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The Center for Cooperative Research seeks to encourage grassroots participation and collaboration in (1) the documentation of the public historical record; and (2) conducting civil society oversight of governments and private industry. To this end, we have developed an online database that allows users to compile chronologies of events and profiles of entities (individuals and organizations), as well as information about the relationships between and among events and entities.
The Center for Cooperative Research seeks to encourage grassroots participation and collaboration in documenting history using an open-content model. The website we are developing allows people to input information on past and current events, as well as on the entities associated with those events, into a database. The data is published on the website in the format of dynamic timelines and entity profiles, and is exportable into XML so it can be shared with others for non-commercial purposes.
The history commons project is not limited to any particular issue. Users may start a project on any topic that deals with current or historical events.
New technology developed during the last decade has changed the nature of information production and distribution in two very important ways which are both fundamental to the Center's objectives. Firstly, new technology has decentralized the processes of information production and distribution, allowing the public to exert greater influence over the content and direction of the published historical record. Control of the production and distribution of information has slipped from the exclusive grip of large media conglomerates and is being appropriated at an increasingly fast pace by people at the grassroots level, whose previous lack of access to the means of information production and distribution prevented their ideas and knowledge from reaching the masses. This historically significant restructuring of the relationship between the producers and consumers of information is due to the fact that the dissemination of information to a large audience no longer requires large amounts of capital investment. Consequently, this process can no longer be easily monopolized, controlled, or filtered by a small elite group.
Secondly, Internet technology has created an environment where public collaboration in the production of information can take place at a level of efficiency comparableÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â if not superiorÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â to that of the capital-intensive efforts of hierarchically-structured, private enterprises. This collaborative Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â open-contentÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â model is politically and economically significant because it enables grassroots efforts to compete on a near equal footing with private industry while contributing to and enriching the intellectual commons.
Reduce the fragmentation of the historical record
The Cooperative Research website seeks to help reduce the fragmentation of the historical record by connecting events whose temporal and spatial relationships are often obscured by a mass of contradicting and disconnected literature, the biases of the media, and the tendency for important past events to be relegated to the annals of forgotten history.Increase the efficiency of information acquisition
Another objective of the Center is to increase the efficiency of research by reducing the tendency for researchers to duplicate the efforts of others. All too often, researchersÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â largely because of a fragmented historical recordÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â needlessly spend a significant amount of time and energy bringing material together and establishing connections, even though this work may have already been performed by someone else. By collecting a mass of well-cited Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â event summariesÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â and Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â entity profilesÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â in a database, with descriptions about the relationships that exist among them, this website should reduce the frequency of such occurrences.Increase the efficiency of information production
This project is premised on the notion that collaboration in an online Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â open-contentÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â environment can greatly improve the efficiency and quality of information production in the public sphere as it allows contributors to build upon and improve the work of others in real time as part of a global community. Furthermore, products resulting from such arrangements are inherently more democratic than those of the private sector as they are created by a much broader spectrum of interests and perspectives.Encourage the transition of oversight responsibilities from governments to civil society on a global scale.
The Center for Cooperative Research calls on people to abandon the widely-held assumption that governments can be relied upon to competently monitor the activities of themselves or the entities with which they have close relations. A major goal of this website is to encourage people to play an active role in scrutinizing the activities of all individuals, groups and institutions that wield significant political and economic power. Our position is that the power of oversight should not rest with governments, but with civil society itself.Application
The content of this website consists primarily of timelines and profiles of individuals, organizations, corporations and other entities. Each timeline consists of a collection of dynamically-generated Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â event summariesÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â which include the date the event took place, a summary of the event, and a link to its primary and/or secondary sources. At the end of each event summary, there is a list of all entities which actively participated in the event. Each of the participants listed at the bottom of the entry is linked to a profile page which includes a description of the entity's relationships with other entities, a list of all quotes associated with the entity, as well as a timeline of all events in which the entity actively participated. Some event summaries also have an Ã Â¢Ã Â Ã Â additional infoÃ Â¢Ã Â Ã Â link, which when clicked displays a list of quotes related to that event.
The editing and submission feature of the website allows visitors to add new information and edit existing content online using html forms. Visitors can also create their own timeline projects. Projects, which are basically just collections of timelines, can serve a variety of purposes. For example, a project can serve as a place in cyberspace where people collaborate in a grassroots investigation of a certain issue or it can simply be the work of one person interested in learning more about a topic. The timelines can be compiled from new or existing entries.
Each timeline is exportable into xml so others can use or add to the data for their own applications or for posting on their own websites.
- Derek Mitchell
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