CEDEM 12, Day 2 (Keynotes) #cedem12

Who opens governments? The co-existence (or competition) of top down versus bottom up strategies (Anke Domscheit-Berg)

Nowadays people take initiative with leaking documents, collaborating with governments, organising hackatons or mobilising online against a cause. Domscheit-Berg’s talk highlighted trends and examples in the field of open government strategies from both a bottom-up and top-down perspective.

Guerilla Knitting on the Campus by @anked

Guerilla Knitting on the Campus by @anked

One of the biggest transparency platforms is opencongress.org starting in April 2005 with (only) legislation content. Four years later (April 2009) you could already find more information online, e.g. transparency on bills, money trail and senator voting. A big grassroots platform is mysociety.org offering whole little apps as added service to transparency. All tools on MySociety are open source, providing ready-to-use services. Governments followed the trend for more transparency and interaction with open data portals from 2009 and 2010 and open government initiatives. Governments used social media to talk and listen to people and considered collaborative tools to harness the creativity of people – tactics that have been utilised by companies for some time, but can also work in the government context. Today, some top down open government platforms embrace NGO content (e.g. whoslobbying.com at data.gov.uk)

During the last years we have been witnessing a movement towards more community involvement in open government, e.g. apps for democracy challenges and application competitions. Sometimes communities even take the lead in community public partnerships (e.g. Apps for Germany, which was organised by 3 NGOs and just supported by public governments). Even in the Brisbane “top down” example, hackatons are still organised by communities (GovHack as a non-profit run by volunteers and communities). Sometimes NGOs also fill the gap if governments don’t provide data in a way we want to find it.

But best practice standards are not everywhere yet. Whereas in the UK all government contracts are published, in Germany public contracts are confidential. However, some get leaked, and sometimes grassroots pressure is quite successful as well, e.g. after one year of grassroots effort, the state of Berlin built the first Open Data portal.

Nowadays, digital Citizens take initiative: they  leak missing documents and copy information on the web they think they can make use elsewhere. Leakdirectory.org is trying to aggregate many leaking platforms around the world used to expose corruption, violation of human rights, environmental crimes etc.

Domscheit-Berg demonstrated on the case of ACTA how mobilisation against #acta seemingly came out of nowhere. Governments don’t seem to understand this mobilisation speed, however, the documents were leaked quite some time ago, in 2008 on Wikileaks.

A similar example is the SOPA issue in the US. SOPA Opera is a webservice showing which parliamentarians voted for or against sofa and how much money they received from industries benefiting of the SOPA act. Mobilising against SOPA by actions like this and mass action lead to an internet blockout day on the 18.1.2012 (e.g. 10 Mio. petition signatures).Another example is the writing of missing laws by citizens like the Hamburg transpare

ncy law written on a wiki platform.  It is very likely that Hamburg will take on that law. For the German Bundestag, there is an application showing how German Bundestag MPs vote and what influences their decision making. An example in india fighting corruption via crowdsourced transparency is I paid a bride.

Evolving Technologies and the Human Dimension of Attempts to Increase Civic Competence (Arthur Lupia)

Arthur Lupia is using concepts and tools from cognitive science, political science and psychology together with lessons learned from his work with decision makers around the world to shed light on the battle of attention, communication games and learning strategies.

The theory we have with mobilising people for educational rarely equals the results – people are, in most cases, not acting the way we want them to. One explanation is laziness – the easy answer. In reality, the problem is not the audience, but how stories are presented and how “experts” present what they know. We often misunderstand how other people make decisions and react to us (which is largely affectional). Lupia emphasised the necessarity of knowing where people are before persuading them. Not only actual actions, but even changing the strenght about how people think about something would be an example of persuasion in this regard.

Attention is related to basic physical attributes of the brain (something neurobiologists agree). Learning occurs because electrochemical impulses feed in the brain cells. We pay the most attention to something when it speaks to our emotions and fears. How does attention really work? Different impulses and informations are competing with each other all the time. These limits of memory apply to all of us.

What a non-scientific audience wants is: close, concrete, immediate content with a desired outcome made possible to achieve.

Politics is a domain entailing conflicts not easily resolved. It yields language indeterminacy with a nasty edge as words have multiple meanings that are context-dependent. Conflict brings incentives to manipulate context and meaning, resulting in “communication games” with unusual incentives (= people have to work harder to learn). Politics is not a math class – for contested issues, credibility is a must. But credibility in a strategic context is a product of two things: Perceived common interests and perceived knowledge or expertise. If one of those things is absent a person is not perceived as that useful.

We have the following choices to be effective: Either we can make presentations that please us and affirm our values or attempting to persuade people who are different than us.

Nowadays we also face the phenomenon that people can choose their experts, partly due to former gatekeeper “experts” loosing their single status and a bigger choice of (personal) expert choices. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, but will confront researchers with the challenge to connect to people’s fears and emotions to get their message across, not being seen as detached from the main audiences.

Rabbit-duck illusion

Flickr Group of CEDEM12

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