BOOK CHAPTER. The differential impact of crisis in the Information Society

The crisis of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is having an unequal impact on people, thus worsening the also unequal impact of globalization and the transition into the Information Society.

It is not only that wealthier and healthier people have more resources to face the crisis, but also that the way society is being reshaped (new relationships of production, experience and power) is also making more evident where we are facing as a society and what is becoming more obsolete. And the coronavirus crisis is especially hitting hard those tasks and institutions becoming obsolete.

But not only.

While two worlds overlap —the aging Industrial Era and the upcoming Information Era— there are also several views overlapping, and casting shadows that distort reality. There are some production sectors that are seen as obsolete by those in the Information Era, but that is becase positive externalities of their functions are not being taken into account.

This reflection has just been published as a book chapter, where I describe the uneven impact of the COVID-19, and why some social functions are really obsolete, but why some others should be revalued so that they do not disappear —and, on the contrary, should be treated with care.

The full book is called Comunicación política en tiempos de crisis (Political communication in times of crisis), coordinated by Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí and Carles Pont Sorribes, to whom I am really thankful for putting together the book in such short time and by quickly inviting me to part of it.

My book chapter is entitled El impacto diferencial de las crisis en la Sociedad del Conocimiento (The differential impact of crisis in the Information Society) and can be downloaded below. All texts are in Spanish.

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Full chapter:
Peña-López, I. (2020). “El impacto diferencial de las crisis en la Sociedad del Conocimiento”. In Gutiérrez-Rubí, A. & Pont Sorribes, C. (Coords.), Comunicación política en tiempos de coronavirus, Capítulo 25, 142-147. Barcelona: Cátedra Ideograma–UPF de Comunicación Política y Democracia.
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Full book:
Gutiérrez-Rubí, A. & Pont Sorribes, C. (Coords.) (2020) Comunicación política en tiempos de coronavirus. Barcelona: Cátedra Ideograma–UPF de Comunicación Política y Democracia.

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Draft Opinion. Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens

Cover of the draft opinion "Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens"
Draft Opinion “Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens”

On 9 December 2019, the Catalan Government presented a working document at the 26th CIVEX commission meeting of the European Committee of the Regions.

The aim of the working document was to spark a debate for an upcoming Opinion on the “Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens”. The working document had the following scheme:

  1. Bridging the gap between what leaders see vs. what citizens see
  2. Lack of identification of EU issues with daily-life issues
  3. An ecosystem of infrastructures of participation
  4. Engaged citizens in a technopolitical paradigm
  5. Transforming the administration(s)

Now, a draft for that opinion has just been published for its discussion during the 2nd CIVEX commission meeting. As it happened with the working document, my colleague Mireia Borrell, Secretary for External Action and the European Union of the Government of Catalonia, acts as a rapporteur, while I am appointed as an expert to draft the opinion.

A preliminary abstract of that opinion is as follow:

  • Proposes the setting-up of a Network of Open Participatory Governments, made up by regions and cities, with the purpose to translate upwards and downwards diagnoses, perceptions and proposals on European issues and decision-making;
  • Proposes that the Committee of the Regions designs, implements and coordinates such a network in collaboration with all other European institutions;
  • Expects that the Network of Open Participatory Governments can succeed in granularizing European policies and principles and breaking them into smaller, more understandable bits, thus contributing to bring them closer to the citizen, so that they can better draw the line that weaves macro-, meso- and micro-levels of policies;
  • Suggests that the Network of Open Participatory Governments is piloted during the Conference on the Future of Europe to enlarge, extend, intensify and enhance the dialogue between European institutions and citizens through local and regional authorities, contributing to translate upwards and downwards the deliberations taking place at different levels;
  • Wants to raise awareness on the fact that more and more citizens are moving towards a new paradigm of political engagement – technopolitics – which is characterized by horizontal relationships, distributed power and networks of collaboration, enabled and enhanced by digital technologies and open data, taking place in informal spaces and out of institutional circuits;
  • Believes that there are new ways of listening to citizens, new ways of enabling citizens to engage and participate in policy-making, and that a new ecosystem to coordinate the proposals of citizens and the responses of a multi-level administration undoubtedly require a thorough transformation of the culture of administration(s).

Our proposal of the functioning of the Network of Open Participatory Governments is summarized in the following figure:

The full text that will be discussed in the next CIVEX commission can be downloaded below:

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Working document:
Peña-López, I. (2020). Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens. Draft Opinion. Brussels: European Committee of the Regions.

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Opinion Factsheet. Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens

Cover of the opinion factsheet "Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens"
Opinion Factsheet “Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens”

The European Union is entering a sort of constitutional process. The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a two-year time span devoted to reflect what the EU should be like in many issues, and aiming at institutionalizing this reflection in the form of formal agreements, maybe a new treaty, maybe even a/the constitution.

There is —amongst many others— a big fear driving the conference: the huge disconnection between European institutions and citizens’ daily lives, that increasingly leads citizens to take shortcuts in the forms of populism. A populism that increasingly turns to be sheer fascism. This fear, though, can be turned into an opportunity to engage citizens more and better in public decision-making at the European level. This is the take of the European Committee of the Regions, that believes that European institutions may reconnect with their citizens by reestablishing the transmission chain between them by means of municipalities and regional governments.

This summer, the European Committee of the Regions commissioned my colleague Mireia Borrell, Secretary for External Action and the European Union of the Government of Catalonia, to be the rapporteur of an upcoming opinion on Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens. I was appointed to support her as the technical “expert” to draft the opinion.

On 9 December 2019 we presented a working document/factsheet at the 26th CIVEX commission meeting.

The document is structured as a set of strategic questions that can lead a debate on the problems causing the disconnect between political institutions and citizens, and how a structural ecosystem of citizen participation could bridge this growing chasm between representatives and people. Questions — and tentative proposals for each sub-set of questions — are grouped in the following topics:

  1. Bridging the gap between what leaders see vs. what citizens see
  2. Lack of identification of EU issues with daily-life issues
  3. An ecosystem of infrastructures of participation
  4. Engaged citizens in a technopolitical paradigm
  5. Transforming the administration(s)

The document is publicly available and can be downloaded below. First, in its original language (English), then in the different official languages of the European Committee of the Regions.

Full text downloads:

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Working document:
Peña-López, I. (2019). Local and Regional Authorities in the permanent dialogue with citizens. Working Document. Brussels: European Committee of the Regions.

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Article. Open government in new digital states: which libraries for which citizens?

Open government data in new digital states: which libraries for which citizens?

I just published a short article on the future of libraries.

As the Information Society advances, the need of a dire transformation in what libraries do and their mission —among may other institutions— is becoming more and more urgent. My point in the article is that libraries need to transform themselves to help other institutions in their own transformation. Governments, Administrations and, all in all, all democratic institutions need to rethink themselves almost from scratch. And they will not be able to do it unless they find an active citizenry also rethinking its role as full citizens.

My line of thought, thus, in the article is how libraries can help citizens to become more active and empowered and, at their turn, these active citizens can help democratic institutions to become central in society again.

The article has been published as Open government in new digital states: which libraries for which citizens? in the journal BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació.

Below the article can be downloaded in three languages: English, Catalan (as in the original manuscript) and Spanish.

Full text downloads:

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English:
Open government in new digital states: which libraries for which citizens?” (2019). In BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, 43. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
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Català:
El govern obert als nous estats digitals. Quines biblioteques per a quina ciutadania?” (2019). A BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, 43. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
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Castellano:
El gobierno abierto en los nuevos estados digitales. ¿Qué bibliotecas para qué ciudadanía?” (2019). En BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, 43. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

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Article. Impact of information and communication technologies in agroecological cooperativism in Catalonia

Article cover of Impact of information and communication technologies in agroecological cooperativism in Catalonia

Impact of information and communication technologies in agroecological cooperativism in Catalonia

In June 2016 four friends gathered around a table. Ricard was working on his PhD thesis, which I supervised, and summoned the help of a data expert, Toni, and someone knowledgeable on analysing networks of people, Oriol — later on Núria Vega would join the team to improve the whole project and, specifically, bring brains and muscle to the field work.

At that time we believed that ICTs were having an impact on agriculture and people working in agroecology and cooperatives. But we suspected that there was something else. In Catalonia, cooperatives were changing the shape of the agriculture sector in the XIX century. After a long hiatus during the Spanish dictatorship (1939-1978), the agriculture cooperative sector (with quite republican ideas attached) kept on being dormant… until the breakout of the World Wide Web in the mid 1990s.

That was more than a coincidence to us, so we decided to analyze it — it was Ricard’s idea: the rest just followed. But soon we saw that there seemed to be much more than just a rebirth of cooperatives: what was being deployed before our eyes was something new. Beyond using ICTs to improve management and/or make sustainable non-mainstream models that can barely compete with the big behemoths of the food industry, what we saw whas that ICTs seem to be configuring a brand new ecosystem of food production and consumption, including new ways to understand food as a public infrastructure.

Almost three years after comes this article of us, with these reflections formerly put and rigorously analyzed. The result is Impact of information and communication technologies in agroecological cooperativism in Catalonia, just published at Agricultural Economics (AGRICECON).

While we waited for the paper to be published, Oriol left us forever. As we stated in the paper, Oriol, it was fun working with you while you were among us. Now you are gone, but the good work remains. So long, friend. Ricard, Ismael, Núria and Toni.

Article abstract and download

In Catalonia, agroecological cooperativism is part of a set of alternatives that appeared as a response to the current hegemonic food consumption model, controlled by large commercial establishments. It is defined by its promotion of short food supply chains (SFSCs), operates under the values of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and holds a strong political commitment. This article, on the one hand, studies the setup of agroecological cooperativism understood as the outcome of a network of producers, intermediaries and consumers and, on the other hand, examines the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the development of this consumption model. The data has been obtained through on-site interviews and online research on the 56 consumer groups and cooperatives present in Barcelona. Descriptive statistics and correlation analysis have been used to study them. The results prove the salient role that ICT has as a facilitator in the relational network established between the agents that take part in it, thus becoming a key characteristic element of the new agroecological consumer cooperativism.

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Full article:
Espelt Rodrigo, R., Peña-López, I., Miralbell Izard, O., Martín, T. & Vega Rodríguez, N. (2019). “Impact of information and communication technologies in agroecological cooperativism in Catalonia”. In Agricultural Economics, 65 (2), 59-66. Praga: Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

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Article. Digital platforms: consumption groups and cooperatives vs. The Food Assembly in the case of Barcelona

Article cover of "Consumption groups and cooperatives in Barcelona"
Consumption groups and cooperatives in Barcelona (article)

Ricard Espelt, Núria Vega and I have just published an article at on consumption cooperatives: Plataformas digitales: grupos y cooperativas de consumo versus La Colmena que dice sí, el caso de Barcelona (Digital platforms: consumption groups and cooperatives vs. The Food Assembly in the case of Barcelona).

The article compares the emergence of agroconsumption groups and cooperatives in Barcelona since the mid 1990s with the most recent appearance of (presumably) platform cooperativism-based initiatives such as The Food Assembly.

The main conclusions are that while agroconsumption groups and cooperatives are deeply rooted in the social and solidarity economy, and most of the times in the sharing economy, some platform-based initiatives not only do not share this principles but, as it is the case of The Food Assembly, they do not even match in what we understand by platform cooperativism.

The article is in Spanish. An abstract in English follows and then the link for downloading the full paper.

Abstract

The cooperative tradition around the consumption of agro-food products has a strong historical background in the city of Barcelona. Even if we refer to the first modern consumer cooperatives, we realize that their task has twenty-five years of permanence (Espelt et al, 2015). More recently —in July 2014— appears in the city another initiative of consumption to facilitate direct sales between local producers and communities of consumers, called food assemblies. Although the origins and differences between models are evident, they both share some common aspects in their approaches —willingness to self-manage, disintermediation of production and building a community—, articulated as part of the so-called “Collaborative Economy”. For their part, both types of initiatives, although with a very different approach, have in technology an important backbone for their activity. In this article, we analyze the points of encounter and discrepancy between the two actors as a model, placing the research framework in the city of Barcelona, where —in March 2017— we located some sixty groups and consumer cooperatives (Espelt et al., 2015) And thirteen food assemblies, six in operation and seven under construction. Emphasizing as differential factors, economic, technical, legal aspects, type of governance, values associated with the model or linked to the relationship between people, producers, final product or space.

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Article:
Espelt, R., Peña-López, I. & Vega Rodríguez, N. (2017). “Plataformas digitales: grupos y cooperativas de consumo versus La Colmena que dice sí, el caso de Barcelona”. In Redes.com, 15, 145-174. Revista de estudios para el desarrollo social de la comunicación. Sevilla: NMI/Compolíticas.

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