DemocraticCity (II). New generation citizen movements’ campaigns in Spain

Notes from the Network democracy for a better city, organized by the D-CENT project, in Barcelona, Spain, on May 5th, 2015. More notes on this event: DemocraticCity.

New generation citizen movements’ campaigns in Spain
Chaired by Miguel Arana, Labodemo

Matias Nso,

Our relationship with governments has not changed much since ancient times. On the other hand, reality does change constantly and very fast: political programmes cannot last 4 years unaltered. is a social enterprise that aims at changing how we connect with our governments so that they can make decisions together: either the politician or the citizen can make a proposal in the platform and then they can be debated by anyone.

Miguel Ardanuy, Head of participation, Podemos

We have to avoid that participation is something about very active minorities, but about majorities taking part in anything they are interested in. And, indeed, not slightly opening small rooms for participation, but enabling wide open participation in any kind of project, initiative, issue, etc. that the citizen may think of.

We have to make possible that issues that a person is knowledgeable/comfortable with, that they can participate.

Different initiatives at Podemos:

  • Participation portal. a space where to register oneself, have one’s own profile, vote, collaborate economically, share house and car (for given events), accessing other tools, etc.
  • Podemos Square. Main tool for deliberation.
  • Citizen initiatives. direct democracy mechanisms whose aim is reaching critical thresholds of support.
  • Appgree. Polling tool.
  • Loomio. Tool to improve debates and enable the reaching of consensus in small groups.

Participative action teams are made up by volunteers, coordinated by a person that are at their turn coordinated as a network. Their goal is to foster debates and activities on the field, including bridging the digital divide, so that no-one is excluded from participation.

Miguel Aguilera, Podemos Aragón and Zaragoza en Común

Participation not only is organized spontaneously bin different spaces, but needs being channelled through democratic institutions.

There is a power-law in participation: a few will participate a lot, the majority will participate very little. How do we cope institutions with collaborative structures? Option 1: we take the ones that participate a lot, put them inside institutions (e.g. the party) and make them work. Option 2: coordinate all participations… but how to and be efficient and effective?

Ganemos Zaragoza put up a tool to collaboratively filter and prioritise proposals, letting people evaluate and vote proposals, provide feedback and in general comment and debate the issues at stake.

It is not easy how the approved proposals are included in the political programme and/or put into practice.

Another tool that was used was an installation of Reddit, again to quickly evaluate proposals. The tool requires a minimum support by the members (23 persons, 0.2% of the total census) to be taken into consideration by the board of the party.

It is not enough to launch a tool for participation: one has to monitor the evolution, to facilitate the inclusion and voting of proposals, etc.

Conditions for an effective self-organized participation process:

  • Scalability.
  • Transform participation into action.
  • Shared rules.

Javier Toret, Barcelona En Comú and D-CENT

A collaborative process to make up the party programme. The process went through different stages where citizens and partisans could make proposals, evaluate them, discuss them and vote them.

A side-goal of the process is not only achieving a consensus around a political project, but also to open up he process and try and make it mainstream, try to make of Barcelona a city that is a reference in participative democracy, where co-government is a reality, where bottom-up participation mechanisms are just normal.

We aim for an integrated participation system for a democratic city.

Pablo Soto, Ahora Madrid

The Spanish Indignados movement changed the whole landscape in Spain. There’s a call for radical democracy all over Spain in the latest years.

Now many people feel empowered by new ways and tools of participation, and they do participate.

There is a risk that some collectives feel more empowered than others and participate more than others. We have the responsibility to make of these processes something balanced, unbiased, effective in democratic purposes.

On the other hand, most of these initiatives are run by volunteers and with meagre resources. If some of these initiatives end up being implemented by a municipality, we should be aware that resources will then be available and most likely abundant: we have to fight the de-naturalization of the processes, and be clever to use with intelligence these resources.

Governments should not aim at representing people, but at enabling that citizens can decide by themselves.


Q: How to make participation inclusive? Matias Nso: training is key, not only for making an inclusive participation, but to avoid that the design of the participation process embeds biases that would then corrupt the final outcome.

Pablo Soto: the nearer to one’s own backyard the issue is, the more the need to participate and the more difficult to manage it. In any case, binding consultations will become more and more important.


Network democracy for a better city (2015)

Javier Toret. #OccupyHongKong: Network Movements arrive in Asia

Notes from the #OccupyHongKong: Network Movements arrive in Asia research seminar, organized by the Networks, Movements & Technopolitics research group programme of the IN3, in Barcelona, Spain, on November 24th, 2014.

Javier Toret
#OccupyHongKong: Network Movements arrive in Asia

The global financial crisis of 1997 can arguably be seen as one of the main precedents of Occupy Hong Kong. This added to the several attempts of China to regain hegemony in Hong Kong — like the 2003 Education Law — explain a good bunch of how citizens begin to organize themselves, most especially when they begin to mirror the Sunflower movement in Taiwan, with which they share many philosophical principles.

OccupyCentral with peace and love is a movement that aims at achieving universal suffrage for the citizens in Hong Kong and against what they criticise as Chinese imperialism.

The civil referendum of OccupyCentral with peace and love will be participated by 787,767 citizens, roughly the 20% of the population in Hong Kong. Certainly a milestone, but still a minority in Hongkongese terms. The response from the Chinese government is applying even more restrictions, thus heating the public agenda.

Scholarism, to fight back, proposes a one week strike against the new law and the occupation, during September 26 and 27 of a square and government building. This is an offensive that caught by surprise both the Government and OccupyCentral, which aimed at occupying the financial district much later — the students, instead, argue that action should not wait. On September 28th, the students take the central streets with their umbrellas as a political sign. On September 28th the resistance on the streets is already massive.

The protesters organize themselves as a network, with different actors, with public figures as visible faces but with many anonymous citizens working hard on the “back office”. This network experienced or continued with prior technopolitical actions, and in other cases induced innovation in this kind of practices. In general, there was a major appropriation of the commercial technologies at hand: Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Nevertheless, Twitter is not used a lot, especially in comparison to other movements such as the Spanish 15M. Instead, Facebook and online forums are much more mainstream. And, as in other movements, there is a blending of physical and virtual spaces, and of local and international spheres.

Knowing this, China redoubled its attacks on the cybersphere, putting down websites, forbidding online services, etc.

One of the main novelties is the usage of Firechat, an applications that enables local networks based on Bluetooth connectivity to create a mesh network. This made possible communications among protesters even when there was no Internet connectivity available. Notwithstanding, and despite a huge amount of downloads, its lack of privacy and protection against malware caused that is was not used by everyone or all the time.

Code4HK acted as a general aggregator, centralizing news, information, resources, lists of people or groups or tools/technology, etc, etc, etc. A huge repository that helped people to replicate DIY citizen actions.

Stand By You was a tool to connect the local with the remote, the physical and the virtual, by enabling sending messages of support and project them upon the façades of buildings.

As in other movements, there is a clear overlapping of “layers”: the physical one, the technical one, the emotional one, etc.

It seems that the OccupyHongKong movement is doing similar things as other movements (Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, etc.) but the movement does not see itself as connected to those other movements. In fact, this is partly a wanted decision, so to avoid criticism from China or even Honk Kong of the movement being fostered by the US or other foreign powers.

It’s a pro-democracy movement and universal suffrage is its main and specific demand.

Now OccupyCentral with Peace and Love has been participated by (traditional) political parties and university faculty, which has contributed to coordinate different actors, to establish bridges between institutions.

The active and pervasive presence of the digital media/press has undoubtedly contributed in better monitoring and describing the movement, much more than in other similar movements, and also to contribute that mainstream traditional media better understand what is going on the streets. The fact that there are public, recognizable spokesman of the movement has also contributed to a collective explaining and understanding of the movement.

The protests have a clear generational cut: most of the protesters teenagers and youngsters in general (college and higher education students). There’s faculty too, and some other actors, but it is mainly a student movement.


Tecnopolítica14 (III). Javier Toret, Antonio Ruiz & Sergio Salgado: limits and potentials of technopolitical practices

Notes from the Network democracy and technopolitics. Transformations of the electoral space and new prototypes post-15M, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3, and FCForum, in Barcelona, Spain, on November 4th, 2014. More notes on this event: tecnopolitica14.

Javier Toret (UOC/IN3)
Limits and potentials of technopolitical practices from the 15M to #OccupyCentral. New technopolitical experiments in the constituent phase 2013-2015.

From September 26th to 29th there’s the outrage of #OccupyHongKong in some similar ways as the Spanish 15M. More than 2,000 tents camp in big avenues. ‘Stand by you‘ enables people from all over the world to participate in the physical space. FireChat is an OpenGarden’s application that creates chat channels supported by a mesh network by using bluetooth, a sort of wifip2p network. Also drones were used to map the demonstration.

In the Indignados movement, social networking sites were appropriated by individuals, which can be understood as a multilayer model where each layer is a communication space. And how citizens, media and the power tries to control each layer, which is interconnected with the others. When energy accumulates in many layers, the energy is thrown to the streets and the mainstream layer has to report what is happening and include the topic in the mainstream agenda. This multilayer model has to be understood, too, at the international level.

Podemos also can be modelled with a multilayer approach, being their singularity that they especially did well in the mainstream media layer. And beyond the self-organized movement of the 15M, Podemos succeeds in putting up a political mobilization that ends up with a self-organized social mobilization, which feeds back the former, closing a virtuous circle. With Podemos, there is a tension between the distributed leaderships and the strong central leadership of Pablo Iglesias from Podemos.

Millions of people have used the Internet worldwide to go out to the streets to demonstrate.

Limits of technopolitics: making-decisions, synthesise. Podemos articulates, through Reddit and Appgree, spaces and platforms where to copse the feelings, ideas, etc. of the different participants, a space not only for information but for deliberation. Same with DemocracyOS in the case of Guanyem.

3 layers:

  • Movements pre and post 15M.
  • Networks of metropolitan counterpowers.
  • Territory and communication devices of Podemos.

Antonio Ruíz (AppGree)
Posibilidades y potencialidades de Appgree para un uso social y político

AppGree is an application to communicate and deliberate online.

The problem with the broadcasting model is that is does very poorly managing (or understanding) feedback.

DemoRank is the PageRank for the backchannel of the Internet: it tries to make sense of what is being said and by whom. It ranks the number and kind of proposals, the size of the group, etc. This ranking is iterated until an agreement or a solution is found. After a proposal is selected, it is made available to the whole group so that the whole group can evaluate it. After all, the result is that sampling the proposals and presenting them to the potential voters, one can achieve highest levels of precision without implying massive voting (massive as in many people and massive as in voting many many times). Thus, it really simplifies the steps to form one’s opinion and, over all, to make simple choices among complex issues.

Sergio Salgado (Partido X)
Experience in networked practices in the 15MpaRato and Partido X.

The network is a kind of organization that uses the Internet and other ICT tools to leverage its power, but also that learns a lot from the Internet and other similar practices. The core is how to put up democratic production practices while being effective and efficient.

The 15M is a factory that builds prototypes, devices to democratize politics.

What tools? Is there a fetishism on certain tools? Certainly: there is no tool to solve all organizational problems. There is a toolbox whose tools can be applied here and there, most of the times combined and put to the service of many other efforts. Usually, first comes the community, then the needs and, last, the community: rarely the other way round. And this community is always open: only openness provides the necessary requisites for a community to articulate, for contributions to be enabled. Networked democratic production (vs. industrial democracy) is based on netiquette, on certain protocols that people agree upon and use to articulate their interactions and exchanges.

It is important to always have in mind scalability: work for the short term, but thinking ahead. Setting up the protocols, processes, devices that will be used for a specific goal but with the aim to reuse them, to transform the status quo, to break the actual balances and thus disclose new spaces upon which to advance.

If information flows naturally, most decision-making processes become unnecessary.

Many times, voting is failure: there is someone that will be defeated. Thus, instead of voting it is better to fork the project, to allow for other projects to grow organically.


Sergio Salgado: what is the role of #OccupyCentral? Javier Toret: after October 15th, the camp that last longer was #OccupyCentral’s, but it quickly fade. Later, the name was recovered but its nature was actually very different.

Sergio Salgado: do people that participate in Appgree then do not participate in other platforms? Antonio Ruiz: as a backchannel, it does not compete with other communication channels, but as a complement: it is a channel that does not broadcast information, but collects the feedback and serves it to the users.

Q: did Partido X tried to control all breaches while Podemos went more like a beta-test way? Javier Toret: there is a tension between two kinds of hegemonies, one more decentralized, another one more centralized, but the productivity will come when this tension becomes a productive tension, a new way of doing things that takes the best of both worlds.

Pablo Aragón: what about opening up the code and the algorithm in Appgree? Antonio Ruiz: there is a commitment to do it if the collaboration with Podemos goes on.


Network democracy and technopolitics (2014)

Global Revolution (I). Sequence of gestation, explosion and contagion of the network movements cycle 2011-2013 (I)

Notes from the Three years of interconnected riots. Emergence, evolution and challenges of the network movements in the context of the #GlobalRevolution, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 23, 2013. More notes on this event: globalrev.

Guadalupe Martínez (Universidad de Granada. Expert in the Tunisian electoral process)
The Tamarod (rebellion) movement. Expression in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Iraq.

The Tamarod phenomenon takes place in a specific geographical area — the one that was part of the Arab Spring in 2011-2012 — but an area that is expanding — now towards Syria. But we have to take into account that not all Arabic countries are experiencing this movement, and not all countries are from the Arabic world (e.g. Turkey).

The Tamarod movement stands for rebellion and is liked with the Arab Spring, but it is not exactly its extension. It begins circa Spring 2013, a major visibility during Summer 2013 and a later phase of active action during Fall 2013. The name Tamarod is used in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine an Iraq. In Libya it takes the name of Rafd (rejection) and in Palestine as Qawen (resistance). The focus of reference is Egypt 30 June 2013 and it is an interconnected movement with the Net as a main node (especially Facebook and Twitter).

Common characteristics

There is a sociological mimesis: young, urban and educated citizens with experience in activism.

None of the movements questions the legitimacy of the governments, or how they did get to the government, but they do question how they use power once in office. This does not mean that there are no specific characteristics in each case/country: indeed, the focus of pressure is different as there is a defective illiberal democracy in Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya; a pluralist quasi-comptetitive authoritarianism in Morocco; or an restrictive hegemonic authoritarianism in Bahrain. And the distribution of power is also different: presidential republics (Egypt, maybe Palestine), parliamentarian republics (Tunisia, Iraq, Libya), absolutist monarchy (Bahrain), and constitutional (though authoritarian) monarchy (Morocco).

So, in general, the movement(s) aim at dissolving the ruling institutions, but they do put the accent or focus in different and specific aspects of their respective institutions. Tamarod is a movement for democracy, and in no case is a movement against a specific group (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood or the islamists). Thus, the relationship of Tamarod with the parties of each country depends on the context, the inner institutional structure of the country, the very same nature of the parties, etc.

The role of the security forces has also been slightly different in each country, ranging from frontal opposition (and fight), no implication at all, or even a positive implication — most of the cases, though, feature a negative implication of the security forces.

Lali Sandiumenge (Journalist. Author of the blog:

The Kifaya platform is born in Egypt in 2004, made up by experienced activists (“from the previous generation”) to ask for dire reforms in Mubarak’s government. Kifaya gathers, thus, people that have taken part in many other protests. The new thing is that the young wing of Kifaya trains other activists on how to use the new tools of technopolitics.

In 2006 there’s the blossoming of the islamist blogosphere. Youngsters belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood thus demand through the Net the freeing of imprisoned activists and, on the other hand, claim having a voice on their own without the mediation of media.

In Mahalla, during 2006 and especially in 2008, there are worker protests, which in 2008 becomes a complete riot, not only about labour rights but about basic needs like food (e.g. rice, which had seen its prices sky-rocketing).

The 6th of April Youth Movement is created in Spring 2008 to support the riots in Mahalla and it becomes the first hybrid movement which is born online but supports an offline movement and vice-versa: to try and spread an offline movement making strong an online movement.

After the murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed (May-June 2010), a page is created on Facebook and quickly becomes a central forum of political debate around democracy (and the lack of it) in Egypt.

Little by little, the riots in Tunisia spread towards Egypt where activism escalates. The protests then quickly become an international unrest and evolve in parallel in both countries. Besides blog pages, Facebook pages, etc. in Arabic, increasingly lots of activists publish in English to escalate the conflict and place it outside of the region’s boundaries. At last, a general call is made to take Tahrir Square. Mubarak blocks the Internet, causing a Streisand effect and making the movement even more visible and gathering more international support.

Javier Toret (Investigador. Trabaja entre filosofía, política, psicología y tecnología, Datanalysis15M)

There are several factors that made the 15M movement blast, that generated a movement that became unrest and evolved into a huge movement.

There is a process of learning, specially in the field of technopolitics. “Hacking + activism + netstrike = hacktivism”. Added to this process, there is a context of an economic crisis, which is one of the determinants, but not the determinant of the 15M movement. Indeed, it is more important the political crisis around the legitimacy of democracy and a need to regenerate it: #nolesvotes, Generación NiNi against the bipartidism, Juventud Sin Futuro, etc.

Technopolitics is way beyond cyberactivism and is not at all slacktivism. Technopolitics is an idea of intervention, is feeding back the physical and the digital layers to improve political activism.

The 15M movement started in social networking sites: 82% of the initial participants new about the movement online — especially Facebook. 1.5M were very active and circa 8.5 participated in any way. 76% of the participants came not from traditional political activism: it was initiated by a brand new generation of activists.

The different movements were interconnected: 31% of the participants of the #nolesvotes movement then came to participate in the 15M. In other words, the 15M movement was slowly born in many other movements that evolved, merged and exploded into a new one.

There is a multilayer activism, which begins in the physical layer (i.e. the streets and squares), then up to the digital layer to try and impact the mass media and political layers.

What the 15M does is to gather all the energy spread across different social networking sites and digital platforms, and to make it go out of the Internet and onto the “plazas” or camps.

After that, the movement boosts. Searches on the internet about the movement, or even keywords as “democracy” peak after the camps, the network dramatically increases its size, a network of camps and replicating nodes is created, nodes are empowered, etc.

Israel Solorio (Researcher. YoSoy132 Movement, Mexico)

In Mexico is difficult to think about any social movement without taking into account the Zapatist movement and how they used technological tools for their own political actions. Other movements that affected were, of course, the Spanish Indignados movemement of the 15M, and also the killings of Tlatelolco during the student mobilizations in 1968. Among many others.

A difference from the YoSoy132 movement and the 15M movement and Democracia Real Ya is that the Mexican case was totally unintended. It all starts with a boycott to candidate Peña Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

The movement achieved major visibility through individual spokesmen that made it to the headlines and mainstream media, especially TV channels — though a specific individual ended up being hired by the main corporation, Televisa, which was a blow to the credibility of the movement.

Differently from the Spanish 15M movement, which was against political parties in general, YoSoy132 was definitively against the candidate Peña Nieto. Then, when Peña Nieto won the elections and came to office, the movement went into a sort of stand by state, with some action, but mainly remaining latent.


Q: how are these movements being populist (or not)? Martínez: it is difficult to state. Many times they are just asking for a genuine regeneration of democracy, but it is also true that, in the Arab region, they often use populist messages and iconography to raise awareness and wake up people by the feelings.

Q: do you think mainstream mass media are censoring the news they do not like, or is it just that they do not understand or do not how to explain the movements? Martínez: it is interesting to state that many media — especially those that are against the government — in the Arab region, media are actually reinforcing and amplifying the movements. Toret: it really depends on the place. In any case, it is true that it is a common characteristic that these movements try to break the circle of power made up by governments and mass media and that determine the public agenda. Solorio: the role of media has been evolving along time. Initially they amplified the movement, as they wanted to foster political debate (or fight the candidate), but now they are more against it and aim at its destruction.

More information


Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)

IDP2013 (VIII): Social Movements

Notes from the 9th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 25-26 June 2013. More notes on this event: idp2013.

Moderator: Rosa Borge. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Invited speaker: Techno-politics and 15M. Models, data, hypothesis and analysis of political action in the network society
Javier Toret, Researcher and activist. Author of Tecnopolítica: la potencia de las multitudes conectadas. El sistema red 15M, un nuevo paradigma de la política distribuida.

This research has a different approach from the usual one: there is no theory that aims at being validated by data, but lots of data, an event, that is being analysed to see whether a theory or an explanation can be inferred.

Hacking + activism + netstrike = hacktivism. Technopolitics.

The crisis is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the movement to take place. The narrative and the previous experiences on the net, the evolution of memes (memethics) and campaigns, etc. are very important to set up the movements. In this sense, there is a “migration” of hashtags across several movements. On the other hand, most of the people that participated were already users of social networking sites. And not only social networking sites, but social movements in general: there is a powerful online-offline hybridization of participation.

Technopolitics is not cyberactivism, because it also happens outside of the net; and it is not slacktivism, because there is much more than just uncommitted online politics.

Multilayer approach: the physical layer, the media layer, the technological layer, etc.

Technopolitics is becoming a pattern, and an important one, all over the world’s politics.

Again, there is a high correlation between the online and the offline world, between Facebook groups and local (physical/offline) groups.

A technologically structured contagion took place during the indignados movement. How does this contagion happens? Emotions play a major role, are central in the movement.

Emotions, vocabulary, etc. are really synced during the movement, especially during offline events (and their replica online).

It is important to note the different organizational structures between parties — hierarchic, isolated — and the movement — decentralized, networked.

Spanish Indignados and the evolution of 15M: towards networked para-institutions
Ismael Peña-López, Professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia; Mariluz Congosto, Researcher at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid; Pablo Aragón, Researcher at Barcelona Media Foundation

The study of social mobilization in the age of Big Data
Jorge L Salcedo M, Investigador Grupo Democracia Elecciones y Ciudadanía UAB, Consultor Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Camilo Cristancho, Investigador Grupo Democracia Elecciones y Ciudadanía, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona

Central question in social science research: behaviour, communication, information dynamics. And methodological challenges: influence networks, actor attributes and roles, context and case studies.

What are the consequences of social media use on mobilization and diffusion? What are the bridges and commonalities between computer and social sciences?

The aim of the research is finding what is the state of the art of research in the field of mobilization and its relationship with social networking sites. A literature review for the period 2007-2013 was carried on.

Diffusion is based on the adoption of a practice or features through different channels. It depends on the message, the information dynamics, actors and the network structure. Some organizations play key roles in some mobilization processes, and specifically, the resources of these organizations. These resources can also be social capital, linkages and opportunities.

The relationship between actors, indeed, can tell us much about the probability that a movement can go on, can evolve, can grow.

Organizations are usually “sense makers”, they provide good explanations for what is happening in reality, they provide frames, scenarios, diagnosis, identify the main subjects. We know little, though, how the context changes, what are the group dynamics.

Concerning future research, we have to take into account the diffusion processes that involve information dynamics but also practices (tractics, strategies) and cultural norms. On the other hand, are we putting to much hope on Twitter or other social networking sites? We have also to analyze network linkages, formal structures vs. communication dynamics.


9th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2013)