Press release

Local Voices Network Announces Long-Term Commitment in Madison and Planned Expansion in Wisconsin

Sponsored by Businesswire

Today, Cortico,
a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering constructive
public conversation in communities and the media, announced long-term
plans for the Local
Voices Network (LVN)
to continue operating in Madison and to expand
into other urban, suburban and rural areas of Wisconsin. Created in
cooperation with the MIT Media Lab, LVN is a listening system designed
to foster constructive conversation in communities and the media to
improve our understanding of one another and bring a community’s
under-heard voices into the public dialogue. Launched in February in
partnership with the Madison Public Library, LVN-Madison to date has
held dozens of conversations with hundreds of Madisonians, elevating
local voices within the community and media that may otherwise have gone

Led by Katherine Cramer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political
science professor and author of a landmark study of public opinion in
rural Wisconsin entitled “The Politics of Resentment,” LVN-Madison holds
conversations guided by volunteer hosts from the community. While LVN
has been piloted in other parts of the country, Madison is Cortico’s
first implementation of the full public conversation network.

“Wisconsinites love to share their stories and opinions, but the
political environment and social media has divided us into groups that
can be hostile toward outside views,” noted Cramer. “I’m thrilled that
LVN is growing roots in Madison and creating new local spaces for
constructive public conversation across boundaries. As LVN expands
statewide, I feel confident that it will help connect people in all
types of communities, give them a voice and help build trust between the
public and the media.”

Each LVN conversation takes place around a “Digital Hearth,” a device
that records the discussion and enables hosts to play highlights from
other groups in order to cross-pollinate voices and perspectives. The
recordings are transcribed to make them machine-readable, then analyzed
with AI-based tools that allow the community to tune into what’s most
relevant locally, and the media to tell stories that are more reflective
of life on the ground. Twelve Digital Hearths are currently located in
public libraries, community centers, and other locations across Madison.

“Too many local voices in places like Madison go unheard, drowned out by
noisy divisive dialogue within the community and the media,” said Deb
Roy, Co-Founder and Chairman of Cortico. “We are thrilled that Madison
has embraced the Local Voices Network, and look forward to expanding LVN
across the state in order to continue bringing the perspectives and
concerns of ordinary citizens back into focus, re-connect members of a
community to one another through boundary-crossing conversations,
promote civic engagement, and importantly, encourage journalism that
reflects and responds to local issues.”

Cortico news partner The
Cap Times
has already published one
and four reflective pieces to date based on LVN
conversations, highlighting local voices and perspectives on affordable
, public
, climate
and race.
Other Madison media news organizations — community-based and city-wide,
including radio and television — are expected to incorporate LVN
content in their local reporting moving forward.

“The Local Voices Network is an important tool that creates
non-threatening ways to bring community members together to express
their views, listen to one another, and find new opportunities for
connection in a very complex and separated world,” said The
Honorable/Rev. Everett Mitchell, Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist
Church and Dane County Circuit Court Judge, who has hosted two LVN
conversations to date. “Just being able to listen to these stories in
various ways gives community members a safe space to know that their
voices are being heard and lifted into a conversation where others can
listen to their views and hopefully use their ideas to better understand
the issues as they are happening on the ground. Each conversation offers
us a new bridge into different relationships, new opportunities for
progress and new moments of connection and relationships.”

For those in the community interested in participating, visit
to sign up.

About Cortico

is a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering constructive
public conversation in communities and the media that improves our
understanding of one another. Working in cooperation with the Laboratory
for Social Machines
at the MIT
Media Lab
, Cortico builds listening systems designed to surface a
community’s under-heard voices and channel their perspectives and
stories into the public dialogue.