned a lot from participating in all three events, and cannot imagine how the information from a nationwide clustering of these types of events will pull together for the transition team. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I will be reporting out in future blogposts about some of my thoughts and observations from being part of these events. One of the biggest take-home points for me is what I've said about both accessibility and healthcare for years -- there is NO one-size-fits-all.

Posted by pfa at January 5, 2009 12:19 PM

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