Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

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Call for participation: Workshop on Argumentation Technology for Policy Deliberation (IMPACT project)

27. November 2012 – 13:32 by Zebralog

/Please note: This post is not from Hans Hagedorn, but from Steffen Albrecht @ Zebralog…/

In conjunction with the 25th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2012, Amsterdam, 17-20 December 2012), the Workshop on Argumentation Technology for Policy Deliberation will present the results of the European FP7 IMPACT Project, along with invited talks by leading developers and users of argumentation tools for supporting public participation in policy deliberations on the World-Wide-Web.

The workshop will take place on Monday, December 17, at the University of Amsterdam.

For information about the workshop program and organizational details, please consult the JURIX website. Looking forward to seeing you in Amsterdam!

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In response to Anthony Zacharzewski

2. September 2012 – 12:34 by gabor

A couple of weeks ago, Anthony Zacharzewski, social activist of The Democratic Society wrote a review on our association’s project that had the working title ‘webvotr’ and has since been named Civilzone.

We very much appreciate any feedback regarding the site and any comments would be greatly appreciated. Besides highlighting the elements of the initiative that he found most appealing and wishing us success, Anthony also raised a few interesting questions and pointed out some risky areas where we might not reach our original goals.

He suggested three possible problems.

Civilzone openly aims to mobilize society on international, national and at local government levels – Anthony thinks that in small local communities the so-called “Empty Restaurant Syndrome” might occur; due to the lack of users and interaction, the number of people joining smaller governmental units will not be enough to form a community able to make real changes and decisions. As an example, he quoted iCan, BBC’s similar project from ten years ago.

Although his worries are reasonable, I think this does not represent a real danger for us: there are two reasons why.

One of them is that while BBC forcefully tried to organise every single parish’s government from above, our scenario is completely different; we’ll try to begin organising the groups of administrators running the application on national level in as many countries as possible.

The administrators will post the parliamentary initiatives, then first the opponents are expected to demonstrate their dislike, and the ones in favour of the initiative will then show their support in reply to the negative arguments. Subsequently, there will hopefully be individual initiatives and perhaps success stories too, similarly to Hamburg’s Transparency Law.

Smaller communities will only be formed after this, as need for them emerges. As soon as we have at least one or two people willing to organise a community, they will be granted the opportunity from the administrators moderating the particular administrative area. By this time, results achieved on national and EU-levels will be the inspiration for many.

The other reason is that internet today is very different from what it used to be 10 years ago: not only regarding the number of users but also in terms of the transmission speed of information.

BBC’s iCan drew attention to the application but failed to generate activity. Even if a few individuals were determined to convince their friends and acquaintances of joining they could only attempt to do this through email and in person. Today the social network is a very active place where using the network of connections, clearly demonstrating the principle of 6-7 steps, the right information can spread on a global scale in seconds. Every comment left and every vote cast on civilzone will appear on the user’s Facebook wall, visible to all his friends, allowing societal participation to go viral.

I find the second query to be the most interesting: Anthony says that online experience so far has shown that only people from “the same side” can effectively cooperate on political matters. Besides many great examples, I can also point out current Hungarian ones: on Facebook, pages having around a hundred thousand likes, like One Million Strong for the Freedom of Press in Hungary or Viktor Orbán’s, it is clear that only people belonging to the same side can get along well. If every once in a while someone from “the other side” comes over, they either only want to disrupt the community, or if they’re actually trying to reason together or make a consensus, some keen users from the original community will make it clear with their atrocious comments that there’s no room for them here.

The difference for us lies in the fact that on civilzone we’ll have specific issues and initiatives that affect the lives of the people who live in the civil parishes rather than pages of organisations, parties and movements. So I hope that instead of supporting parties and taking sides, the discussion will focus on how much passing or rejecting a particular initiative can serve the interest of the community.

In order to promote this, we incorporated two features into the application: firstly, displaying the most popular pro and con arguments; secondly, the possibility of sending in articles or blog posts.

The third argument to be considered is the following: “How can it represent those offline, and how can it avoid just giving a stronger voice to those who (through education, wealth or position) already have a strong voice?”

Perhaps this is the area where we have the biggest cultural difference: in Hungary, besides online newspapers and weekly prints, there is only one radio station and one television channel that clearly voice the left wing’s standpoint – in opposition since 2010 – but even these are experiencing various difficulties. The internet on the other hand is widely known as a source of objective information and a means of taking a clear look at both sides of the coin. With regard to the above, the application would actually amplify the voice of those who are now in minority besides the crowds who voted the present government into constitutional supermajority.

Freedom of press is of course a separate issue; the parallelism here is not entirely correct.

I think that Anthony’s following query is the most relevant: it is true that those without internet access will not have a chance to effectively represent their interest through the application. Even though the growth is unstoppable and 92.9% of Sweden’s, 84.1% of the UK’s and 82.7% of Germany’s population are already able to access the World Wide Web, the figures quoted still do not make up 100%.

One possible solution is to use the application to demonstrate even more clearly that in an information society, internet access should be a universal human right – numerous countries (Estonia, Finland, France, Spain and Greece) have succeeded in implementing this. Civilzone could provide a way to start a petition in the European Union and it could be a useful, influential tool in shaping politics and the public opinion even for those wanting to help people living on the edge of the society.

In my personal opinion, the most challenging part of the project is building an international network. Even though I don’t have years of experience in this field I can see that in the case of e-participation or at least in organising activism through the internet, civilians – especially the younger members of the Y and the almost grown-up members of the Z-generation – are more successful than civil activists and also that thinking and keeping in touch on European or global level is quite rare.

It is very fortunate that organizations like PEP-NET and Participedia exist and improve the situation greatly, allowing us to write to you here, but I think more activity, discussions, statements, petitions and demonstrations, all in all, more participation is required to achieve our common goals.

Because of this, I’d like to ask everyone to write if they feel like they have something to comment about the present or the previous article; let’s ease the burden on John Heaven’s shoulders a little!

If you prefer paying attention from the background, I’d like to recommend Anthony’s organization and also our organization.

Let’s do some networking.

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Webinar invitation: New online tools to support argumentation in policy debates

8. August 2012 – 12:23 by Zebralog

/Please note: This post is not from Hans Hagedorn, but from Steffen Albrecht @ Zebralog – Hans’ avatar is displayed because of a malfunction of PEP-NET’s profile function – we’ll try to fix this…/

Get involved in the latest developments of  eParticipation tools!

Policy analysts, decision makers as well as civil society stakeholders and other people interested in policy-making all have to cope with numerous arguments brought forward in policy debates. The EU-sponsored IMPACT project develops open source online tools that help to make sense of the range of opinions about public policies expressed in policy consultations.

In a series of webinars, four new prototype tools will be presented, followed by an evaluation of the tools in which participants can discuss further improvements and the potential impact of the tools on policy-making. Based on material from the EU’s consultation on the Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy, the participants will learn how to formalise and visualise arguments, how to estimate the effects of policy proposals with the help of policy modelling, and how opinions about arguments are assessed with the help of structured consultations.

We invite all PEP-NET members and readers of this blog to participate!
Please register for one of the following dates on this website:

The following dates are available:

Webinar with focus on argument reconstruction & visualization:

Webinar with focus on policy modelling & structured consultation:

Further information is available here. If you have any questions, please contact Steffen Albrecht:

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Webvotr – early days for a new democracy Facebook app

1. August 2012 – 16:04 by Anthony Zacharzewski

At the PEP-NET summit in Hamburg a little while ago, I met Gabor Mihucz, a Hungarian democracy activist, who pointed me at his organisation theAssociation for Societal Participation and their new project “webvotr“.

Webvotr is still in concept form at the moment, but is intended as a Facebook app for democracy. The organisers say:

We have decided to create an application specially built for the social networks which would take the importance of spontaneous organizations to a higher level by honoring the demand of voters for a greater say in the policy-shaping process and which would maximize the force of public pressure exerted on politicians while also prompting people to participate in public matters who have lost all faith in common representation built upon a consensus. It is our hope that this application will again allow a meaningful dialog between voters and representatives.

It’s obviously very early days for the project at the moment, but you can get a rough idea of how it works from the “Application” page on the site.

I think the motivation behind the app is good – I think the challenge for Gabor and his team is to build something which promotes democratic discussion and can’t be gamed. It will need rapidly to create a network of users, with a positive culture. These are areas where political discussion on the Internet has generally failed.

As I say, I like the intent of the application. I think it makes sense on one level to build it on top of Facebook (but there are compromises inherent in that approach as well).

I like that the intention is to create an evidence base around proposals being discussed – it might not always be used, but it’s important to have it there.

I think they are on the right lines in describing an open networked system: “Depending on their political affiliations users can join groups or factions, they can create their own Facebook profile and forums, they can organize sessions, events and protests, which can be posted on Webvotr.”

I like their idea of having an iFrame that allows the app content to be viewed on other websites (though I’m not techy enough to understand how that works alongside Facebook).

There are also a few areas where I think the project might be taking a risk.

First, Webvotr plans to create a separate group for each administrative unit, which seems to go against the natural networks model that I mentioned above. Local groups might work, particularly if they are linked to offline activity, but there’s a risk of Empty Restaurant syndrome – where a low-traffic group doesn’t attract traffic because people don’t see anyone interacting there. This was one of the problems with the BBC’s iCan project about ten years ago. They had a sub site for pretty much every parish in the UK, but even the marketing reach and trust of the BBC couldn’t draw people in.

Second, and more fundamentally, I wonder whether Europe is ready as a society for online-first political engagement. As I said above, I don’t think that there are many success stories in online political discussion (as opposed to online political campaigning). There seems to be a scaling problem, or a trade-off between size and culture, where small focused groups or groups that are “on the same side” can create positive cultures, but larger participation reduces the quality of the interactions.

Perhaps we’re getting closer to that time, we’re certainly closer than a few years ago, but I wonder how Webvotr answers the inevitable challenge to its representativeness – how can it represent those offline, and how can it avoid just giving a stronger voice to those who (through education, wealth or position) already have a strong voice?

None of this should take away from the idea, however. It’s good to have people like Gabor working on initiatives such as this – particularly in Hungary, where there are some clear and present threats to democratic process. I think Webvotr has the right fundamental philosophy – support people to talk and involve themselves in their areas – and I wish it a great deal of success.

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Challenges and solutions for immigrants´ eParticipation

23. May 2012 – 09:53 by irmatolonen

The inclusion of immigrants is vital for social cohesion and economic development.  To enable immigrants to feel part of a larger society it is necessary to ensure that they have proper possibilities to participate fully in the society. The Immigrant Inclusion by eParticipation – IIeP project: – 30.4.2012) focused on obstacles on the way of participation and public engagement for people from various language and cultural backgrounds that reside in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, and solutions to overcome these using web-based social and communication tools.

The two manuals: “E-inclusion guidelines: supporting diversity” and “E-Participation guidelines: supporting diversity”, published in English, Estonian, Finnish and Swedish are the main outcomes from the IIeP – EU/Central Baltic INTERREG IVA project. These outputs found online and in pdf-versions on the new website: are aimed to meet the needs for those involved in participatory processes and immigrant involved issues. They also provide ideas and best practices for authorities to facilitate inclusion. The manuals can be used widely to support residents´ active participation in local multinational communities.




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Digital Engagement Cookbook launches today

17. April 2012 – 09:08 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

A new digital engagement database is launched today by ParticiTech and Kind of Digital  in association with Consumer Focus (UK). is different from other digital engagement databases in that it is a methods repository, not case study database.  The website also doubles as a search engine, allowing methods to be matched based on a set of simple input criteria relating to the participation characteristics.

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Read the full press release here


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Nexthamburg: Crowd-sourcing and participation in urban development

21. March 2012 – 12:46 by cynthiawagner

The growth of movements like the Right to the City Movement and protests like Stuttgart21, Gängeviertel, or NO BNQ show the continuously increasing demand for more public participation in urban development. The pilot project Nexthamburg experiments with new ways of public participation in the urban development of Hamburg. The concept of the open and independent crowd-sourcing project will be presented at the PEP-NET Summit on 14th May.

Nexthamburg gathers solutions and challenges for the city of Hamburg in crowd-
sourcing processes. Citizens can post their own solutions for the big challenges on the webpage or other Nexthamburg social media channels, discuss, comment or follow others, create their own vision for Hamburg. They can also participate in one of the Nexthamburg events, for example Nexthamburg Sessions, Salon, Zukunftscafés, or the Zukunftscamp.

The long-term goal of the project is to organize a crowd-funding channel for promising ideas for Hamburg’s urban development to finance feasibility studies and realization efforts.

Nexthamburg is active since April 2009 and has been promoted as a pilot project of national politics of urban development by the federal ministry for traffic, building, and urban development until 2011. It is supposed to become a non-profit association in 2012.

Nexthamburg on nexthamburg.defacebook, twitter, google, flickr, youtube, issuu

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Hamburg to hold Germany’s first Social Media Surgery

5. March 2012 – 17:28 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

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The social media surgery format, which was introduced by Nick Booth and others in 2008, has already spread beyond Birmingham to other parts of the UK and indeed abroad. Nick and his social enterprise Podnosh even won an award from the UK Prime Minister for their work.  Now social media surgeries are coming to Germany and I’m really pleased to announce that Hamburg will be hosting the first one!

On 14th May 2012, the evening of the PEP-NET Summit, Kultwerk West (a voluntary organisation that I’ve been getting involved with in my spare time and whose website I rebuilt) will be organising an informal meeting between politically engaged citizens and people who know a thing or two about social media.

I think Kultwerk West is the perfect place to start, because the events we organise twice per week attract plenty of people who are interested in current affairs and are in many cases active citizens, but who are not necessarily comfortable using social media. In many cases, they are sceptical of them due to fear-factors like Datenschutz, data protection.

To make the occasion even more special, Nick Booth, who is in town to speak at the PEP-NET Summit, will be Hamburg’s first social media surgeon.

You can find out more about the social media surgery model at If you are coming to the PEP-NET Summit and are interested in helping out at the first social media surgery in the evening, please get in touch via or leave a comment on this thread.

UPDATE: The Kultwerk West Social Media Surgery is now registered on, Podnosh’s online tool for managing social media surgeries.

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Frankfurt Social Media Newsroom: Interview with Nikolaus Münster, Head of Press & PR, Frankfurt am Main

6. September 2011 – 15:15 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Nikolaus Münster is Head of Press and Public Relations at the City Council in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. I spoke to him about the city’s “Social Media Newsroom“, which gathers content from all of its social media channels and presents it on one website.

Nikolaus gained inspiration for the idea when he took part in a European exchange programme in 2009, completing a secondment at Birmingham City Council. That is where I met him and where he learned about Birmingham News Room. Apart from anything, I think this is a nice bit of European best practice exchange, which can often be hard to quantify. It’s also nice to see Frankfurt getting something in return for the Christmas Market that they send to Birmingham ever winter!

John Heaven (JH): What is a Social Media Newsroom?

Nikolaus Münster (NM): Our Social Media Newsroom brings together all of our social media channels on one website. The user can view this site to see news about the city on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and other media at a glance.

We have been using these means of communication for a while now. Since 2009 we have been on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. When we started we wanted to gain experience before actively publicising our social media presences. Now, social media are central to our communication strategy.

JH: What is the main aim of the Newsroom?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Extension of deadlines: Sustainable eParticipation, Call for chapter proposals

3. August 2011 – 14:58 by Rolf Luehrs

We have extended the deadlines for the call for chapter proposals for our book Sustainable eParticipation:

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before August 31, 2011, a 2-3 page chapter proposal clearly explaining the scope and contents of their proposed chapter. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by September 15, 2011 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters are expected to be submitted by October 30, 2011. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers for this project.

For more information see our previous post: