Two-and-a-half years ago, a large textile factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Numerous workers who worked for only 20 cents an hour under extremely hazardous working conditions were killed.
I watched a televised discussion about the incident. The implication of the discussion was that a consumer who chooses to buys clothes far below the minimum cost price shares responsibility for the disaster! I felt accountable, but wondered how possible it was to take on this responsibility!
The presenter asked that exact question to an activist for ethical fashion, he wanted to know how the consumer could act responsibly, other than by buying considerably more expensive clothes to be ‘on the safe side’. There didn’t seem to be a clear answer, and so I was left with these questions: “How can I take care of my accountability? Where do I get the right information from?”
In the months after this, the questions occurred to me again and again; there were so many occasions in which as a consumer and as a voter, I was being asked to take responsibility. As an individual I seemed to have much influence on the world, but apparently I was being guided by impulses such as price, taste and marketing, not facts!
“Am I not interested in the facts?” I wondered. Am I too lazy to take on my responsibility or is the problem that we cannot figure everything out ourselves in this complex world?
Thus I came to the conclusion that via the internet people should be able to discuss issues together and check whether information is reliable.
If people can use the internet to discuss effectively, all sorts of statements from politicians and the advertising industry, but also from critics and activists can be put to the test with our shared knowledge and understanding.
I went to work on analyzing what is needed for such an online discussion, and was fascinated by the clear structure that forms the basis of all discussions. A condensed form of displaying arguments and assertions from the debate has proved very suitable for an online version!
I developed a data model that these discussions could contain, and because I wanted to make online discussion as accessible as possible I thought a lot about usability.
People around me often seemed to be very enthusiastic about the idea. One person was interested in the model’s scope for capturing the discussion around effective patient care. Another saw it as a way to increase cooperation in scientific research. Someone else reacted with enthusiasm about how helpful this could be in the field of investigative journalism. That confirmed my feeling that this idea fills a need.
My dream is that with my idea I can contribute to a world in which people can easily understand the consequences of their choices, and in which companies will be accountable for providing honest information because their deception will be much more visible.
Share this dream? Share this blog on your favorite social media sites so that everyone can get involved in realization of my dream!