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What is Shared Reality?

Shared Reality is a crowdfunded platform for the collaborative investigation of critical social issues. The method employed to conduct these investigations is pro/con argument mapping. The distinctive feature of this type of argument map is that it records reasons and evidence both for and against the proposition being investigated, maintaining a full record in an easy to view graphical format.

The cognitive advantages of argument mapping are well documented. As an alternative to traditional media, pro/con argument maps have other advantages as well. Because they depict only evidence and logical relationships, argument maps are free of the persuasive tactics commonly used to manipulate readers and viewers to align with one way of seeing an issue. A writer of prose often persuades the reader toward a conclusion. An argument map, on the other hand, allows the reader to draw the conclusion they think best based on the evidence and reasoning provided. These days, the business model of traditional journalism relies on being provocative or entertaining to get attention. Shared Reality sits outside of that model, and so has the ability to simply present the full case for all sides. Rather than tell the audience a predefined story for passive consumption, a pro/con argument map empowers people to think for themselves. Citizens in a democracy need information to make decisions, not canned narratives. Shared Reality aims to provide that information.

Shared Reality assumes that people want to know the truth, and to make good decisions about what policies to support. It also assumes that the current polarization and tribalism we see are the result of a perfect storm of bad actors with anti-democratic intentions, cynical politicians and business leaders who are either complicit or who are happy to turn a blind eye for power or personal enrichment, a media establishment that is ill-equipped to cope, and a public that has been conditioned to be passive in the way they process information.

Shared Reality aims to be part of the solution to this problem by empowering people to actively think for themselves, by putting people in control of the agenda of public discourse, and by creating a place where evidence can unmask and expose those who would undermine democracy for their own ends.

How Does Shared Reality Work?

Step 1: The Challenge

Users come to Shared Reality with issues they want investigated. The process begins when they issue a challenge. The challenge can be directed to any person, organization, or community of interest. The challenge - if it does not refer to an existing Shared Reality argument map - creates a Shared Reality argument map with a single node and opens a crowdfunding campaign which will support the development of a Shared Reality argument map around the topic of the challenge.

Step 2: Crowdfunding the Map

Shared Reality promotes its argument maps through the site, email campaigns and social media, and seeks crowdfunding to pay for research and construction. Any amount may be donated, but work on the map might not begin until a challenge crowdfunding campaign reaches $10,000. After that, the campaign continues indefinitely as long as there is interest in further exploration of the topic. Either whole argument maps or individual nodes can be funded in this way. The basic budget for any single map is as follows:

  1. 9% of the initial $10,000 (or a lesser threshold, as determined solely by Shared Reality and its staff) goes to Shared Reality for maintenance of the site and provision of the service.

  2. Shared Reality negotiates fees with the map architect (also called the "editor"), who will coordinate research and interact with any needed subject matter experts (SMEs).

  3. Shared Reality negotiates fees with the map administrator, who will approve expenditures, interact with donors and Shared Reality staff, and hold accountability for QA and compliance with Shared Reality community standards.

  4. Shared Reality will negotiate fees to support research, pay SMEs for their time, etc., as needed to build the map.

  5. Shared Reality has broad authority to to allocate the available funds in whatever ways it sees fit towards the creation and propagation of a shared reality for everyone, regarding the topic of an argument map.

  6. Regarding those contributions which are marked as intended to be paid to a non-partisan charity instead of to the respondents themselves, Shared Reality will be the sole determiner of which charities are and are not partisan or non-partisan. To be eligible to receive these contributions, charities must have either a current A+ rating from Charity Watch or 4-star rating on Charity Navigator. As examples, gun rights charities and charities which support abortion in some way - even if they are not explicitly political - would almost certainly be considered partisan by Shared Reality and therefore ineligible for to receive these funds.

  7. Any unspent remainder raised is allocated to donors’ Shared Reality accounts in proportion to their original donation (i.e., if a donor’s contribution represents, for example, 2% of the total raised, then 2% of the remainder goes into their Shared Reality account.) These funds may be donated by users to support other Shared Reality challenges and argument maps, but may not be withdrawn from the Shared Reality platform. Shared Reality does not take another 9% fee from these further donations.

  8. Any funds held on behalf of a Shared Reality user in their Shared Reality account, which have not been donated to another campaign or argument map after 5 years will revert to Shared Reality. Multiple reminders will be sent to donors reminding them of this at regular intervals.

Step 3: After the Map is Complete

Once they are in progress, maps will be available for viewing on the platform by everyone, indefinitely.

Anyone can issue a challenge or make a donation, but only trained Shared Reality map editors, administrators, and staff can create and edit maps. This assures that maps will be well-researched, clear, neutral, high quality documents of actual use, and provides an extra layer of security against trolls and other bad faith actors.

If the public is ever dissatisfied with the quality of a map, they may crowdfund the participation of their chosen thought leader or specialist, who can forward their preferred arguments in any argument map.