The Salience of Gamification

Niantic and The Pokemon Company did not set out to gamify exercise. Pokemon Go, the Augmented Reality (AR) game released by both companies last week harnessed Niantic’s AR expertise, and The Pokemon Company’s rich and nostalgic (particularly for the millennial generation) intellectual property, the result was a phenomenally popular mobile game that has already surpassed every mobile game ever made, and passed even established apps like Twitter, in daily active users.

Pokemon Go’s model requires its users and players to get out of the house, to explore their locality, and their reality. The game’s mechanics center on collecting “pocket monsters” that are hiding in real world locations. Players also need to collect items from “Poke Stops” and can train their Pokemon at other real world locations that have been flagged as gyms.  On the surface, this game model seems unsustainable, or aimed at a niche market at best. Video games, even ones optimized for mobile platforms tend to be built to maximize a users attention within the “game world.” Pokemon Go successfully switched this metric by making the “game world” the users individual real world.

What happens when the real world becomes a compelling game environment?

Well, it turns out there have been some unexpected situations and unforeseen consequences.

The game has had a profound impact in the few short days since Pokemon Go has been available resulting in novel engagement and marketing strategies for businesses. Even churches have realized the powerful potential for Pokemon Go to get millennials in the pews.

And, perhaps most interestingly, the game has resulted in significant and measurable increases in activity among age groups under 35. Exercise metrics measured on notable wearables showed a significant increase in activity measured by both distance, and steps especially on the weekend of the Pokemon Go release.

Other than playing the game myself, and a tech hobbyist, why is this trend so encouraging to me?

Clearly, the Pokemon Go model demonstrates that Gamification can provide a motivating force, and it can get people out of their isolated realities behind the screen and draw them back into their local town square, to their local landmarks, and even back to religious centers.

This is exciting because inadvertently, Nintendo, Niantic, and The Pokemon Company provided several social goods simply by building a good game. What if the same forces, gamification, competition, and locality could be harnessed to address other social problems?

Can we harness the power of gamification to promote participation in other neglected parts of our local societies?

At Zeall, we feel that we can. We have been building  platform that gamifies a users participation in volunteer activities by rewarding points, achievements, and awards for completing missions that you believe in. We want to make volunteerism, and political engagement as easy, engaging,and exciting as adventuring in your neighborhood to track down that elusive Pikachu!

Keep an eye out for more information at: zeall.us

We will be launching our platform soon!

Systemic Distrust

It is striking to realize that both major political parties in the United States have essentially nominated candidates that each suffer from a historically high disapproval ratings; FiveThirtyEight had a great breakdown on these numbers in May. The American political arena seems to have arrived at the logical end point, decades in the making, of voting for the lesser of two unfavorable choices.

Bizarrely, one candidate (Clinton) is regularly lambasted over her inability to tell the truth, and keep her policy promises; and the other (Trump) is widely assumed to be incapable of adhering to, or even really meaning most of what he has said throughout the campaign. Clinton faces regular, real, and troubling accusations of corruption and Trump wears his bombastic, unreasonable and irrational rhetoric on his sleeve.

We have also witnessed increased reactionary pressures against existing systems and institutions. Institutions that were founded to prevent the horrors, violence and grotesque inhumanity that was WWII are now often seen as obstructionist, anti-democratic, and in some cases they are decried as oppressive regimes. Remember, it was the “Greatest Generation” responding and reacting against violent instability that established institutions designed to mitigate, and mediate international relationships. The European Union, the United Nations, the GATT and WTO, were all founded, conceived and designed by the hero’s of WWII. These institutions have allowed for the second half of the 20th century to be one of the most productive, stable, and humane periods in human history. Are the institutions perfect? Absolutely not, institutions are designed by flawed individuals, they are the result of compromise and dialogue, they are staffed, managed and operated by these same flawed individuals; but, since WWII major powers have not openly engaged each other in armed conflict. I don’t claim that armed conflict has been eliminated because of our international treaties and organizations; far from it, we have seen numerous proxy wars, continued genocides, and the rise of transnational and international terrorism. And yet, it is incredible that none of the world’s most powerful actors have directly opposed each other in open war in more than 70 years.

Why then do we see such antipathy towards these organizations and structures, both national, and international? Simply put, we do not understand them. The general public has been taught, and learned for many years that they don’t need to pay attention to the instruments of politics, to the inner workings of their political party, the structure and rules of their state or national congress. Instead, we choose as a society to de-emphasize civics, to avoid teaching the process of self-government and compromise, and we choose as individuals to avoid learning about our system. Instead of learning the reasons behind particular policies, or inefficiencies that are opaque, and appear unreasonable we simply call to “throw the bums out” or “burn it down and start over.” We relish our ignorance of historical processes, compromises, and reasoning behind our government. We choose not to learn the reasons behind flawed systems or legislation and see how we can make progressive rational changes to our existing system. Instead, we simply resort to anger and frustration, we find the easiest person or institution to blame and then return to our regular comfortable lives.

We have collectively arrived at a crossroads in America, and potentially worldwide. One in which we will either choose to maintain and reform existing institutions, venerable, stable and mostly successful instruments of trade, peace, stability and progress or we will choose to rip down these instruments of structure and replace them with…  what? Potentially, systems that are more just, more egalitarian, more robust; or, systems that are new, fraught with failings that had been addressed in the fullness of time in our past institutions, mired by new inefficiencies and fresh opportunities for graft, corruption and destabilization; or even, no systems at all, and a return to isolation, instability, and an increased vulnerability of the the least of us.

I will not call on anyone to vote in favor or opposed to any candidate. I will however urge, and argue that whatever choices you make; arrive at them rationally. Examine and critique not only those policies, politicians and institutions that you oppose, but more importantly, examine and critique the policies, politicians and institutions you support. Strive to divorce yourself from the emotional viscera that envelops the political realm and ask yourself will my proposed policy or candidate progressively effect change that I believe is beneficial to myself and my community? Or will they be destabilizing, fracturing and isolating, potentially causing incredible harm through mismanagement emotional overreactions, cronyism and general irresponsibility?

Remember, the nature of man is flawed and imperfect strive to be more complete rational and compassionate. Examine your assumptions in the cold hard light of day, and determine if destabilization is really in anyone’s best interests. The passions of the moment revolutionary thinking only very very rarely leads to the creation of a better system. And it is only in those cases in which revolutionary fervor is balanced by cold reason that new and better systems can be constructed.

Be active in your political arena, get to know your local candidates and representatives, join organizations that interest you and engage the world with optimism not with fear.

I hope to help you in your actions through my work with the Zeall team. We strive to provide tools for engaging and interacting in the life of your community by transforming online interaction to in person action.

Writing as Process

Writer?

 

I have never considered myself to be a ‘writer.’

Throughout my academic career I write and have written briefs, essays, papers, lessons, and presentations. In my nascent professional career I have written several proposals, a few presentations, and copious emails.

Yet, I still have not considered myself a writer.

I am now a blogger, focusing on political theory, political activism, and mobile technology.

Should I consider myself a writer?

Writing has always merely been a means to an end, a necessary method for communicating competence, ideas, thoughts, theories, plans and proposals.

Academia, professional life, and personal preferences necessitated that I also become not only an avid reader, but a purposeful one. Dr. Neal Rosendorf first reinforced, and expanded my habit of gutting academic texts, a type of purposeful skimming to answer the question: what does the author want me to know, and what are their arguments?

Practical experience illuminates a couple of thoughts on perfecting writing.

Readers relish brevity.

Writers crave clarity.

My first exposure to a writing style guide came in my freshmen year of college. Freshmen year Collin was far too arrogant and distracted by all the new trappings of collegial life to take a little book by Strunk and White seriously. Thankfully this would not be the last time I would be taught by an instructor focused on guiding good writing.

In hindsight it is clear that Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style ought to be a required text in any Intelligence Fundamentals class. In January 2011 I was puzzled by its inclusion in the course I was registered for taught by one Mr. Bob Rossow. The second presentation of this style guide I took quite seriously, as good, clear and concise writing was a requirement for doing well in Rossow’s class. The best Intelligence gathering and analysis hinges upon good writing; clarity and concision are necessary in temporal, fluid, and dangerous situations. Intelligence professionals know they must be clear, accurate and quick when advising decision makers.

Strunk and White now routinely influence my choices and I strive to stay true to their rules, suggestions and guidance. However, language itself is dynamic. Subconsciously I realized I needed contemporary guidance on the writing process. Guidance that examined new media, blogs, twitter, and even email. Serendipitously, I stumbled upon The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker, read the first couple of pages and knew this was the guidance I hadn’t even consciously known I needed.

Why do I take this detour from political theory to discuss my process?

I want my readers to know that this blog, my thoughts and writing are all very much fluid and under continual evolution. I will always have opportunities to improve my writing. I anticipate and am excited for arguments about my ideas and the changes that may come through dialogue. I also want to be transparent in my self-evaluation and reflection. Growth and change is my pursuit.

Clear brevity is my ideal.

Self-reflection in writing makes someone a writer.

That said; I am a writer.

Always feel free to contact me on twitter: @collinzeall or on FaceBook.

Also, please check out www.zeall.us a project to make self-government and volunteerism as easy as checking your phone.

Bicameral Redundancy

Bicameral Redundancy

Let’s examine a fascinating oxymoron: the U.S. Congress is elected by the people, serves for the people, and is constituted of the people; yet, citizens disapprove of the actions of Congress.

Richard Fenno first described the above phenomenon in his 1978 book, Home Style: House Members in their districts. Known now as “Fenno’s Paradox,” the ability of congressional leaders to be re-elected to a wildly unpopular institution theorizes that voters approve of their own individual Representative or Senator but disapprove of Congress as a whole.

Why do voters generally disapprove of the work of Congress, and simultaneously continue to approve or re-elect their Senator and Representative?

Plenty has been written on the issues of term limits, congressional incumbency or turnover rates, and gerrymandering. Salvanto and Gersh, writing for CBS News, examined all of the above in 2013 during the leadup to the 2014 midterm elections.

Instead, let’s illuminate the problem from a different perspective: Identity and Experience.

The Framers designed our bicameral legislature to accomplish two goals.

First, The People’s House (House of Representatives) was to be drawn from citizens sufficiently close to their people as to be good representatives of the issues facing their constituencies. These Representatives were to be elected regionally from within a State to ensure that the voice of the people was adequately represented to the Federal government. Note that when the Constitution entered into force, an average U.S. Representative had a constituency of 33,000 people. Today, an average U.S. Representative claims a constituency of 700,000 souls. Publius (James Madison) argues in Federalist 55 that 60-70 representatives would be more responsible with power than 6-7. Federalist 55 also questions the efficacy of 6-7 hundred representatives, and states that 6-7 thousand representatives would guarantee that logic would lose to passion in matters of legislation. Madison’s words of warning are reflected by our current Congress, we now have more than 4 times as many Congressmen as the First U.S. Congress. Simultaneously each Congressional representative now speaks for more than 700,000 people 21 times more people than the first Congressional Representatives.

So, we have more Representatives, resulting in a higher likelihood for reason to give way to passion. And simultaneously we have less individual representation.

Quite the quandary.

The Framers, even the most ardent of the Federalists, knew that State and local leaders were necessary to ensure true representative rule. This solves a portion of our problem: one U.S. Representative serving a constituency of 700,000 people can be checked by aware constituents, who must be concerned not only with glamorous federal elections, but should be equally invested in the daily actions of State level Senators and Representatives, these State Representatives answer to a much smaller constituency and are more able to address individual problems and needs.

Why are both houses of the U.S. Congress elected by State level popular votes?

In order to help secure the transition from the anemic Articles of Confederation, the Framers provided a compromise to ensure State’s rights. The compromise? The composition of the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Senate was originally elected directly by the State Legislators. Until 1914 and the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, no ordinary U.S. citizen had ever directly voted for their Senator.

Why was the Senate designed this way? What were the reasons for the Framers to keep the Senate elections one degree removed from the people?

The Framer’s reasoning was twofold. The Senate was designed to ensure that every state regardless of population size was equally represented in matters of federal law. If the goal was to provide for representation of each State, who better to pick strong advocates for their state than State Legislators? State Legislators have an experiential reason to know whom would serve them best on the federal level. They know whom to choose from among their peers. The Senate is designed to hold the most experienced, seasoned, and well reasoned legislators in country.

Secondly, as every high schooler has indelibly inked into their mind: the U.S. federal system relies on checks and balances establishing competitive power structures. This includes the need to place a check and balance on the power of the people. Remember, Plato viewed democracy as a degenerated form of government, warning against the untamed rule of a free mob. The Framers reference this fear of mob rule throughout the Constitution, but it is most potent in the formation of the Senate. Removed from direct election, chosen by the most qualified members of the populace they would provide a check to the fevers of the moment that can overcome the masses. The corruption of power must not only be checked from the elites, but from anyone wielding power. Our bicameral system was designed to check and moderate the power of the electorate, of the voters.

The Framers also claimed that in order to adequately undertake the experiment in self-government, citizens must have an acceptable level of education. The Framers were concerned with the education levels of early Americans and needed a way to ensure balance in governance for the one true goal of government: stability.

By 1914, attitudes and awareness of the education and moderation of the electorate had shifted enough that the Seventeenth Amendment gave the power of electing Senators directly to the people.

I am not advocating for the repeal of the seventeenth amendment. Instead, let’s examine one more detail before embarking on my proposed solution.

The People’s House is elected from districts drawn up by State Legislatures. U.S. Representatives are elected not to represent an ideal but to represent a region of territory. The Agrarian economy of our Framers was tied directly to land, territory, and geography. Representatives are chosen by physical territory because citizens from different locations would have differing needs, ideals, and opinions on policy.

So, if the House was to be the voice of the people, and the voice of the people in a discrete region; and the Senate was to be the voice of the States (initially explicitly State Governments) Why do we now have a bicameral legislature with both houses essentially representing the same thing? Both the House and the Senate now represent geographical territory from within a State.

This is a redundancy.

The Solution?

Elect the Federal Senate Federally!

The United States Senate should be elected by the 300 million plus Citizens of the United States.

Currently Senators serve 6 year terms. Every two years, roughly 33 Senators face reelection. This insures we don’t have complete legislative turnover from one election to the next (some Senior Senators will at least be around to show the newbies the light switches, and recommend lunch spots in D.C.). Instead of each citizen casting a ballot on only their geographic Senator, Citizens would fill out a preferential ballot with 33 names (34 in the sixth year) listing preferences from 1 to 33. This would take a little while to get used to, and would require citizens to actually engage in thought about their self-rule, but, it would allow for some amazing changes.

The President would no longer be the only elected official that can claim the entire U.S. population as his/her constituency. Think about this for a moment, the greater house of the legislature would now be able to claim the entire United States as their constituency. This would create novel and nuanced conversations about national topics from Military Base locations, closures, and changes to better conversations on national level agenda like Treaties, Trade, War… oh and Supreme Court nominations.

This would allow for the emergence of new and different identities to be represented in the national conversation. By this I mean that I identify as a proud American, New Mexican, and Las Crucen. But I also have ideological identities that are not tied to my geographic location. I have a rational, pragmatic worldview, I adhere most closely with Aristotelian views on human nature. I am concerned about exploitation and fair play in the economy. None of those views are predetermined by my place of residence; and, those views may be shared by people in vastly different locations. If Senators were elected nationally, by a ranking system, we would have an elected body in the United States that would not be decided by the winner of a plurality or a majority, but instead we would have a legislature more reflective of the views of the people.

How?

Through proportional representation. Candidates winning at least 3.1% of the national vote could become Senators, (remember 33 Senators win office every 2 years) regardless of party affiliation.

The Libertarians could have their champion, the Green party could elect their hippies in chief, the socialists could elect their economic idealist, and Democrats and Republicans would compete on the level playing field of ideas!

How do we maintain representation for geographic identities and ensure that even regions with a small population have their geographic realities represented?

The House of Representatives becomes the center for representing geographic needs and identities. After the next U.S. Census, The House will increase so that each State is guaranteed at least two Representatives.

Interesting aside: did you know that until 1910, the House of Representatives added members as the populace grew?

The House maintains a two year term of office, allowing the people to quickly change the course of the political conversation if necessary. The Senate provides stability and representation of identities and ideals that are not simply geographic. We restore the power of a bicameral legislature and eliminate redundancy.

The best part? The people are more accurately represented.

All of my above thoughts require great input, and participation by the governed. Lets use new tools and resources to further these conversations.

Zeall is being developed to accomplish just that, further our conversations on government, representation and power.

www.zeall.us

Experiential Nature

When I returned to school, after drifting for a not insignificant time, I wanted to be sure that the topic I chose to study possessed a powerful personal internal interest.

For this reason, I chose to study government at New Mexico State University. Anyone unfamiliar with the study of government should know that it is basically a study of political science with a qualitative and historical emphasis.

Studying government in 2010 was inspirational and interesting in one critical way: I was fascinated by the agitations and machinations of the state of the American democratic system. Quite simply I wanted to discover, or partially discover the reasons for the profound complexity, and dissension towards a system that was established to allow citizens to exercise self-rule.

It seemed the best way to examine the problem was to start at the beginning, understanding the arrangements and systems that humanity has used through millennia to live together, to understand why Aristotle posited that “man is a political animal.”

My Political Theory professor, Dr. Gregory Butler once posed a very simple question to the class that serves as the founding reason for political philosophy: “How do we get people to behave in the way they ought to behave?”

Obviously this singular interrogative contains many assumptions, suppositions, and implications; yet, the question basically holds true for all political theorists. All political theorists attempt to answer the question in a satisfactory or at least novel way.

Political theory classes naturally attracted my attention with exciting course descriptions and thought provoking summaries. My gateway into this world, Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzche promised (in my mind) to contain some semblance of understanding that could be applied to address my original inquiry. Instead, throughout the study of the Modern political philosophers there could not be found a satisfactory answer to the most basic implication of our question.

In order to provide an answer on how to “get people to behave the way they ought to behave,” implies that there is some singular or multifaceted way that people should behave. Philosophically every thinker had to grapple with the question of human nature, and by extension the purpose of human existence. Even the most pragmatic, and materialistic philosophers, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes were forced to examine or address the “problem” of human nature. Locke and Hobbes both essential “punt” on the question and instead focus on how large groups of people may live together and limit instability, injustice, and violence as much as possible.

The Modern thinkers that shaped the 19th and 20th centuries most significantly: Rousseau, Nietzche, and Marx all approached the question of human nature with a gnostic vigor (they felt they had discovered the hidden truth that universally drives humanity). Rousseau felt that the human in a natural (pre-societal) state was in essence a noble being, one bereft of the flaws of greed, jealousy, spite, vengeance etc… Rousseau imagines an idyllic singular “savage” free to pursue and survive according to the individual’s desire. Nietzche ultimately concluded (somewhat tragically) that humanity has no inborn nature, and therefore, no reason to exist. This left Nietzche with only the “Will to Power,” an existence in which humans persist simply through the force of their own will. Marx determined that the secret the basis as he called it, of human nature was to labor creatively. Doing and making good and wonderful things is central to the human condition in Marx’ view of human nature.

These three thinkers through their gnostic approach to knowledge inadvertently led to the establishment of the three most repressive, violent, unjust, and unstable regimes of the 19th and 20th centuries. The hunt for Rousseau’s “Great Legislator,” that would undo the laws removing humanity from its noble state throughout the French revolution created a veritable merry-go-round of coups, leaders, and executions. Nietzche’s misrepresented philosophy fed directly into the foundation of Nazi Germany. Finally, Marxist thought via Lenin and Trotsky led to one of the least economically productive, most unjust and most entrenched power structures in Europe.

I left out Locke, and Hobbes because as I stated earlier, they basically “punted” on the implication of human nature. Instead, Hobbes viewed human existence famously as, “solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short,” unless subjected to the “awe” of a singular leviathan. It is no coincidence that Hobbes was writing in reaction to the French revolution. Locke also largely punts on the question of human nature; however, in the brief instances in which Locke does address human nature he points to singular rights that all men possess: life, liberty and property (not happiness as Thomas Jefferson would later change with flourish). It is this focus on the material world that classifies Locke as a materialistic thinker.

So, if I was to examine where American government went wrong and I needed to begin by answering the basic assumption behind the question of government: “how do you get people to behave the way they ought to behave,” the major modern thinkers had nothing compelling to offer.

Classical thought provided much more satisfactory conclusions, all of which are somewhat similar and resemble in many ways religious meaning structures. Among the classical thinkers, Aristotle is widely credited with the creation of the “Great chain of Being” to classify all forms of life, placing beasts at the bottom and beings of divine nature at the top. Aristotle furthers this assessment in the Nichomachean Ethics and translates it to the nature of humanity roughly arriving at the following argument on the nature of humanity. Human nature is not one thing, but rather an experiential state of being. Being human involves striving to avoid the bestial nature of humanity and the attempt through the pursuit of logic, ethics, and pathos to become similar to divine, perfectly virtuous beings.

Reviewing it now, the experiential nature of being human resonates particularly strong. It is only in our unique experiences, tribulations, victories, defeats, and recoveries that we begin to understand what it truly means to be human. Our identities, shifting, fluid, and dynamic as they are, all derive from our personal experiences.

Why do I take such a detour to establish my adherence to the classical philosophy that humanity’s nature is experiential? I take this detour to establish that individuals claiming to possess secret knowledge about the deeper truth of human nature, that these gnostics, are dangerous, and are incorrect. Beware thinkers selling an easy way out of current problems, or a singular solution to complex realities. Human nature, and by extension, the nature of many people living in one group is incredibly diverse, contradictory, and continually changing.

Fundamentally it is also this experiential reality that lies at the heart of a plethora of issues that plague the current American representative democracy.

Lets begin by addressing Congress. Currently RealClearPolitics places the Congressional approval rating at 14.5% this is near a historical low; yet, the American people elected every single representative and senator. This contradictory fact illuminates one major contemporary reality. Congress is collectively despised, but individual members gain the approval of their constituencies at least every six years, and in most cases every two years by winning popular elections. Why do Americans almost universally disapprove of the federal legislative body? In most polls the leading reasons for disapproval is the view that gridlock, partisan bickering, and an inability to “get anything done” are the leading reasons most Americans disapprove of the Congress.

What is the experiential reason for Congress collectively and Congressmen individually to fall victim to gridlock, engage in partisan bickering and generally be unable or unwilling to accomplish any agenda? Quite simply, a desire to win the next election and continue holding their position. It is the experience of an elected official that any action they take will displease a group of people. If these displeased people are large enough, or wealthy enough, a Congressman’s actions will lead to them losing their position in the next election.

The rules, and regulations of the House and Senate also provide a ready-made justification for having taken no action or made any progress towards policies that a candidate claimed to support to win their election. The vagaries of House rules and procedure, and the even more arcane rules of the Senate allow an individual representative to claim that they are continually being blocked and countered by the opposing party.

This frames the problem as an identity struggle, an “us v. them” affair in which political parties become increasingly divided and increasingly unable to come to compromise. In this climate of adversarial politicking we have witnessed the death of compromise. We have reached, and allowed ourselves to be led to the point at which large, or wealthy groups are able to manipulate politicians into hard-line positions and require candidates to sign pledges for certain policies before receiving funding or support. This is dangerous. It assumes that conditions will never change, and assumes that progress can be made through sheer ideological purity and single-minded will. Ideological purity is similar to gnostic suppositions about human nature. Ideological purity prescribes concrete policies that would in an almost mystical fashion, ameliorate every current ill in the American system.

The Presidency represents an even greater degree of our granulation and indoctrination into an “us-vs-them” identity, and a striving for ideological purity so compartmentalized that no less than 20 major candidates at one point were vying for the nomination from either the Democratic or Republican Party.

The Republican party primary in particular has begun to resemble a (thankfully bloodless) French revolution of sorts, as the party continually searched for that one “Great Legislator” figure that will finally be ideologically pure, and willful enough to make the policies changes necessary to return America to its correct order.

Why has the Presidency become such a prominent political office? Through necessity. As Congress, and Congressmen grew to understand that the safest way to win re-election was to do nothing, the office of the President began to take on the slack Congress created. The “First Imperial President” FDR redefined the Presidency in an unprecedented manner recognizing the need to take action both to end the great depression and to face fascist aggression FDR shifted the office of the President from a more passive executive of Congressional law to an active shaper and crafter of policy and legislation. Americans now expect the President and candidates to have clear legislative goals, and to take not just a role, but the leading role in crafting legislation.

There are a plethora of other reasons that the American democratic system is currently failing its constituents. The root of these issues all involve the experiential divide between our leaders and our citizens. Central to our humanity and our shifting identities is our set of experiences. How then does our political system account for our diverse and shifting nature? We must allow our representatives room to compromise. We must share our experiences with our elected officials and even more critically, with each other. We must engage one another and allow ourselves to experience empathy with our fellow citizens, humbly approaching and learning from each other. We must be more dialectic in our understanding and less singular. Finally, we must continue to be engaged, involved and dialectic with our leaders when they are leading and not simply when they are asking for our approval to keep leading. Exercising self-government is not a part-time job. It is not one vote every two or four years. It is a daily conversation, evaluation and participation in life and in our communities.

The information age, and the advent of the internet and mobile technology have driven interaction and engagement in new and incredible directions. We can now accomplish so much from our connected, mobile devices, why can’t we leverage our devices to become more actively engaged in our self-government? Why can’t we use this connectivity and communication to facilitate dialogue and understanding? Why can’t we use technology to empathize and experience each other? Why can’t we leverage technology to be better citizens? Why can’t we use this technology to revive the compromise?

Zeall would allow us to communicate in the political arena in new and powerful ways, it would allow potential leaders to engage their constituency in novel and exciting ways. Citizens would get to experience the reality of running for elected office, guiding policy and critically, citizens would more directly and intimately experience the reality of self-rule.

This is why I work to help make Zeall a reality, and why I continue to argue in favor of pragmatism, compromise and understanding.

A brief introduction and my motivations

This marks an official beginning of a new project and purpose aiming to achieve some progress on an issue that I have spent significant time trying to understand, unravel and examine.

I will back up briefly; my name is Collin King, I earned my BA in Government from New Mexico State University in 2012. This accomplishment came after a period of wandering between interests and majors and was arrived upon simply because I gravitated towards an interest in understanding the political system and the reasons for the tremendous popular vitriol and unease with an inclusive and open system. I have also always been interested in science and technology, having built my own computers for most of my childhood, and been interested in tinkering with and optimizing technology to serve my purposes in a more complete manner. In particular, I have always been fascinated by the ability of computers and now mobile devices to fundamentally change the way productivity and interaction occurs in our social order. Steve Jobs’ analogy; that, “a computer… [is] the equivalent to a bicycle for [the] mind,” is not far from the truth, and this analogy has only grown more useful with the rise mobile computing and the pervasive connectivity of these mobile devices.

To return to my original point, throughout my course of study at NMSU including significant post-graduate work, it became more and more apparent to me that the democratic process requires not only an informed electorate capable of making informed decisions about their self-rule; but, the democratic systems that currently exist globally, and specifically the representative republic in the United States of America requires both active and engaged citizens. The problem really is triplicate: how do citizens become accurately and properly informed; how can citizens be actively involved in the processes of self-government, and how can elected representatives adequately and successfully engage these citizens? This is not an easy set of problems to solve, and it cannot be viewed simply as a problem of participation in elections, or activity within political parties. Instead a broader set of solutions needs to be found that allows citizens to participate meaningfully in the process and realities of self-governance. The solutions that may begin to bridge these gaps would provide functional and engaging tools on a platform designed and executed in the mobile world. Interconnectivity and mobility should and will be harnessed to unleash the individual and leverage their time and interest to effect change and policy in their political reality.

I know this post seems overly prosaic and optimistic; however, my work on Zeall and with the Zeall team has encouraged me to note that an engaging social platform in the political arena can begin to solve these varied engagement problems.

Thank you for reading, and continue to look for more updates from me as projects progress.

Collin King