Metadecidim (II). Silvia Luque: The participatory experience of the Municipality Action Plan through the decidim.barcelona platform

Notes from the Metadecidim workshop, within the decidim.barcelona participatory programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 25-26 November 2016. More notes on this event: metadecidim.

Silvia Luque, Fundació Ferrer i Guardia
The participatory experience of the Municipality Action Plan through the decidim.barcelona platform

One of the biggest challenges in a hybrid online-offline participatory process is, precisely, how to balance participation in both spaces, virtual and face-to-face.

The oneline platform has been the amplifier of what was going on in the offline arena. It also gathered all the information and contributed to trace the participation footprint.

Of course, the digital platform itself held lots of debates and collected proposals directly online.

Mobile points — ad-hoc kiosks on the streets — provided offline feedback from what was happening online.

The online platform was both a participatory platform and a work platform: everyone worked within the platform. Both citizens and managers used the platform for all the tasks and procedures related to the participatory process.

There was a good balance between online and offline participation, though in the online platform there was slightly more participation. The platform, though, affected the topic: in wellbeing, there were more proposals offline, while in the topic of environment more proposals came online. This sure has to do with the profile of people that participate online or offline. On the other hand, face-to-face events were mostly organized by the city council, who did not organize the same amount of events for each and every topic of the Municipality Action Plan. Participation and proposals, also, not necessarily go hand in hand: one can find topics highly participated that produced relatively few proposals, and lowly participated topics that notwithstanding produced lots of proposals. The topic and the nature of the participation sure explain the differences.

The nature of participation was also diverse: make proposals, comment on the proposals, support others’ proposals, vote proposals, attend events, interact with a mobile point, comments on online debates.

New tools require new literacies and new working logics. And also taking into account the possibility that there is a digital divide. As online and offline behaved differently, the most promising approach is a hybrid one that enables both logics of participation.

Metadecidim (2016)

Metadecidim (I). Robert Bjarnason: Digital tools for the democratic revolution in Iceland and beyond

Notes from the Metadecidim workshop, within the decidim.barcelona participatory programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 25-26 November 2016. More notes on this event: metadecidim.

Robert Bjarnason, citizens.is
Digital tools for the democratic revolution in Iceland and beyond

Citizens must have a strong voice in policymaking with formal and persistent participation in the political process.

The Citizens Foundation created three open source tools:

  • Your Priorities, an idea and debate platform, on crowdsourcing. Your Priorities is about building trust between citizens and government.
  • Open Active Voting, on budget voting, but very pedagogical on how budgets work. Participatory budgets are not only about having a direct influence on expenditure, but also on knowing how much things cost and what it means to have a budget. After that, trust is built and better decisions are made in collaboration with citizens.
  • Active Citizen: improved participation with artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Artificial intelligence helps in participation with little time spent, helping to overcome bubbles and biases; virtual reality for data visualization and online meetings.

Participation must be fun, informative and educational. Yes, it has to be democratic, and rigorous. But also engaging, something you enjoy doing. Gamifying participation is a good approach for a successful participatory initiative.

Participation tools have to meet people where they are. Tools have to have a “mobile first” design in mind.

But the key for participation to succeed is that it has an impact. Decision-makers do have to listen and take into account what citizens say. If citizens feel they are participating for nothing, they will quickly move away from all other participatory processes.

Participation is also about communication and marketing: people do have to know to be able to participate. It’s not propaganda, but informing the citizen.

Metadecidim (2016)

Technopolitics, networks and citizenship: a syllabus

Man walking under the rain in a Japanese city
Singing in the rain, courtesy streetwork.com

My colleague Mirela Fiori is redesigning the Master in City and Urbanism which she is directing. In the updated version that she is planning she wants to include a subject on how technology and civic action have a role in the shaping of the city.

In my opinion this is a most important acknowledgement. Adolfo Estalella and Alberto Corsín have systematically proved how the city can be used both “hardware”, much in the line of Gidden’s Structuration Theory where the “system” is both an instrument and a target for change. Manuel Castells also speaks about cities and their (different) role in the Network Society, a role that oftentimes is emergent in the sense of Steve Johnson. In newest “open source” cities, action turns into activism and activism cannot be without action.

Thus, it does look very relevant to me that there is a little time or space to think about the city not as a mere receptacle of people doing things, but as an actor that is both affected and affecting the uptake of technology and its use for citizen action and, thus, being part of the (new) definition of citizenship.

The goal of the master’s new subject Technopolitics, networks and citizenship is to provide this vision of the city as an institution, a player that requires a renewed strategy and a renewed vision on its role in a complex ecosystem.

My preliminary syllabus (it does not even deserve that name yet) would include the following topics — comments welcome:

Digital revolution and globalization

How dire are the changes we are witnessing in the global economy? How are connected the new trends in the business and financial spheres with the democratic and governance spheres? Are Information and Communication Technologies instruments for improvement or for transformation? Is this a revolution? Why are some things happening? Why would they last — if they do?

Limits of the institutions of the industrial age

Is there a crisis in industrial age institutions (schools & universities, political parties and parliaments, firms and work, media and journalism, etc.)? What is their role in society? Is their role still needed? Can we separate the continent (institutions) from their content (role, tasks)? If yes, who will take up with these roles? How? Why? Why not?

Hacker ethics, commons and gift economy

Is there a new way to design collective initiatives? Is decision-making over as we knew it? Are hierarchies a thing of the past? Is information still power? Can we shift power balances? How different is information from knowledge? How different is controlling information from controlling knowledge? How will the control of knowledge transform our daily practices? And our institutions?

Social innovation, open innovation and open social innovation

What used to be innovation? What is innovation today? What is the relationship between innovation, knowledge and power? Can innovation be distributed? Can innovation be socialized? Can power be socialized? Can innovation lead to better governance? Can better governance lead to innovation? Should we act in either or another way to affect the final result? Can we?

Technopolitics, cooperation platforms and network-organizations

How is technology (ICTs) changing human behaviour? How is technology (ICTs) changing human collective behaviour? What are the main trends? How will they evolve? Why? What new organizations will come enabled (and fostered) by technology? How will this change the map of actors and institutions in society? How will they interact? How will this change the city landscape?

Yes, these are questions and not answers. Because there are not many answers — yet. And the ones being are constantly changing and evolving. But the questions will remain for much longer. These are days for good questions and for flexible answers. Dogmatic answers for feeble questions will rarely help us to map the new territories that need being explored.

IDP2016 (X). Céline Deswarte: Towards a future proof legal framework for digital privacy in Europe

Notes from the 12th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Building a European digital space, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 7-8 July 2016. More notes on this event: idp2016.

Keynote speech. Chairs: Pere Fabra

Céline Deswarte. Policy Officer, European Commission. Directorate General for Communication, Networks, Content and Technology.
Towards a future proof legal framework for digital privacy in Europe

EU legal framework for Digital Privacy: General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679/EU + ePrivacy Directive 2002/57/EC.

When you are surfing online you produce key information on time of connection, browsing history, location, etc. which can be retrieved. Telecom providers must anonymize or delete traffic and location data of their users and subscribers. When it is stored in hour own computer (e.g. cookies) the user must have given their prior consent after having been duly informed.

But is it consent strong enough? It is difficult to understand that consent is given “freely” if data subject has no genuine or free choice or unable to withdraw consent without detriment.

Protecting your personal data, when e.g. buying online. Companies must rely on a legal basis to process personal data, and respect principles of data processing.

On the specific issue of profiling, sharing personal data with a third party implies the right to be informed about it. Profiling is lawful unless it is equivalent to a decision with legal effects that is significantly harmful to the individual (e.g. one can lose one’s own job). Besides, there has to be a respect for the individual’s rights, e.g. the right to object at any time including profiling, and then data processing must stop.

Member states shall ensure the confidentiality of one’s electronic communications and related traffic data. So, it is not only about privacy in the sense of what you do, but also in the sense of what you say and to whom.

The big problem here is to whom applies all this regulation, as actors are many and different. So far, these principles only apply to telecom providers, while new market players like Voice IP or instant messaging, etc. do not need to respect this. In other words, social networking sites provide communication services but do not fall into the category of telecommunications providers.

12th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2016)

IDP2016 (IX). New Media, Citizens & Public Opinion

Notes from the 12th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Building a European digital space, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 7-8 July 2016. More notes on this event: idp2016.

Communications on New Media, Citizens & Public Opinion
Chairs: Joan Balcells

Fragmented audiences, fragmented voters?
Carolina Galais González, Postdoctoral researcher, UOC; Ana Sofia Cardenal Izquierdo, Full professor, UOC.

Does digital media exposure benefit small parties?

  • Equalization hypothesis: low cost, lower barriers, no gatekeepers.
  • Fragmentation hypothesis: small parties offer specialized, issue-oriented interests, fragmenting audiences, eroding big parties’ niches.
  • The undecided have higher chance of switching to small parties after exposed to online propaganda?

    TV usually plays a role in favour of big parties, while websites does it for smaller ones.

    As satisfaction with government decreases, the impact of websites increases.

    Old media have a concentration effect, while online media reinforces options for smaller parties.

    Dissatisfaction increases the effect of Internet.

    Trust in political institutions: Stability of measurement model in Europe.
    Lluis Coromina, University of Girona; Edurne Bartolomé Peral, University of Deusto.

    To what extent has the economic crisis changed the levels of trust in institutions? Is trust in institutions relying on the same factors prior and during the crisis? Are there differences across countries and time on the effects of those factors?

    H1: political trust is expected to decrease in countries more affected by the crisis.
    H2: There is no longer a trend over time for the predictive factors of political trust.

    Structural equations model where political trust is related with satisfaction with or trust in the Parliament, the legal system and politicians.

    Most long term predictor for political trust tend to be stable across time, even in the countries where the crisis has been more acute. The strongest predictors for political trust are generalized trust, interest in politics, satisfaction with economy, with government, age and education.

    Audience brokers and news discoverers: the role of new media in the digital news domain.
    Sílvia Majó-Vázquez, Ana S. Cardenal, UOC–IN3; Oleguer Sagarra, Pol Colomer, Facultat de Física, Universitat de Barcelona.

    Dire transformations in mainstream traditional media, with strong shifts towards the digital domain. But new digital outlets are being seen as central actors? To what extend new digital outlet control brokerage relation in the audience network? Is media brokerage still held by a handful of outlets?

    The research will compare media networks with audience networks. Authorities are node that contain useful information on a topic of interest. Brokers are news providers that have higher control in the flow of news.

    There is a clear positive correlation between media reach and the authority score. This is true for both traditional and new digital media. Traditional ones still are placed in the highest positions of authority, but are being quickly contested by new digital media.

    Traditional media are still monopolizing the centrality within the audience network, that is, they still are central brokers.

    So, native digital media challenge the power monopoly once occupied by traditional media, but these still control the flow of information.

    Digital skills and gender gaps in Europe.
    José Luis Martínez-Cantos, Postdoctoral Researcher, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

    Digital skills are required for handling new ICTs, are multifunctional and complex, and are one of the most important factors of the emergence and persistence of unequal opportunities in the Information Society.

    Have there been any significant gender gaps in digital skills in the European Union? Have they reduced?

    Yes, there are differences and the gap is bigger in the least generalized (because less people have them) digital skills. That is, the higher the level of digital skills, the bigger the gap. And, indeed, the gap has not varied much along time.

    Consistently, the more advanced is a country in digital development, the more advanced are also their men in digital skills and, thus, the bigger the gap with their women.

    12th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2016)

    IDP2016 (VIII). Lance Bennett: The Democratic Interface: Communication and Organizational Change in Movements and Parties

    Notes from the 12th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Building a European digital space, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 7-8 July 2016. More notes on this event: idp2016.

    Keynote speech. Chairs: Rosa Borge.

    Prof. Lance Bennett. Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
    The Democratic Interface: Communication and Organizational Change in Movements and Parties

    (Keynote co-authored with Alexandra Segerberg and Curd Knüpfer).

    The democratic interface: the capacity of electoral communication and organization processes to engage citizens and produce equal democratic representation. Does the interface work equally well for everyone? Is it working better for the right? Why? Has a change in participation logic disrupted the traditional party interface with voter on the left?

    40 years of neoliberal globalization, resulting in a breaking up of common social institutions (unions, schools, media, health care, etc.) and more political polarization.

    Power has moved from states to businesses and markets. Most parties are embracing neoliberal policies and parties have hollowed themselves as spaces for citizen engagement (Mair). There is a legitimacy crissi of liberal representative democracy (Della Porta), a relocation of politics in the everyday (Band) and a personalization of politics (Bennett).

    Does the reactionary right have increasing electoral advantage? Those who identify on the right are more likely to follow rules, respect traditions and customs and, in general, to follow what constitutes the model of a political party in neoliberal democracies: hierarchy, leadership, command, etc. So the right may have more electoral success because their voters have preferences for authority, strong leadership, rules, common traditions, etc.

    Why the deficits on the left? There are fewer angry citizens on the radical left than on the radical right? there is more trust or confidence in politicians and parties on the left? Both hypothesis are not validated. Same happens with satisfaction with democracy, the economy, etc. And same with participation: the left participates as much or even higher than the right.

    So it has to be a different logic of participation on the left.

    The connective party: communication and organization for participatory democracy. There is a discontent with neoliberal globalization since 90s, leading to flexible identities and multiple issues, “meta ideologies” of diversity and inclusiveness, mistrust of parties and leaders and the representative process, and a preference for direct or participatory or deliberative democracy.

    There is a shift in participation logic at the left interface. And this may be the reason why left parties are having issues to connect with their partisans and sympathisers.

    Can parties on the left mobilize more voters with connective action?

    Requirement for a connective party:

    • Central party open to feedback from peripheral networks.
    • Peripheral networks deliberate and share positions across networks and with central organization.
    • Scale requires digital platforms.

    Podemos was initially more decentralized, but went under a process of centralization and strong leadership, quite abandoning the círculos. This left aside many people that were in for the participation.

    Barcelona en Comú created a whole participatory network with different spaces, times, tools. It is by far the least centralized in Barcelona municipality.

    Alternativet (Denmark). Founded in 2013, entered parliament in 2015 with 5% vote. Called itself both a party and a political movement, socially open, networked online platform, living everyday democracy, organized through communication between citizen “labs” and party leadership.

    Can socially mediated participation be coordinated? Can it scale? Can such organization be sustained? Can party leadership share power? Can technology developers design participatory and deliberative platforms in collaboration with core leaders and local activists who may undervalue technology?

    Discussion

    Modern democracies are over. They were done when neoliberalism replaced Keynesianism as a way to manage society and public issues.

    Can Kurban: does right and left still explain the state of politics? Bennett: it is true that it is increasingly difficult to explain things using these axes, but they still somewhat work, especially for the right that still cluster well.

    Juan Roch: what is the role of technology, of digital platforms? Bennett: they are only instrumental, but they are definitely very important. But it is worth noting that there still is a lot of doubts about intensive use of technology, and even refusal to see technology replacing face-to-face meetings.

    12th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2016)