OpenCan is a codename for a knowledge and information collection, organization and dissemination platform experiment responding to the lack of verifiable and credible truth claims made in public discourse. Initially, OpenCan will focus on truth claims made in Canadian public discourse, through Canadian News Media about National Canadian Political Issues.
OpenCan aims to provide definitive answers confirming or confuting truth claims by collecting hard evidence surrounding the claim, organizing the evidence into an approachable and searchable format, and then locating a brief summary and “answer” to the claim to introduce the references and sources of the evidence.
I feel that this kind of format fills a gaping hole in contemporary journalism. Too frequently is news media used as a mouthpiece for polarized arguments from varied political spokespeople where little or no attempt is made on the part of the media outlet to investigate and confirm or confute such arguments in an attempt to convey the truth.
As far as a Canadian example goes, one of my favourites in recent history was the prorogation of parliament in 2008-2009 where opposing groups argued for or against the validity or unconstitutionality of the prorogation. In this example, Canadian’s who supported the Conservative Party of Canada tended to believe “this is common, and if there is anything bad to come out of the prorogation, it’s the opposition’s fault” while Canadian’s who did not support the Conservative Party of Canada tended to believe the argument that “the prorogation was unconstitutional, intentionally spurred on by the Prime Minister, and should have not been allowed by the Governor General.” The result was an unhealthy and uninformed polarized discourse about procedural elements of parliament and governance in Canada – which really didn’t result in many people learning about how the Canadian political system works.
During the lead-up to the prorogation, and in the first few days thereof, I researched the hell out of the topic so I could understand what int he hell was going on. What started as an angry internet post on facebook about people being uninformed and carrying on empty arguments turned into a full-on analysis of the Canadian political climate at the time. The result was more serious essay, that ranting blog post. The response? Well unsurprisingly the first internet post was a “I don’t agree with your politics” type of comment – however much my analysis was an attempt at a purely non-partisan, legalistic analysis. However, I received many private messages, emails and comments from friends in “real life” about how much they appreciated the analysis of the situation, as they themselves didn’t full comprehend all of the different elements at play that were being overwhelmed by shouty political rhetoric over the Canadian News Media.
Now, that prorogation essay isn’t how OpenCan is supposed to work – but it is a large part of the inspiration.
The intent of OpenCan is to collect, organize and exhibit evidence which confirms or confutes [news media] truth claims in the contemporary Canadian [political] public sphere in hopes of fostering an increasingly well informed Canadian public.
I’m of the belief that a well informed citizenry leads to a healthy democracy and national prosperity. However, that’s just my belief – I’ll have to get back to you with some hard evidence to determine if my claim is correct.