Networked democracy and new institutionality. New models for the XXIst century democracy

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: Networked democracy and new institutionality. New models for the XXIst century democracy
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López (ICTlogy)

Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí

Transforming institutions is compatible with occupying them, with questioning them, with trying to design new institutions. A key factor, though, of transformation or substitution of institutions is that major consensus and critical masses are required for changes to happen. There is a need to weave strong and broad alliances to question the status quo: it is a matter of democratic density.

There are many grounds that need being covered before citizen activism can take place. New laws on transparency or accountability are great milestones that enable further political activism. On the other hand, many of these laws are being designed as isolated laws and not as a part of a legal ecosystem.

Some times it’s institutions the ones that make the first steps (e.g. the Basque Government and the budget for 2012). These initiatives are good places that the citizenry can use to build bridges between institutions and social movements.

But while some institutions are trying to be more open, transparent, participative, this does not happen within political parties, whose DNA is just the opposite of the DNA of the movement of the XXIst century: centralized, vertical, often undemocratic and non-participative. We need to deeply transform political parties to their roots.

Top priorities: democratization of internal processes and creation of a culture of ideas (and not of mottos).

Social movements need less self-complaceny and dispersion: it is not about getting there first (and alone), but about getting there all together.

Francisco Jurado (Demo4punto0)

[click here to enlarge]

Democracia 4.0 aims at more participation, at understanding participation not as a problem but as a value, as an opportunity. A participation that can be either direct or representative depending on the personal will of the citizen.

A first foundation of Democracia 4.0 is that its technology must guarantee all democratic rights (privacy, security, etc.) and be, at the same time, as transparent as possible. Transparency is also about the workings of the tool, which has to be easy to use so that participation can take place without barriers.

The different powers are not balanced — there is no ‘check and balance’ — and the way to fix this is to distribute power: enabling better ways of watching power, of transparency, of accountability. Distribution of power also breaks with “politics in blocks”, where voting usually is not about specific issues but about sets of issues which cannot be voted individually.

Representative democracy, through intermediation, creates big hubs of power: Internet is a huge disintermediation machine that can end up breaking those big hubs while democratic efficiency and efficacy may not suffer at all. On the other hand, this lack of big powers would also enable vetoing specific laws that are unpopular or plain awful.

We can demonstrate that our political system is not compact and coherent (in Kurt Gödel’s words).

In the Internet matters not what (or who) but how (and where). Though focussing on the how the what gets revaluated.

Vasilis Kostakis
The governance of communities based in the commons: laying the foundations of an open source democracy?

[click here to enlarge]

The social web has change the way we can communicate and create content. A good side-effect of social media is that participation many times just happens, unconsciously, on the run. This creates several different profiles according to how people approach creation of content: the amateur, the professional, the final user, the white hat and black hat hacker, etc. In this scenario, the amateur plays a key role and constitutes a new “class” as they become the new controllers of the means of production. New economies are created: sharing and aggregation economies, crowdsourcing economies, commons-based economies… What are the consequences of the emergence of these new economies? Is that a good or a bad thing?

Commons-based economies have ways of organization that are different from traditional for-profits, as they foster social dynamics that play a very important role producing value for the public domain. This value is created through peer-production.

If peer-production can create value in the field of information and knowledge, peer-governance can do the same in the field of politics. Unlike centralized power, on peer-production authority is the currency and ‘benevolent dictators’ have arisen to their positions by contributing with their work.

Abundance of intellect + resources + tools = unpredictable outcome. This is a difficult to handle outcome, by the way.

Cooperation + abundance + desktop manufacturing: another way of “manufacturing” an open source democracy.

Discussion

Alberto Lumbreras: how can we enable that representatives can be an option in parallel with direct democracy? How can we avoid that someone votes everything while others do not even notice? Francisco Jurado: the idea is not to create an total substitute, but an alternative to a one and only way to do things. The problem is not the system’s, but how we communicate and deliberate about issues.

Alberto Lumbreras: how can we avoid a commons-based economy from being stopped? Vasilis Kostakis: Commons-based economics is an alternative, but based on capitalism. Thus, it is much constrained by its legal framework. The idea is to go beyond this framework by entering the new mindset taht a digital economy is not based on scarcity or transaction costs.

Joan Coscubiela: it should be possible to “use” the insiders of the system to change it from within, but fostering change from the outside. Joan Coscubiela disagrees that unions are as centralized and hierarchical as political parties, but that the problem of unions is that they were created in the industrial society, vertical, corporate, not horizontal and networked. For unions the problem is creating critical mass around common axes. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: it is interesting to see representative democracy as an “administered sovereignty”. In an industrial society, parties and unions worked very well; but what happens in a digital society? How are parties and unions administering our sovereignties? Do political parties and governments really understand the people they are serving?

Ismael Peña-López: in a direct democracy, in a binary world, how do we take into account minorities that will never be able to be represented by a majority? Francisco Jurado: we can design participatory processes that take into account weightings for different opinions, so that the outcome is not a yes or a no, but a shade of grays. Arnau Monterde: indeed, it is not only about voting, but if the whole deliberative process is open and participatory, all these shades of gray can be taken into account in the final outcome. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: agreed, but it is very difficult to carry on a complex debate without polarization and simplification, without echo chambers that do nothing but resonate.

Q: these improvements are ok for parliaments, but what happens with governments? Francisco Jurado: if the government is loyal to the parliament, then there is no problem. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: regarding governments, new ways of democracy can play a major role in accountability.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

Course: Network Society: Social changes, organizations and citizens – Definitive programme

A couple of months ago we already announced the course Network Society: Social changes, organizations and citizens.

Finally, we have been able to set up the definitive programme for the course and all the details concerning its organization. The making of both the programme and the sponsorships has been quite an issue, but we believe that we, at last, succeeded in creating a valuable proposal for all those interested in the analysis of the changes that our society faces and the role of technology and culture in the whole set.

There are circa 200 people attending the course and we hope it will become an opportunity to create (and shift towards the Net) an open and critical conversation about the so-called “network society”. Registration closes on Monday October 6th.

The sessions will take place at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), c/ Montalegre 5. We’ve uploaded a wiki (multilingual) where the attendees can introduce themselves, share information and coordinate things like accommodation (the organization has not any agreement with any hotel) transportation or possible parallel activities that anyone might be willing to promote.

The programme is, hence, as follows:

NETWORK SOCIETY:
SOCIAL CHANGES, ORGANIZATIONS AND CITIZENS


Day 1 – Wednesday 15 October

Introduction
09h00 – 09h30 : Opening
09h30 – 10h30 : Juan Freire – Presentation of the course

State of development of the Network Society
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López
11h00 – 12h30 : Irene Mia

Organizations in the Network Society
Chairs: Genís Roca
12h30 – 14h00 : Enrique Dans
16h00 – 17h00 : Santiago Ortiz

Citizenship in the Network Society (I)
Chairs: Marc López
17h30 – 19h00 : Carol Darr


Day 2 – Thursday 16 October

09h00 – 09h30 : Juan Freire – Presentation of the day

Citizenship in the Network Society (II)
Chairs: Marc López
09h30 – 11h00 : Tom Steinberg

Communication in the Network Society
Chairs: Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí
11h30 – 13h30 : Diálogo Josu Jon Imaz y Miquel Iceta
16h00 – 17h30 : Andrew Rasiej
17h30 – 19h00 : Gumersindo Lafuente


Day 3 – Viernes 17 October

Innovation in the Network Society
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López
09h00 – 10h30 : Carlos Domingo
10h30 – 12h00 : Ethan Zuckerman

Closing
Chairs: Juan Freire
12h30 – 14h30 : Round Table
14h30 – 15h00 : Closing

Some more info about the course:

Announcement. Course: Network Society: Social changes, organizations and citizens

I’m pleased to announce an event of which I’m part of the organizing committee, the course Network Society: Social changes, organizations and citizens, to take place in Barcelona, Spain, from 15 to 17 October de 2008.

Some info about the course:

PROGRAMME: NETWORK SOCIETY: SOCIAL CHANGES, ORGANIZATIONS AND CITIZENS


Day 1 – Wednesday 15 October

Introduction
09h00 – 09h30 : Opening
09h30 – 10h30 : Juan Freire – Presentation of the course
10h30 – 11h00 : Café

Citizenship in the Network Society
Chairs: Marc López
11h00 – 12h30 : Carol Darr
12h30 – 14h00 : Tom Steinberg
14h00 – 16h00 : Lunch

Organizations in the Network Society
Chairs: Genís Roca
16h00 – 17h30 : Miguel Cereceda
17h30 – 19h00 : David Weinberger


Day 2 – Thursday 16 October

09h00 – 09h30 : Juan Freire – Presentation of the day

Communication in the Network Society
Chairs: Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí
09h30 – 11h00 : Andrew Rasiej
11h00 – 11h30 : Café
11h30 – 13h30 : Diálogo Josu Jon Imaz & Miquel Iceta
13h30 – 16h00 : Lunch
16h00 – 17h30 : Enrique Dans
17h30 – 19h00 : Gumersindo Lafuente


Day 3 – Viernes 17 October

Innovation in the Network Society
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López
09h00 – 10h30 : Carlos Domingo
10h30 – 12h00 : Ethan Zuckerman
12h00 – 12h30 : Coffee break

Closing
12h30 – 14h30 : Round Table: Freire, Darr, Steinberg, Weinberger, Lafuente, Domingo, Zuckerman, Dans
14h30 – 15h00 : Closing

iCities (V). Round Table: Connected Citizens. Cyberactivism.

iCities is a Conference about Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation.
Here come my notes for session V.

Round Table: Connected Citizens. Cyberactivism.
Chairs: Rosa Jiménez Cano

Alana Moceri, president Democrats Abroad Spain

First time that primary elections can be done on-line. This means increasing the number of countries where voting is possible from 34 up to 161.

Online, everyone can contribute: absolutely everyone can upload videos to YouTube, photos to Flickr or text to any blog. Pro: democratization. Con: loss of control over your campaing.

Fundrising is key and is a good proxy to test the health of a political campaign.

Obama’s discourse is really 2.0: you can, empowerment, engagement. MyBarackObama.com is a good example of it, where you can even earn points as a reward for your implication and helping recruit other people. This really builds up a formidable base of activists.

Marshall Ganz: It’s values, not only interests, what drives people to take part in civic movements.

Sebastián Lorenzo

Fundación Generación Libre: how voters connect to social networks in Argentina. Not centralized, not decentralized, not distributed, but complex networks. They best way to boost complex networks is to build software that enhances the connection between peripheral nodes to the central ones (leaders).

Cyberactivism: activities to help bridge the digital world with the off-line world, with impact in the “real” world.
Cybermilitant: someone commited in the long-run with “someting beyond” cyberactivism. We’ve yet to find out what this really means.

Noticias LA: a distributed network of volunteers, living in all coutries of Latin America and Spain, selecting local news and feeding them to the site, acting as a news agency 2.0.

César Calderón

Social mediators are no more the protagonists in the Administration-Citizenry interaction: it’s the citizen the one that has to lead the approach towards their Government.

We are used to long run political campaigns, this is why, how and what for political parties were created for. But now people gather around more ephemeral and ad hoc actions. And, indeed, the top-down way of designing engagement has given place to a more bottom-up way of participating. Horizontal replaces vertical.

Antoni Gutierrez-Rubi

Goals of activism: have to be possible to reach and well planned. Assessment is a must and often overridden because of the speed of times and lack of time to reflect.

Proposals: agitation is good, but also reflection. A choral voice (i.e. making the same proposal from different places and points of view, but the same one) might be desirable now and then. Continuity and orientation of the discourse would help in the long-run engagement of our target.

Arguments: less opinion, more arguments. Ideas are good as long as they are “well packed” and backed with arguments.

Leadership: hyperleadership is good to avoid fragmentation, but has to leave room for shared leadership. Of course, leadership to achieve changes and goals. The ROI on leadership has to be positive and as big as possible. What matters is not getting there alone and early, but with everyone and on time (León Felipe).

Activists: they have to feel comfortable working without parties and organizations. But linked to the causes by following some basic rules. ARTivists: someone to be taken into account to help in the “packaging” of our ideas and arguments.

Plurality: are we in a networked world without boundaries… or sheltered in our trenches? Open minds.

Influences: credible, proximate, creating opinion. We have to impact “reality 1.0”, not think from and for the minority.

iCities 2008, Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation (2008)