Earlier this month the New England Journal of Medicine began an essay contest for students and post-graduates. They are asking for 500 words in response to this question:
In the last twenty years, the internet and social networking have brought profound changes in how information is communicated. How can we harness this technology to improve health?
I’ve been thinking off and on about how I would answer such a broad question in so few words. This should be easy for me. I work with one of the most well-regarded social network researchers and my department is in a institute directed by one of the true Internet pioneers. I’m also working toward my Ph.D. in Public Health while conducting research in one of the most innovative research units in the country.
So what’s stopping me from putting words on paper (or screen rather)? I keep thinking about the essence of this question. My reconstitution of that question went something like this: “How are the tools and methods we use every day to engage in both the silly and the profound going to help society produce a healthier environment?” The obvious next question then was: “Am I smart enough to adequately answer that question?” Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Then it hit me.
Instead of relying on the small amount of brain power that I have what would happen if I opened this up to my network via the internet? Wouldn’t that be more powerful? Wouldn’t the collective wisdom of my network, and my network’s network be more adapt at answering this question? I think so. I hope so.
So here we are. I am calling on you to contribute to what I am calling “A Collective Entry”. You can contribute by opening this link and filling out the form. I will aggregate the data collected and attempt to create something unique and thought provoking. I can see this going one of two ways (both are acceptable entry formats):
- An edited essay of the collected thoughts + one image (wordle?) that represents the most common concepts gathered from the collective.
- A 2 min video explaining this project and the data/thoughts I collect.
The survey below has three questions and one space for a video response. I think the idea of capturing a video response is interesting and I hope you take a few minutes to craft a 10-15 second video that you feel answers the main question. I think a mix of video and written/spoken word would make a powerful statement.
Before anyone starts accusing me to trying to take the easy way out, let me assure you that editing massive amounts of data, especially natural language, is hard. Also, I view this as a fun exercise in social networking arena. I’ve had some experience with open collaboration and information distribution and have been somewhat disappointed with the outcome. Maybe having a clear goal and a concrete objective will increase social participation and thus collective learning. With that I want to make a few promises:
- Your contribution is your contribution. I do not own, or ever will own your contribution. But, the NEJM might. Entries are owned by the NEJM once they are entered in to the contest. Please think carefully about how you view ownership before filling out my survey.
- You can revoke your contribution at any time. If you fill out my survey and you later decide that you would not like me to use the information you provided just contact me and I’ll remove it. Promise.
- This “data” will be made available to everyone. Once I am done collecting the survey data I will open it up to everyone. I am applying a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License to this work. This means that you accept this license when you fill out the survey. You’ll notice this license does allow for commercial use. This is because if this entry wins there is a monetary award to cover travel to the 2012 NEJM Symposium not because I’m planning to make tons of cash off the information.
- I’ll try my best to create something engaging. I love presenting ideas. I’ve spent hours fine tuning 20 slides for Ignite presentations. I stayed up until 2AM the night before a presentation because I wasn’t sure one slide was getting my message across. I promise to spend the time to make something worthy of the effort you put into thinking about this topic and answering my survey.
Alright. So I guess that’s all. Have questions shoot me an email or leave a comment. I’m looking forward to what you have to say.
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