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eParticipation is finally getting teeth…

22. May 2012 – 10:09 by Asociacion Ciudades Kyosei / Pedro Prieto-Martin

This week Avaaz, the “campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision-makers worldwide’, started the beta-testing of its community petitions platform, which allows anybody to launch a petition in a question of minutes. This new systems empowers anybody to make use of the streamlined processes and tools that have allowed Avaaz to grow its user base to more than 14.400.000.

Avaaz thus follows the recente move from change.org, the “social action platform that empowers anyone”, which just two weeks ago ‘absorved’ the Spanish platform “Actuable” and is now planning to translate its ‘petition making system’ to many other languages to really extend its reach worldwide.

Each of these platforms claims to have promoted petitions that forced very important political ‘actors’ to react: from Hillary Clinton to Presidente Morales, from Bank of America and Apple to Hilton Hotels.

This is an interesting ‘tectonic’ move in the realm of (e)Participation, which we should follow closely. It is, additionally, much related to the discussion about “Sticks and Carrots” we hold in Pep-Net’s blog a year ago.

We were then reflecting about questions like: is it better to praise “good deeds” of Corporation and Politicians, or is it better to warn and punish them when they “misbehave”? Why not both things at the same time?

Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, reported that once an executive of Shell told her:  “We don’t fear regulation, we only fear consumer revolt”

 

Well: it is clear now that consumer and citizens are getting better at revolting and exerting pressure. Change is happening out of anybody’s reach, and (e)Participation is slowly “getting teeth”, which soon will be able to hurt enough as to influence behaviour: if you do not want your brand reputation to get ruined… you better behave!!! And this applies to corporation as much as political actors.

The promise of a ‘Future Goverment’ that becomes FAST (flatter, agile, streamlined and tech-enabled) -which was delivered in the last World Economic Forum- starts to be truth. But, for sure, it is not government who is promoting it. It is NGOs and CSOs. It is citizens.

It is important to note that the technology behind these petition plattforms is very, very simple. The concepts and processes of use are also not sci-fiction. But for sure, this kind of powerful, sustainable and social minded (e)Participation was rarely promoted by our Governments’ Innovation Support Actions. Instead of an impact oriented eParticipation research, put at the service of Civil Society, a Government- and Academia-centred approach was preferred. And thus eParticipation has just advance by little steps.

It is a pitty, because these platforms are now out there, growing. They were created with less (or ‘no’) involvement of eParticipation researchers. And that means that we do not have easy access to the very valuable information about eParticipation that these systems are generating (about pattern and reasons of use, users’ demographics, typologies of action, success rates, etc).

We should reflect about this. We have not so many more opportunities to miss. The field is developing faster and faster. Do we want to be part of it?



Profile photo of Asociacion Ciudades Kyosei / Pedro Prieto-Martin

The construction of our “Kyopol System” has officially started

9. June 2011 – 12:11 by Asociacion Ciudades Kyosei / Pedro Prieto-Martin

News from the Asociación and our main project (english version at the bottom ;-) ).

Como resultado del nuevo escenario creado en España por movimiento cívico “15M”, que ha inundado las plazas de las principales ciudades españolas (y algunas del extranjero) con sus demandas de una “Democracia Real YA”, en la Asociación Ciudades Kyosei hemos decidido “ponernos las pilas”, para producir cuanto antes una versión alpha del sistema “Kyopol” (aka. “Ciudad Simbiótica”), que podamos poner al servicio de todos los procesos de activación cívica y movilización social que deberían ahora darse, barrio a barrio, en todas las ciudades de España.

Ello nos ha demandado un un cambio de actitud: se hace necesario establecer un equipo más amplio, repartir responsabilidades… y así crear algo útil cuanto antes.

Pues bien, tras un par de reuniones muy productivas ayer martes y el pasado domingo… ¡¡el proceso de creación del Sistema Kyopol se considera “oficialmente iniciado”!!

El Sistema Kyopol (aka. “Ciudad Simbiótica”) fomentará la Implicación Cívica y la “Activación Ciudadana” en los ámbitos municipal y regional. Permitirá a los ciudadanos informarse, formarse y colaborar unos con otros en la mejora de su entorno vital, trabajando en aquellas temáticas que cada uno considere importantes.

No sólo eso: buscaremos que usando el Sistema Kyopol… ¡¡podamos pasarlo “de miedo”!! Que sea una experiencia tremendamente placentera, incluso divertida, eso de unirte a otras personas para implicarte en el “cuidado de lo publico”.

Para la Asociación Ciudades Kyosei… ¡¡haber logrado alcanzar este hito es algo sensacional!! Queremos agradeceros a todos los simpatizantes de la asociación el apoyo que nos habéis brindado hasta ahora y advertiros… ¡¡que ahora es cuando empieza el trabajo de verdad!!

Nuestro trabajo se desarrollará a partir de ahora mediante la estrecha colaboración de dos equipos:

  • Primeramente, el “Grupo impulsor” -compuesto por informáticos, investigadores y personas vinculadas con la participación- construirá prototipos del sistema y establecerá las metodologías, los recursos participativos y los arreglos institucionales que formarán parte del sistema.
  • En segundo lugar, el  “Colectivo de pioneros”, integrado por representantes de todos los colectivos que usarán el sistema (desde ciudadanos y asociaciones de vecinos a políticos y técnicos municipales, pasando por medios de comunicación, ONGs, sindicatos y partidos políticos y, por supuesto, ahora también movimientos sociales del estilo 15M, DRY y demás bichos que éstos engendrarán en los próximos meses), que nos ayudarán probando los sucesivos prototipos del sistema, y proporcionandonos feedback en relación a las funcionalidades y procedimientos que propongamos.

Construcción Kyopol

En base a ello, podremos disponer de una versión Beta del sistema, lo suficientemente madura para iniciar proyectos piloto. Primeramente en el entorno de Madrid -que es de donde provienen la mayoría de nuestros Pioneros”-, y posteriormente en todas las regiones de España, y finalmente en el ámbito Latino-Americano y Europeo.

Si tenéis interés en formar parte del “Colectivo de Pioneros”, por favor contáctanos cuanto antes.

Planeamos realizar un acto de presentación del proyecto a todos sus potenciales interesados, en las instalaciones de la Universidad de Alcalá. ¡¡Os invitamos a tod@s a que nos acompañéis en el evento!!

Os mantendremos informados (podéis seguirnos en la web de la asociación, facebook o twitter).

—–

Urged, and inspired, by the emergence of the #SpanishRevolution, which  has crowded the main squares of many spanish cities (and several foreign ones too!) to demand a “Real Democracy NOW!”… we have tried to accelerate our association’s projects.

And… after a couple of very productive meetings on Tuesday and on last Sunday … the construction of the “Kyopol System” has been “officially started”!

Kyopol (aka. “Symbiotic City”) will promote “citizen activation” and civic involvement in the municipal and regional levels. It will allow citizens to inform themselves about civic issues, “educate” themselves on how to “participate”, and collaborate with each other to improve their shared living environment, by collaboratively working on those issues that each one considers important.

Actually, our aim is that by  using Kyopol we citizens will  be able to experience a great deal of fun (and proudness!). Isn’t that the way that “meeting fellow citizens to jointly care and work for the common good” should taste?!

For the Asociación Ciudades Kyosei… having reached this milestone is something sensational! We want to thank all supporters of the association for the help we have received so far, but also warn them… that the real work is about to start!!

Our work will be developed through the collaboration of two teams:

  • First, the “Core Team”, which is mainly composed of developers and citizen participation’s researchers, practitioners and stake-holders, who will work together to construct prototypes and establish the participatory methodologie,s the formative resources and the institutional arrangements that will surround Kyopol.
  • Second, a “Pioneers Team”, that integrates representatives of all groups that will use the system (citizens, neighbourhood associations, governments oficials, politicians, NGOs, media, social movements, etc…). They will act as “Alpha testers”, and will help us testing our prototypes and providing feedback in relation to the functionalities and the participatory methodologies and resources we propose.

Construcción Kyopol

Based on this work, we will construct a Beta version of the system, mature enough to initiate pilot projects. These will first first in the surroundings of Madrid, where most of our Pioneers are located, and will afterwards get extended to several regions in Spain, and finally to the wide Latin American (and European) environments.

The next milestone we are planning is a meeting at the University of Alcalá, where the project will be presented to all potential stakeholders. Collaborative work will start immediately afterwards.

We’ll keep you informed (and you can follow us on our website, facebook or twitter).



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Closing the loop between policy makers & citizens by harnessing the dynamic potential of Social Networking Sites

27. April 2010 – 11:45 by Evika

The WeGov project will develop a toolset that allows full advantage to be taken of a wide range of existing and well established social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, WordPress etc.) to engage citizens in two-way dialogues as part of governance and policymaking processes. A key feature of our approach is to allow policy makers to move away from the limitations inherent in the current practice of using bespoke and dedicated platforms (e.g. specific opinion soliciting websites hosted by government) and instead make full use of the high levels of participation and rich discussions that already take place in existing social networking communities.

In particular, engagement between policy makers and citizens will be mediated via tools that will:

  • make it possible to detect, track and mine opinions and discussions on policy oriented topics.
  • will allow discussions to be seeded and stimulated through injection of policy discussion points into relevant communities in a secure and managed way.
  • will allow the origins and evolution of opinions to be tracked to provide auditable records of provenance, guard against misuse, and ensure trust and privacy for all involved.

Our target audience includes:

  • MPs and IT staff from Parliaments,
  • Citizens and other stakeholders, such as networks, regional bodies,
  • NGOs,
  • Businesses,
  • International organizations,
  • and the media.


Profile photo of John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Hands off our hyper-local trees!

1. April 2010 – 10:30 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
By kotofoto1 on Flickr.com

By kotofoto1 on Flickr

Every morning, on my way to the underground station, I walk down a nice tree-lined lane. I think the trees feel a little taken-for-granted, though: almost all of them have some kind of banner crying out to the world how valuable they are. Slogans like “night-time owl sanctuary”, and “I filter the air!”

As a quick internet search reveals, this is all part of a protest against the local government’s plan to fell the trees. You can see a video of “Tree Night” (Nacht der Bäume), which took place on 30th September last year, on YouTube.

It seems that trees are an issue that not only Hamburgers care about: I noticed a recent article about trees that have been removed and not replaced on the Bournville Village community website. The article also contains a YouTube video, this time of a resident explaining the situation.

Both cases are examples of concerned citizens using social media, on their own initiative, to highlight local issues that are important to them and campaign for change. If you have any more such examples of “hyperlocal” media, let us have them!

***

“Nacht der Bäume” has a website all of its own (in German), as does the “Bürgerinitiative” (citizens’ action group) for Emil-Andresen-Straße. All in German, of course — that’s hyper-local for you!

For information on what “hyperlocal” means, including links to many example sites, take a look at the UK-based talk about local website.

You may also be interested in this comment piece by Jeff Jarvis in the Guardian.



Profile photo of John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

eParticipation in Birmingham, UK

3. March 2010 – 13:38 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

My name is John Heaven and I started work at TuTech Innovation on 1st March 2010. I will be working on – amongst other things – PEP-NET. Part of my role will be to work together with Bengt Feil on establishing what members would like to get out of PEP-NET membership, how we can improve what we offer to them, and ultimately ensure that PEP-NET can support itself into the future.

But before I set about that, I thought maybe you’d like to hear about where I’m from and what I’ve been doing until now, especially around eParticipation!

Read the rest of this entry »



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Social separation very real in the online realm

8. July 2009 – 10:31 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

“Many of us believe that technologies can be these great equalizers”. This statement by Danah Boyd at the Personal Democracy Forum 2009 holds true. Many of us do believe that technology can be an equalizer but it seems that this believe may not be true for popular social networks such as Myspace and Facebook.

According to Ms. Boyd Myspace can be called the “ghetto of the digital landscape” while Facebook is frequented by the “white, educated and privileged”. Besides the fact that there are very different demographics on these two social networks it has also been found that the divide between these user groups is very hard to overcome. Ms. Boyd goes so far as to state that: “There’s a cultural wall between users” and “If there’s no way for people to communicate across the divide, you can never expect them to do so.” This shortened result is based on a four year dissertation study called “Taken Out of Context – American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” and is summarized in her paper for the PDF “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”. Read the rest of this entry »



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Is the Internet a democratic media?

18. June 2009 – 11:44 by Centre for E-Government

Recent events in Iran show that the Internet is a form of media which can be used to support communication in democratic processes. However, the Internet is also a place where anonymous people can express discriminating opinions. At the end of the day, ICTs are the tools people make of them.

Jens Jessen claims in ZeitOnline that the Internet has been idealised by people who want to change democratic processes by including all users who want to participate. However, the Internet is a form of media that can also be used by undemocratic states to promote their ideologies. Some Internet services cooperate with dictatorships for controlling flow of information. Consequently, the Internet is not democratic by definition; it can become a place supporting democratic movements, but anonymous discussions may also have certain side effects. When all people participate, the quality of political discourse might actually worsen, as facts and opinions tend to merge in the online discussion panels. Quality is measured by hits and not by content, says Jessen. (zeit.de) Trent Reznor, frontman of NineInchNails, partly shares Jessen’s point of view, “Anyway, we’re in a world where the mainstream social networks want any and all people to boost user numbers for the big selloff and are not concerned with the quality of experience.” (formu.nin.com)

The collective intelligence has already been questioned and criticised. (The Cult of the Amateur; Do eParticipation and Transparency really lead to better democracy?) A positive example of Crowdsourcing has been implemented by The Guardian as readers are asked to examine documents about the expenses of British MPs. (Investigate your MP’s expenses) Also, the ongoing events in Iran show the impact of the Internet community. Even though the political discourse might or might not be reach the desired quality, at least it’s happening. The Internet and other ICTs give people, who have never been part of economic and educational elite, the chance to participate in political discourse, making ICTs the base of democratic participation. (democratisation of technology)

Internet supports democratic movements in Iran

After the government of Iran took control over most of the media, citizens who didn’t share the official opinions found refuge online. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have already been of importance in political campaigns in Iran as […] Moussavi campaign managers organized supporters, planned gatherings and garnered support through Facebook pages dedicated to the Reformist candidate.“ (edition.cnn.com)

Now, after the elections, the Iranian opposition and international journalism rely on these platforms. “If you want to get the latest on the opposition protests in Iran, you should be reading blogs, watching YouTube or following Twitter updates from Tehran, minute-by-minute.” (thenation.com) The lack of information from established news networks is of course also criticised in social media. “The New York Times’ Brian Stelter, a dedicated tweeter himself, even reported that folks weren’t only using Twitter to report about Iran, but to complain about CNN’s failure to report (using, of course, the Twitter hashtag #CNNfail)” (savetheinternet.com)

The operators of social media are aware of their responsibility in Iran. Scott Rubin, spokesman of YouTube, compares the events in Iran to the Velvet Revolution, “I’m likening this to the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic where all these barriers are placed in front of people and they keep marching. Only this time it’s happening online and it’s happening on YouTube. […] By using YouTube, Iranian citizens are having their voices heard, their faces seen and their story gets told around the world without filtering. The real story of this election is being told by the citizen.” (BBCnews)

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, states that communication-platform remains independent and supports democratic participation. The State Dept does not have access to our decision making process. […] When we worked with our network provider to reschedule this planned maintenance, we did so because events in Iran were tied directly to the growing significance of Twitter as an important communication and information network. […]We decided together to move the date. It made sense for Twitter and for NTT America to keep services active during this highly visible global event.” (BBCnews) To show their support for the opposition of Iran, users of Twitter colour their avatars green. (helpiranelection.com) A single click can make a political statement.



Profile photo of Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Where are the eParticipants?

21. April 2009 – 09:46 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

The rise of social media and social networking as part of it brought both advantages and problems to eParticipation projects. On the one hand online time is limited for each potential participant of an eParticipation effort, which means the more time a person spends on Facebook, Twitter etc. the less time will be available for the eParticipation project. On the other hand social media has gone mainstream, which means that even more people are used to publishing their thoughts and opinions online, which in turn may also help to get people involved in eParticipation. It is not significant whether one or the other force is stronger as eParticipation projects need to find their audience where it is already active on the web. Keeping this point in mind the following information on the fastest growing social sites can help to plan and organize an online campaign to recruit participants for eParticipation projects.

Mashable.com regularly looks into the growth and development of social sites. They have identified the fastest growing social sites and also points out some trends besides the raw numbers. Facebook and Twitter are still growing at enormous rates. The year-over-year growth of Twitter in March 09 was more than 2.500 percent. Facebook attracted almost 70 million visitors in March alone.

Besides these top players the social network of social networks Ning is believed to be the second fastest growing social networking site, with now more than one million individual networks on it. Its traffic grew 283 percent year-over-year. On the business end of the spectrum LinkedIn reaches 15.8 Million people in the US where it the third largest network behind Myspace and Facebook. The full report can be viewed on the Mashable.com site.

Two of the named networks seem to be of special interest for eParticipation projects. The massive growth of Twitter and the fact that the rich ecosystem surrounding it allows for novel and targeted actions makes it an interesting choice for an online campaign. The online discourse about the Future of the University of Hamburg tries to make use of this potential. The second one would be Ning. This site is not one social network but a platform which allows users to setup their own ones. Therefore Ning hosts networks about almost any topic or set of persons. This circumstance can be used to directly address certain target and interest groups. Examples would be networks on Sustainable Urban Development or government related ones like govloop.

In summary social media sites should be part of the online campaigns done to attract participants to eParticipation projects and allow for targeted actions on a topic or regional basis.



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Technology use in the 2009 South African elections

20. April 2009 – 13:44 by Danish Technological Institute

by Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, Danish Technological Institute

Much has been reported about the successful campaigning, fund raising and support canvassing by the 2008 Obama election campaign. Still the use of ICT to increase electoral participation, campaigning, consultation and voting is not a uniquely US phenomena. A multitude of eParticipation and eDemocracy initiatives exist. Ranging from eVoting in Estonia’s and Geneva’s national and regional elections, gender budgeting in Freiburg, consultation on local issues in Malmö to the political influence of bloggers in China or in the 2008 election crisis in Kenya. Information communication technology (ICT) in other words plays an increasingly important role in society.

As South Africans go to the polling stations on 22 April 2009, campaigning is being played out in traditional media (TV, radio, print), on the internet, on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, in text messages/sms’s with street banners and in rallies across the country.

A full 173 parties – 134 at national level plus 39 purely provincial parties – are officially registered for the 2009 elections. Of these the four main ones are (alphabetic order):

  • ANC – African National Congress and currently in power with the support, in a tripartite alliance, of the smaller South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
  • COPE – Congress of the People in 2008 by formed members of the ANC
  • DA – Democratic Alliance and currently the official opposition
  • IFP – Inkatha Freedom Party a mainly regional party centered on the province of KwaZulu-Natal

Each of the main parties makes use of ICT in some form and in variety of ways and degrees. The table below outlines the use of websites and social networks (or Web2.0 technologies). Read the rest of this entry »



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Bad Week for Social Networking

4. March 2009 – 21:32 by Susie Ruston

Facebook has had a bad week with five different security issues coming to light.  Hackers are coming up with new ways to steal valuable data from users by manipulating the trust and social links that drive the network.  The latest being the posting of a fake YouTube link within profiles which releases a malicious malware when clicked. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7918839.stm)

So how do we stay social online whilst protecting ourselves? A 2006 study by Awad and Krishnan noted that whilst users will express very strong concerns about the privacy of their personal information, they will be less than vigilant about safeguarding it. A statement that possibly reflects my own use. As a non-techy-type I know not to include my date of birth in a public online space, but am I being too trusting by providing other personal information in the pursuit of social interaction?

With the upsurge of these hard-to-spot attacks, do I need to do more to protect my own data, or do we need Social Network sites to have higher levels of protection mechanisms and policies to protect members?  Or, will measures like these affect the use of the sites?