Web Lab (General)


Web Development Fund

Press Releases
American Love Stories
Reality Check
Living with Suicide
Working Stiff

Press Releases | Reality Check
For immediate release
Contact: Suzanne Seggerman (suzanne@weblab.org)

Web Lab Launches Reality Check

Experimental Dialogues About Impeachment Hearings Take Shape Online

What do
  • a carpenter from Indianapolis who has twice run for Congress
  • an "unreconstructed drug-free old hippie" from South Pasadena, California
  • an African American Baptist Minister from Detroit
  • a gay man in Tuscola, Texas who lists his occupation as Spiritual Advisor/Food Vending
  • an "activist and researcher" from New York who "doesn't feel comfortable with political labels anymore"
  • and a "self-employed professional and independent thinker" with "strong religious beliefs" from Tacoma, Washington
have in common?
At first glance, not very much.
But they all have strong views about the upcoming impeachment hearings, and, despite their differences, they are actually talking to each other -- rather than at each other -- on a groundbreaking new Web site called Reality Check. (http://www.reality-check.org).
Is it an instant utopia? Not by a long shot. The dialogues still reflect the fault lines of a divided society and the bad habits of a media culture that thrives on conflict. But what is unusual is that, despite very different ways of looking at the world, (and despite how little we've come to expect from on-line dialogues), most of the participants are beginning to exchange ideas, probe each other's positions and disagree without shouting at or insulting each other. As one participant wrote, "It is precisely the saturated nature of the topic that will challenge us to listen to each other without assuming we know exactly what the other is trying to convey. We will all have to make the mental leap of resetting ourselves to zero to begin a fresh conversation among disparate and diverse participants."
There are two key ingredients. First, the participants in the dialogues were drawn to the site because it is attempting to do something very different from what's happening on the air, in print and online. Second, rather than host dialogues on a large free-for-all bulletin board, Reality Check assigns participants to small groups so they can get to know each other over time. (See the accompanying document, "What is Reality Check?" for the philosophy behind this model and some details on how it works.)
Three dialogue groups have begun and more will be created as new participants register on the site. For those interested in getting just a taste of what transpires within the groups, the Featured Posts section highlights some of the more interesting and emblematic dialogues. And for those not ready to commit to the requirements of membership, the site also offers an opportunity for visitors to submit Open Letters addressed to the one or more key players in the impeachment drama. Selected letters are edited and posted on the site.
Who Created it and How?
Reality Check was created by Web Lab, a not-for-profit that develops, supports, and champions innovative uses of the Web to enhance public understanding of -- and participation in -- the issues of our times. The site went from conception to launch in six weeks, with the help of many volunteers who worked mornings, evenings, and weekends. Web Lab partnered with GMD Studios, an Orlando-based new media development company, to develop and automate the software that runs the dialogue groups. The software will be available for licensing from GMD in early 1999. Both AT&T WorldNet, one of the world's leading Internet Service Providers, and WebPromote, a leading provider of targeted Internet web site marketing and promotion, are providing extraordinary promotional support.
Web Lab executive producer Marc N. Weiss played the same role on Reality Check, as did Barry Joseph, Web Lab supervising producer, and Chad Ossman, project assistant. Web Lab's project manager, Suzanne Seggerman, provided spiritual support for the project, which went from idea to launch in less than two months.
Web Lab is a not-for-profit program of the New York Foundation for the Arts. It is supported by PBS, the Ford Foundation, and private family foundations. Web Lab was created by Marc N. Weiss, founder of the public TV series P.O.V. and its Internet counterpart, P.O.V. Interactive.

About Web Lab | Web Development Fund | Web Lab Sites | Subscribe
Talent Show | Contribute | Staff | Press | Contact Us