CEDEM13, Conference for eDemocracy and Open Government startet with a panel on bottom-up movements on the second day. Main Hall, Chair: Rosanna De Rosa

Relations of power within a field of contemporary acitvism. Activist capitals in network societies

Jakob Mans Svensson

Building on Bourdieu and theories of habitus and activist values, Svensson analysis a case of a successful southern Stockholm activism – the saving of a community bathhouse – and describes activist capitals, understanding capital as a social relationship, an resource that exists. Values as the general belief in the ability to change something were important in this case, for example the value of being active and engaged made it possible for certain activists to use a type of participation capital when positioning themselves in the activist field. While participation was considered as important, other things like mobilising others were regarded as crucial among activists (see also Castell and his idea of power switches, 2009).

When looking at legitimacy capital, we have to consider previous experiences of activists, as agents enter the social field with previously acquired capital, a kind of legitimacy which could be used as a currency when negotiating core positions. Svensson describes how in the Swedish activist case, networking, which is both based on social and technical skills, became a crucial capital resource, and power within this field was in particular connected with knowing how to network, to maintain intermediary ties and being in the position to mobilise these ties. In the discussion participants raised the question on how power distribution and the entity of a group might be interelated.

 

From mobilization to consensus: Innovating cross-media services to organize crowds into collaborative communities

Montathar Faraon, Victor Villavicencio,Robert Ramberg, Mauri Kaipainen

There is a need for people going from crowds to constructive collaboration. This paper tries to answer the question: What happens after people mobilise? What is the practical outcome of mobilisation? Authors propose a collaboration tool given people the opportunity for consensus seeking, mass communication and so on, a platform for active bottom-up participation. There should be three integral parts: mobilisation, community building and consensus seeking. Existing tools and skills should be used.

In the first stage of the model, issues are defined and people mobilised. There is nothing that guarantess that people who have been mobilised agree with each other. Once crowds are gathered, different groups are formed who draft different types of documents. In another stage voting mechanisms are integrated.

Challenges in using the platform are anonymity issues and how to get drafts out in society and to governments (links to decision makers are often problematic in eParticipation projects). Questions in the discussions addressed already existing concepts from eVoting and Liquid Democracy and how to possibly linking existing types of platform with a national ID and whether we should challenge the conventional conviction in eParticipation that emphasises the importance of anonymity. Remarks from the audience included that eVoting, for example, is a solved problem in Switzerland :-), and anonymity is more important in the earlier stages of participation.

Net technologies, net again: An institutional and micro-structural approach to understanding technology use for collective action

Carol Wan Ting Soon

In Singapore there is a high acceptance of mobile forms of internet access and people are more and more taking to online forms of organisation. However, the government has a certain set and rules to govern peoples individual activities, for instance institutional constraints that have an impact on collective incentives and structural proximity. However, the architecture of the internet makes it increasingly difficult to monitor all activities. The research question of this paper is focusing on how digital technologies have contributed to overcome those instituional constraints, with view to political bloggers in Singapore. 204 bloggers were identified and 26 interviews conducted.

Among these activist bloggers and different people, similar motivations for blogging and being part of a larger collective could be identified. The internet increased structural availability of the interviewees (a concept coming from social movement theory), as it enabled activists to overcome real world constraints they can face.

Online Deliberation and Local Politics. An empirical analysis of the Zurich Online Debate of 2011

Ulrike Klinger, Uta Rußmann

The objective was to examine online deliberation in local politics. Based on the idea that online communication is expected to deliver a more inclusive and dialogue-oriented form of political represenation. What happens if one starts to measure that?

All postings of the Zurich City Debate (3 Days in September 2011) were categorised into thematic areas. As open participation process it was moderated by facilitators.

To measure online deliberation, an index based on Habermas on the quality of understanding was used (IQU as in indicators of a quality of understanding). To be able to understand someone elses position, first of all the person has to give arguments for the position (statements of reasons that can be done on different levels: generalised or specific, e.g. with examples). There are also different levels of proposals of solutions, other indicators cover respect for people or type of doubts.

Results showed that doubts on the intelligibility are hardly expressed, and, expectably, the higher the understanding, the more people participate. It is not completely clear whether the results suggest low deliberation levels, as future research is needed to have comparable data, for instance regarding the question whether deliberation needs a spark of conflict, a topic that polarises and challenges participants into reasoning.