CEDEM11 Day 1

The first day of this years Conference on eDemocracy and Open Government started.

There’s a Flickr Group called Cedem11 and an event on Slideshare called CEDEM11. We’re trying to collect slides from the presentators, doing some short question interviews with our keynotes and keep you updated here.

Douglas Schuler: Deliberation that matters (“If Habermas was here”)

Deliberation in-the-small and in the large

Raising topics is good, but if nobody is listening? 🙂 Deliberation in-the large is the context of deliberation. It looks at how deliberation plays out in society. E.g., if people have the feeling that there is nobody listening to them, then they will not vote. Schuler presented a model of deliberation consisting of society at large and civil society: all of the factors in the model must be present for successful deliberation.

The idea of civic intelligence

We don’t really have a name for it: it is a type of collective intelligence that addresses shared concerns effectively and equitably. We already have it, but we need to cultivate it. Schuler proposes that there are civic intelligence emergencies and presented some of the ideas that could realistically make a difference. Our efforts will need to be bigger than they are. In the US, there are professional and well-ressourced cultivators of civic ignorance (“those people are trying to make civil society stupid”). Inertia and temporal differentiation are one of the biggest difficultires. There is a lack of interest in deliberation. If some of these things would appear “cooler”, we’d be surprised how fast they’d be picked up. Thus, we really need to make deliberation high priority.

Discussion points: Because we don’t have a term to share it is hard for us to talk about things, maybe civic intelligence can serve as a useful term here. Social capital is more of a foundation from there: we should explicitely think about our next layer and how we build on top of that. But how prepared are we for deliberation? “Civic” can stand for all sorts of shared problems, and deliberation for one part of intelligence.

My personal summary: Things just need to appear cooler, or sexier, as Axel Bruns put it, to overcome the lack of interest in deliberation; and civic intelligence as a ressource must be taken seriously and cultivated more than ever.

eDemocracy and eParticipation I

Peter Mambrey, Romy Dörr, Local Government and Social Networking Technologies in Germany: The Example of Twitter

There are rising demands in participation and legitimization or for local expertise and a competition between cities. Another factor is the financial crisis (Duisborg for instance is totally skint) that raises the question whether eGovernment can be a problem solver for all this.

Twitter Revolution in Duisburg? 🙂

Using a case study analyzing the Duisburg Twitter in 2009 raised a couple of problems, e.g. generalization, subjective factors or dynamics. Governments’ information on social media is, of course, different from other information (reliability, seriousness etc.). The results of the tweets showed that the locality of the tweets is the leading criteria. There is an internal cross-linking between new media formats that creates redundancy, but also fosters awareness and frames a media area. Results show: There is no Twitter Revolution in Duisburg :), and in relation to other media it’s a niche phenomenon. On the other hand an infrastructure is created. The genre of information is infotainment and not dialogue, deliberation or participation. Future research questions should address whether these new formats change the existing local media arena and what role they play for transparency in local politics and social life.

Jakob Svensson, Monitoring the Political Self

This presentation is a continuation of the last year’s rather theoretical paper and based on the Elections 2010 in Sweden. How did Nina Larsson use her blogs up to the elections and for what purposes? The starting point is that people do not only use media for rationalities, but also for self-respresentation and expressives. In digital late modernities, processes of individuality are given priority over collective behaviours. The concept of networked individualism (Castells etc.) points to the importance of  contant updating in social media. At the same time, individualisation is opening up in late modernity (subpolitics, life politics). Svensson focused on two blogs: The political blog of Larrson and a blog integrated in a newspaper. Results show that both instrumental and communicative rational discourses were used. Often she consciously used a provocative tone to attrackt posters, which is clearly not rational deliberation. The blog is used as an amplifier (to amplify her media appearances and to put on own versions). Returning to the concept of networked individualism it becomes evident that she was very dependent on her liberal party network – parties are possibly not dead yet in Euope 🙂

Kostas Zafiropoulos, et. al., Discussion of eParticipation topics in Greek political blogs

How are blogs self-organised in Greek and how are they connected together? There seem to be two clouds in Greek (reference to the US blogosphere) that are connected. What exists in the core of these clouds? Using a cluster analysis showed that five clusters are formed: Clusters 1 has the majority of the 61.4% of the blogs, but a very low average of incoming links. The other four clusters have more incoming links (6.2-10.7%) and are all blogs from individuals. The less members a cluster has, the more the average of incoming links increases. As for clusters’ interconnections, there were two striking connections (especially between Cluster 4 and 5 and also between Cluster 4 and 3). Discussion of eParticipation topics covers a broad range.

Axel Bruns, Towards Distributed Citizen Participation

Bruns examined two acute events: a) the Queensland Flood and WikiLeaks.  During the Queensland flood of 2010/2011, where for more than 50 % of Queensland emergency was declaired (for exact chronology see slides above) social media was used extensively, different tools  for different purposes. Google Maps and Ushahidi were map-based information mashups. As uses and use practices are still developing, there are various levels of maturity related to a different demographic reach. Hashtag for the flood is #gldfloods. A network map shows the major accounts (most active accounts, e.g. @qpsmedia). The slightly big ones are probably also quite significant. There was an ad hoc development of community structures and emergency sites immediately adopted social media tools. This points to the idea of “going where people already are” and tracking what they are really doing.

The world’s first stateless news organization? (Jay Rosen)

Another acute event is WikiLeaks around the alllegations agains Julian Assange, or rather a continuing, orchestrated line of acute events. Can we speak of a WikiLeaks Community? WikiLeaks as c2c points to a sustained engagement with political questions. There are several parallels with filesharing networks, eg. a disconnect between government responses and popular opinion, a gradual decentralisation of activities or taps into overall disenchantment with established politics and media. But how can the enthusiasm of supporters be transferred to successful eDemocracy?

There need to be low hurdles to participation, distribution across multiple platforms (as far as possible, find people where they already are), the generation of a sense of community and it’s acknowledgement. A way for eGovernment or eParticipation initiatives may be to conceptualise community engagement as a series of acute events.

Blog: http://snurb.info/

Rebecca Schild, Engaging Policy Communities Online?

How does online consultation influence participation amongst stakeholders in Canada? 7% contributed 5 ore more messages, 2 % of participants responsible for 24% of forum activity. Do we have online echo chambers here? 93% of the discussions online was amongst likeminded individuals. Is it a bad thing in the context of stakeholders? There should be more overlapping discussions, and it is striking that institutional individuals didn’t participate online (mostly unorganised individuals), but in the end it might still be the institutional individuals who have the most influence.

Are online forums still the great fashion of the day, where stakeholders don’t have to speak to the people themselves? The question is not who participates, but whether it does matter.

Daniel van Lerbergh, The OurSpace projects: New e-participation procedures

The theme of the workshop was “Closing the Gap: Engaging Young People in EU affairs”.

The target group of the OurSpace project is Youth at the age 18-35. The purpose of this workshop is to identify critical topics relevant for the platform and to discuss how to motivate young people to join the debate.

Discussion and thoughts, in no particular order 🙂

Political parties in Austria already apply social media practices, but are still a bit (e.g. Twitter usage). To be successful on the social web you have to be transparent and authentic. Critical opinions should not be deleted. Involving the blogosphere in the campaign is difficult because in Austria blogs are not news generating. One has to be careful to quote Obama’s campaign as a good campaign in general, because in Austria we are facing completely different conditions.

In Austria, classical media is still the norm, with social media you can create a certain spin. Single issue movements work well in social media, but parties are facing some troubles with that, e.g. because they have a certain image to convey. One of the questions is: why create a second platform if there is already one? If there is Facebook, why go anywhere else? There are privacy issues, and FB als a platform is not made for deliberation, there is nothing that leads a conversation to a result. There is nothing that leads people to a conclusion. On the other hand, there is only a small percentage of people using social media for political issue.

Creating places online that are different to FB and Co.; OurSpace thus tries to give people who are already motivated for participating a chance to be heard. How can we not ignore the context. Two points are important for platforms that try to involve youth: The outputs must be visible in a very short time (People are not interested because they feel like nothing’s gonna change). Secondly, participation threshold has to be very low. A campaign of the red party in Austria used the hashtag as a mashup (low threshold is created).

One of the problems is non-productive content on the social web. One rule on the social web (besides some rules like no racism) is not to prevent things. What are parties doing with all the feedback they receive? Does it go beyond just responding to critics or does it really influence a certain project? How to show people that they are heard? The first step, far before lawmaking, is to correspond with and to respond to people. “People want to be heard” sounds a bit old, but is still the starting point.

Maybe a good point for advertising the platform is stating that it’s a counterpublic to the proprietary media structure in Austria. Further chances could be more diverse opinions (as opposed to echo chambers).  If OurSpace is supposed to be inclusive, you need different opportunities to participate. Different sorts of intellectual tasks are needed. What can we learn from games like World of Warcraft? Some reputation system and game parts are needed 🙂

Topics that might make young people participate from the view of a party are: The current situation of youngsters, liberal topics like education, e.g. the unfair Austrian school system or on a European level the Bologna process; or Feedback about Erasmus students. Projects related to the EU should generally be pushed more at school level.

Is the political scene untouchable from the voters or do the voters not want to touch it? 🙂

OurSpace wants to convey that the European matters, at least to some decision makers; but not to make any promises. However, the opinion of young people should be forced to decision makers. Successful movements are not just an idea, and 21st politics can probably also learn from bad examples (like bad things that work, e.g. the royal wedding); A problem is that Obama was a one person equipment, which is not transferable to the EU. On the other hand, the concept of the EU has not always been so complex (politicians are sometimes just trying to make it so). The 3 topics identified: citizenshipm European identity and education.

Thank you to all participants for the so far very productive conference (and some really good chats in the coffee breaks). See you at the dinner, at the festival, or tomorrow!


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