CDF2015 (IV). Jonathan Gray: Open data

Notes from the Connected Develoment Festival, organized by Partos, and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, on November 13, 2015.

Jonathan Gray, Open Knowledge Foundation

Why does data matter? Data is evidence for action, it’s about facts that support action.

Data is not sacred: data is partial and data is profane. Data is a by-product of former actions of many actors, especially institutions.

Data needs a critical literacy to understand it, to understand the hidden message. And it also needs data infrastructures as socio-technical systems.

Datasets are a mixture of different sources gathered for different purposes. But is data relevant? Is it collected for what we need? Is it useful?

There’s another problem concerning data and it’s its excess: a fever to collect so much data that (a) then it becomes difficult to treat, at it is difficult to handle with current tools and (b) we begin to “throw data” to try and cover everything without making much sense of it.

Will here be a data revolution? Can we democratize access to data?

There are many things that civil society can do to (a) change the way public institutions measure, (b) to become more responsive and creative in the way datasets are given life outside of the public sector.

Data infrastructures shape life and civil society.

Connected Development Festival 2015 (2015)

CDF2015 (III). Margot Bouwman: on the power of communication

Notes from the Connected Develoment Festival, organized by Partos, and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, on November 13, 2015.

Margot Bouwman

Communication works with single minded propositions, providing a conversation value, aiming at doing good, and trying to establish a relationship.

People have to watch communication deploy before their eyes, and be aware of the nuances. Communication is crucial so that people understand and even end up loving what they are hearing.

Listening to people is crucial so that people remain interested in what you have to offer.

Dominance is just as important as relevance. And new always gets attention, and it’s a good way to work for dominance. Supernormal stimuli awake interest, but we have to be aware that sometimes they can be intimidating. Stimulation of instinct is very powerful, such powerful that it can even nullify our own will, or trigger it towards very directed targets.

The goal of some communication messages is going from image to icon, from what you see to the representation of what you aim to.

Summing up:

  • We are vain.
  • Make it complicated.
  • Relevance is as important as dominance.
  • Supernormal stimuli help with that.
  • Attract attention.
  • Drive awakening.
  • Use them ‘slightly out of context’.
  • Transform them into iconic design language.
  • Tool or weapon?

PS: my gratitude to Babah Tarawally for the translation tips! [original talk in Dutch].

Connected Development Festival 2015 (2015)

CDF2015 (II). Ismael Peña-López: The SDGs and the oversight of disregarding social revolutions

Notes from the Connected Develoment Festival, organized by Partos, and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, on November 13, 2015.

Ismael Peña-López: The SDGs and the oversight of disregarding social revolutions

This presentation elaborates the short reflections stated in Emancipation and the failure of the Sustainable Development Goals under the approach of Open Social Innovation. Please refer to these articles for a clearer explanation of what is presented in the keynote.

[click here to enlarge]

Connected Development Festival 2015 (2015)

CDF2015 (I). Babah Tarawally: On the refugee crisis

Notes from the Connected Develoment Festival, organized by Partos, and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, on November 13, 2015.

Babah Tarawally

There is a difference between seeing and looking. When it comes to refugees, we should look, not only see. About seeing, the issue is how to help people to connect with the local community, to know the culture, to know the hidden and tacit things a community knows and does, so that their full potential can be realized.

Are we helping people? Yes. Are we empowering people? Maybe. Are people’s lives changing? That is the question. But not only the lives of the people we are “helping”, but everyone’s lives, including “ours”.

Both governments and NGOs have failed in making an impact in lesser developed countries, as the inflow of migrants demonstrates each and every day. We have to change global politics.

Development, innovation, is not only about copying and pasting practices around. It’s about giving hope.

Connected Development Festival 2015 (2015)

Rosa Borge. From protest to political parties: online deliberation in the new parties arising in Spain

Notes from the research seminar From protest to political parties: online deliberation in the new parties arising in Spain by Rosa Borge, organized by the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 20th, 2015.

From protest to political parties: online deliberation in the new parties arising in Spain
Rosa Borge, Eduardo Santamarina

What are the deliberative practices of the two most important parties (Podemos and Barcelona en Comú) that emerged from the 15M Indignados movement in Spain? What trade-offs entail the process of transformation from social movements into political parties? To what extent participation and deliberation could be realized at the same time?

Podemos and Barcelona en comú were founded in 2014. Three months after its foundation, Podemos won 5 seats at the European Parliament, and less than a year after its foundation Barcelona en Comú won the mayoralty of Barcelona.

Internal organization:

  • Anyone can easily register online and participate in important decisions.
  • Open particpiatory spaces at the base of the party: assemblies, high degree of independence, etc.
  • Dominant position of the General Assembly or Plenary.
  • Specific consultation or referendum for important decisions: electoral programme, agreements with other parties, etc.
  • Participatory preparation of the electoral programme and organizational documents.
  • Channelling for individual proposals (Plaza Podemos).
  • Revocation of elected positions.

Developed a theoretical framework for measuring online deliberation, after Kies (2010) and Friess & Eilders (2014):

  • Institutional or structural dimension: technical and structural design of the online platform in order to build a deliberative space: inclusion, asynchronous communication, content visibility, moderation, identification rules, division of labour, relevant information, horizontal interaction, etc.
  • Communicative dimension: deliberative attitude of participants and how the communication process looks like, mainly with relation to the reaction of participants to each other’s ideas: discourse equality, reciprocity, justification, reflexivity, empathy, sincerity, plurality (inclusion).
  • The outcome dimension: results or impact of the deliberation that could be individual or collective (external impact): tolerance, knowledge, efficacy, compromise, preference shift, consensus, legitimacy, impact on political decisions or public debates.

The research analysed the two most voted debates held in the online platform known as Plaza Podemos and the online process of developing the municipal electoral programme of Barcelona en Comú. The three levels (institutional, communicative, outcome) were examined through the deliberative criteria: analysis of the design of the platform and content analysis of the threads of the debates.

Plaza Podemos run on an installation of Reddit; while Barcelona en Comú used DemocracyOS for the deliberation, plus Agora Voting to prioritise and vote the final proposals.

Main conclusions:

  • Both online processes were designed to be both participatory and deliberative spaces. This “procedural duality” seems to lean towards the voting side, becoming a kind of competitive space.
  • Tensions between openness and closeness (a typical tension of a party).
  • Extensive experimentation of new democratic processes: learning by doing.
  • Inducement of a “participatory literacy” among citizens.
  • These processes and the internal structure will be subjected to future changes.

The processes maybe were not optimal, but very much aiming at improving democratic processes.


Q: are there facilitators in the platforms? What is their role? Rosa Borge: yes, there are facilitators, which usually do not appear on the front row, and whose role is mainly technical.

Q: how can you assure that you are fulfilling anyone’s expectations? Rosa Borge: we do not know by sure, but the overall sense of the community is of high satisfaction with both the platforms and the results.

Ivan Serrano: after this research, how do we characterize Podemos or Barcelona en Comú? Are they deliberative parties? Aren’t they? Were do they stand between the extreme of being a traditional party and a fully deliberative one? How can they compare one with each other? Rosa Borge: it is difficult to say after our research, as only a few debates were analysed. But, there is enough evidence to say that these parties look different from other more traditional ones. And yes, there is a tension between pure Habermasian deliberation (which aims at consensus) and the need to participate within the constraints of electoral times. Indeed, the idea of consensus is highly criticised by some authors, and that is why it was not included as an indicator for deliberation: there seems not to be that important that there is an agreement at the end of the process (and just vote instead).

Q: how long does it take to become a regular party? Rosa Borge: Everyone is quite surprised with the political success of both Podemos and Barcelona en Comú. What is true is that an initial lack of structures or political organization allows movements to move faster than traditional parties. After that, there is a tension between being operational and being more participative, and the tension is solved with a pendulum movement approaching each side until a balance is reached.

Marc Esteve: what about the tension between consensus and voting? Rosa Borge: lately, the priority is to have a decision or a position after the process of participation and/or deliberation. Thus why in most platforms everything can be voted on the go. Yes, it adds a sort of competition unnatural in a deliberative process, but it also allows to have “something” at the end of the process, and to make the process a finite one, one that won’t last forever.

IDP2015 (IX). Multidisciplinary debate on the challenges of smart cities

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Multidisciplinary debate on the challenges of smart cities
Chairs: Marta Continente

Pilar Conesa. Founder and director of Anteverti.

Increasing concentration of people living in urban areas. Areas which are becoming totally saturated and ask for new ways or urban planning. This includes not only transportation, but also public services like education, healthcare, etc. The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states, the 21st century will be a century of cities, Wellington E. Webb.

If we want to develop new cities, new smart cities, we need to know and share the approach behind. This is not trivial and it will determine the model of smart city that will be put into practice.

There is no smart city without a smart government.

Oriol Torruella. Director of the Legal Consultancy Department, CESICAT, Information Security Center of Catalonia

Smart city: improve the efficiency and efficacy of the management of the city, by means of an intensive usage of ICTs.

There are, though, some risks: the vulnerabilities of both software and hardware; the management of the citizen identity; treatment of personal data; affectation to the availability and security of critical infrastructures, etc.

It is crucial that citizens become smart citizens too if they are to be part of a smart city. They have to be aware of all risks of cibersecurity, what are the laws that apply to certain practices and activities, etc.

Ricard Faura. Head of Knowledge Society, Generalitat de Catalunya

The citizen in the smart city, sensor or actor? (Pisani, Datopolis o Particopolis?)

We have to foster some elements through ICTs: participation, organization and collaboration.

For the smart city to be useful for the citizens, one needs to empower the citizens themselves, so that they can be active and critical. But ICTs have to be empowering, not barriers.

Main duties of the government: diffusion, information, awareness raising, training.

The city has to be a real lab where everything is possible and everything can be analysed and improved, and especially fitting the particular needs of the different communities that one finds within the city or across cities.


José Luis Rubiés: Is there a risk of an illustrated despotism from the one that manages all these data? Who is the curator of the big data coming from smart cities? Ricard Faura: yes, this is a huge risk. Oriol Torruella: we are just at the dawn of smart cities and, as usually Humanity has done in the past, we work on a trial and error basis: we implement things, realize the risks, try to correct them, and on and on. Little by little we will learn to design better, to avoid risks before we implement, etc.

Q: can we extrapolate initiatives from one place to the other so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel? Marta Continente: yes and no. Yes, one can adapt what worked elsewhere. But the important thing is that ICTs, or whatever initiative on smart cities, are just a toolbox. And, as such, its application or usage will strongly depend on the realities found in each specific city.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. Since november 2013 I am on a partial leave to join Open Evidence as a senior researcher and analyst. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.