It is difficult to put out a definition of the network party. Maybe — or mainly — because it is much a theoretical construct that does not exist purely in the real world. Any kind of human organization can be characterized, but it will rarely fit the theoretical model: the world is a world of grays.
New politics, technopolitics and political parties
The Spanish 15M Indignados Movement — and everything that came before it — brought new ways of organization which, later on, some of them, entered the political institutions. 2015 saw witnessed three important elections in Spain — municipalities, the Catalan Parliament, and the Spanish Parliament — to which some new and not-so-new parties concurred. A recurrent debate between new and traditional parties was whether these parties, respectively, were doing “new politics” or “old politics”.
One way to define “new politics” was that “new parties” were putting in the political agenda the quality of democracy, sometimes labelled as the “regeneration axe” (in addition to the social or right-left ideological axe). Little to be mentioned here. I personally believe that defending this new axe is a necessary but not sufficient condition or characteristic of new politics.
Another way to define “new politics” was that some political parties were assembly-based. That is, decisions are made at the grassroots level, in the party’s general assembly, and the representatives of the part translate them in the institutions.
In my opinion, this is not only not new politics, but totally misleading to what technopolitics is bringing to the political arena.
First of all, while unheard in most Western democracies, assemblies are anything but new. To say the least, they date from the late XIXth century. This is neither bad nor good: it is just not new.
Second, assemblies might by a part of new politics — or, better put, network parties — but the tool does not make the thing. Following, we will try to describe how three different organizations work: hierarchical parties, assembly-based parties and (despite the difficulty to come up with a proper definition) what a theoretical approach to network parties would look like. Please bear in mind what was said above: theoretical models of organizations do not aim at describing how specific organizations should be or work like, but to understand why the are or work the way they do. In a world full of greys.
Let us propose a very simplified model where only three things occur: electing representatives, making decisions and executing them.
In a hierarchical party, most things happen in the upper layer of the organization: the lower layer elects their representatives (a secretary general, a secretariat, an executive committee, etc.) and, most of the times, remains outside of the general dynamics of the party.
The elected representatives, though, make all decisions and directly or indirectly execute them. Most of the times too — sad as it may sound — these elected representatives do not even inform the members and sympathisers of the party of the decisions made, and of course very rarely consult them on any issues at all.
At the end of the political cycle, the representatives are accountable for their successes and failures and can be replaced depending on their performance — usually measured in votes or seats, and not in the programme they put out and the actions they took (tough, of course, both of them had an impact that translated in votes, seats, laws passed, etc.).
Assembly-based parties work almost opposite than hierarchical parties: the assembly meets, deliberates and makes a decision. Then, once the decision is made, the assembly elects some people that will carry on with the decision and put it into practice.
Oftentimes, these parties have to engage in conversations with other parties, translate the decision into an institution, or simply speak to the media. It is then usual that the same elected representatives emerging from the assembly also play the role of representing the assembly before third parties.
Note how the pair electing-deciding is inverted: if hierarchies elected people to decide what to do it and do it, assemblies decide what to do and elect the ones that will do it.
As we have already said, things in the real world are much more messy and much less clean. But, in simple lines, this is more or less how it theoretically works.
Network parties also invert a pair of steps, but it is not electing of deciding, but executing: in network parties, executing comes first. How is that possible?
Levy, Himanen, Raymond or Benkler, among others, have explained with details the logics of free software and how they can be translated into other knowledge intensive projects. Like, for instance, politics.
In a gift economy, powered by meritocracy and led by do-ocracy people just can set the snowball rolling. If it catches, people will join and the idea, the project, will grow and become important. Otherwise, the idea will be tacitly abandoned and people will move onto other ideas and projects to join and contribute to.
In (pure) technopolitics, network parties emerge from people making decisions first and then executing them. If the projects grow and communities form, then comes the need for some coordination, for some “benevolent dictator” that may coordinate the efforts, make some punctual decisions. These coordinating person or body is elected by the participants on the projet, either tactitly — based on her own merit — or explicitly, if there is a need to.
Sometimes the coordinating body will, as it happened with the assembly-based organizations, play the role of representing the collective. But sometimes it will not, as the collective will also have a collective identity and thus will represent itself without the need of intermediation from a specific body.
Following we can see the three (simplified) models for better comparison. It is worth noting how both assembly-based parties and network (or technopolitics-based) parties invert the relationships of power, bringing the decision-making to the bottom — and unlike traditional or hierarchical parties, which have decision-making at the top. But a crucial difference between assembly-based parties and network parties is where execution happens: in network parties, not only decision-making but also execution is distributed and takes place at the bottom. And this is what makes politics new: not only where decision-making takes place, but also where execution does.
As it has been said, these are “elements rarely found as pure substances”, that is, theoretical (and very much simplified) models whose aim is neither saying how things should work, or how all parties can be distinctively and exhaustively categorized. On the contrary, we may find parties whose inner structure follows a different model depending on the stage, the level at which is is analysed, or even the time or specific task being developed. Thus, it is unlikely to find a party or an organization that perfectly fits the theoretical model, as it is likely to find many parties and organizations that embed in their organizational and operational design several bits of these models. Depending on which one prevails, or leads the culture of the organization, we will be able to generically label them one way or the other.
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
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.
Smart city, smart policing Prof. Dr. Dr. Juan José Medina Ariza. Professor of Criminology (University of Manchester)
Security has traditionally been based on a top-down visions, a centralized control room.
Many municipalities have sort of “dashboards” that map the city crime, security issues, socio-economic indicators, etc.
These dashboards aim at locating clusters where more crime takes place, identifying the determinants or correlating factors of that crime, etc. After this clustering and correlations, one can create tools that can try to predict crime, based on trends and simulations. And once crime is “predicted”, then comes “predicted policing”, that aims at stopping crime just before it takes place, going to the place where crime is most likely to happen.
Problems when opening data: What happens when we open the data? How legitimate is its collection? How fair is its analysis?
The risks of Campbell’s law: the more one uses an indicator for decision-making purposes, the less it is useful for decision-making purposes, as it use imprints a bias into the indicator itself.
We know too that in some cases, there are biases in citizens reporting crime: many of them will not be eager to report crime, because this will diminish the value of their real state, because of own security reasons, etc.
What’s next? From predicting hotspots to individual predictions. A growing awareness about the problems with algorithms. Going back to measuring what matters. Privatised criminal justice is not science fiction any longer.
On the other hand, we will maybe see a rise in transparency in what relates to police practices, like stop and search.
Physical and Online Privacy: fundamental challenges for level frameworks to remain relevant. Prof. Dr. E.J. Koops. Professor of Regulation & Technology (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society)
Is it legal, or should it be allowed to:
Scan homes with termal equipped drones in search of hemp domestic plantations?
Take a snapshot of a stranger, google them, recognize their faces, peek at their social networking profiles and start a conversation with them on their preferences?
Track people inside shops with wifi-tracking, analyze their movements in the shop and thus place advertising on the counter?
Conceptual history of locating privacy:
The body (habeas corpus): physical privacy.
The home: physical privacy + private space.
The letter: physical privacy + closed ‘space’ between homes.
The telephone: ‘closed’ ‘space’ between homes.
Mobile phone: ‘closed’ ‘space’.
The computer: protecting data, not spaces.
The cloud: loss of location.
The home evaporates. There is a lot of information that now one can access without entering a home. And, usually, looking inside without entry is allowed. Same happens now with technology and digital data. The public space is increasingly becoming privacy-sensible: increased traceability, increased identifiability (face recognition, augmented reality)…
And with the trend to improve body functions through implants and prosthesis, the body itself sort of becomes a “public space” as its data (including brain stimuli) can be exported out of the body.
It is increasingly difficult to draw the technical distinction between traffic data and content of communications, particularly on an Internet context. The distinction, indeed, is becoming less relevant, as traffic data are also increasingly privacy-sensitive (location, profiling).
Data protection law cannot give individuals control over their data.
Too much confidence in the controller/regulator: the law is becoming too complex.
Regulating everything in one statutory law: impossibility for comprehensiveness.
DCCPP = PRIVACY BY DESIGN Direct Current Communications & Privacy Protocol (DCCPP) proposed for a privacy protective DC Smart Grid E.M. Wesselingh, P. van Willigenburg, H. Stokman
A new system to manage appliances where privacy is built in by design.
This is a two layer DC smart-grid. The first layer is the home environment with many appliances that use DC electrical energy such as laptops and tablets, smartphones, TVs, LED lights. The second part of the proposed design covers the street-side of the electrical distribution grid. Separating these grids, a higher degree of safety and privacy is enabled.
De-mediation processes and their impact on legal ordering –Lessons l. earned from Uber conflict Mariona Rosell-Llorens
Some norms regarding ICTs have proven to be ineffective (e.g. intellectual property rights), though some efficacy depends on acceptance. What makes a city smart is to profit from its community’s input. Seems like the grounds of law are disconnected fro current practices. The theory of the legal system is not receptive enough. Better laws need better legal theory.
De-mediation processes and Uber: de-mediation is related with autonomy. ICTs and appservices provide individuals a capacity ofr acting without interference of traditional intermediaries. Autonomy understood in the sense of empowerment, user participation, community building.
But then participants experience law. What happens when participants by-pass the formally enacted law? How participants experience legality thanks to ICTs?
We maybe need a better informed legal theory, based on social grounds. It is not a matter of legitimacy, but a better informed norm. We need more reasonable and sensible laws, “new” conceptual tools.
Barrio Digital [digital neighbourhood]: the way towards the digital city Manuel Dávila Sguerra
The idea of the project was the creation of a smart city within the Minuto de Dios neighbourhood in Engativá (Bogotá). 1,200 students geolocated data from the neighbourhood. This enabled a next step consisting in adding the “social layer” to the map.
1,075 shoppers where characterized. The shoppers were trained by the students so that they learnt how to use certain devices and access to information.
Augmented reality was used to put services on the map, including cultural venues, so that the citizen could know what was around him, just by using their smartphone on the street.
Courses on digital literacy, especially for disabled people.
Bottom-up vision: the smartest cities are the ones that embrace openness, randomness and serendipity.
Ismael Peña-López: how do we tell the difference between adapting the law to fair practices and legalizing unfair behaviours? Mariona Rosell-Llorens: while we should keep safe some important principles, it is also true that society is increasingly complex and, thus, the traditional way of approving a law — mostly with a dominant top-down approach — is outdated and should be complemented with a higher observation (even concurrence) of what happens on the street, a more bottom-up approach.
E-government and transparency Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo
And open and transparent government paradigm in middle Spanish municipalities: the case of Quart de Poblet Joaquín Martín Cubas, Laura Juan y Juan Medina Cobo
The open government initiative was about creating a dialogue, between the citizen, the Administration and the political representatives.
The issue of the digital divide has been addressed with a digital literacy programme. A programme that, beyond just literacy, it was aimed at social inclusion.
Open government is transparency, but not just transparency: it is a new organizational model.
Participation in the new open government initiative was inspired by Irekia, the open government platform of the Basque government.
Transparency for the sake of transparency? Or to achieve an open government? An opportunity for innovation in the governance of the university Gemma Geis Carreras, Annaïs Varo Barranco, Daniel Cantalosella Font
The application of the new Catalan Law on Transparency made the University of Girona decide that they would implement an open government initiative in the university.
The project includes not only knowledge diffusion and accountability, but also opening up platforms and channels for participation.
The new portal also features the electronic seat of the University of Girona, which includes electronic voting features.
Transparen cities, intelligent procurement. Analysis of the impact of ICTs in procurement transparency in municipalities Jordi Romeu Granados, Gregorio Juárez Rodríguez, Carmen Pineda Nebot
Theoretical framework: public procurement, transparency in public procurement, smart cities.
Analysis of different municipalities and their use of public procurement. 22 indicators that build the ITCA index, including the profile of the public contractor, the ITA 2014 from Transparency International and what applies by the Spanish Transparency Law 19/2013.
Findings say that more transparency in procurement highly correlates with transparency in general, an aim for innovation and work towards a smart city paradigm, etc.
Q: what is the cost of such initiatives? Juan Medina: It depends. On the one hand, some infrastructures are expensive. But, on the other hand, changing the way the Administration works and, most especially, changing the attitudes of the public representatives is almost costless. And the impact may be much higher than putting up costly projects without change of attitudes.
Jordi Romeu: there is a problem in measuring open government and it is that measuring usually ends at the output level, and almost never reaches the outcome level.
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.