D-CENT: The Spanish Lean Inception Workshop

17 Feb

Source: http://dcentproject.eu/2014/02/the-spanish-lean-inception-workshop/

On the 8th – 14th of February D-CENT partners travelled to Barcelona, Spain, for a workshop organized by the partner University of Catalunya (UOC). The six-day session involved intensive meetings with local communities, drawing tech visions and sharing experiences.

In Spain, our goal was to understand the local context better and explore overlaps and common user needs that came up in Reykjavik. We also wanted to create hypotheses and use-case scenarios for the Spanish context and begin testing these hypotheses to arrive at an initial MVP (“Minimal Viable Product”), meaning a feature or application which would instantly benefit the communities.

Getting acquainted

The first day in Barcelona consisted of introductions and setting of the workshop objectives. At the second day, we had a meeting with representatives from a large number of relevant user communities, such as 15M nodes, national campaign group PAH and other activist groups and citizens.

The local Spanish groups explained their main activities and objectives, and shared their stories and experiences of frustrations experienced with existing digital tools.

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Tech design and interviews

During the third day, the team discussed D-CENT architecture and design. We also started the in-depth interviews with the local communities. The day four followed with more technical discussion, especially in relation to the MVPs. User hypotheses were developed and further interviews took place, feeding directly into a simultaneous discussion and decision-making on an initial MVP for the Spanish context.

Drawing conclusions

With local alternative currency groups, it was decided to set up online questionnaires to be put to their wider communities. These will be used to gather data related to the concrete practices and frustrations people might be experiencing. It will also tap into communities’ ability to use, distribute or employ resources and find out the broader outlook on the role of money in their practices.

The fifth day consisted of collating and drawing conclusions from interviews, refining hypotheses and further developing user-profiles and use-case scenarios. A set of metrics was agreed on in order to test the MVP. There was also final round of in-depth interviews. When reaching the final day, the Barcelona workshop was closed with an overall discussion and (re)creating a shared vision together.

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D-CENT: Kick-off meeting

19 Nov

From November 10 to 12, I went to London to the kick-off meeting of D-CENT project, selected under the first FP7 call of Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation.

The agenda included a meeting where the partners explained the corresponding work packages. In my case, as researcher of Barcelona Media, I explained, with my colleagues Arnau Monterde and David Laniado, the data analysis techniques that we will provide due to our experience in DatAnalysis15M research network.

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In the other two days, there was held a very interesting workshop about Lean UX, the agile methodology that will be used in this project.  The workshop was given by Jeff Gothelf, principal at Neo NYC (partner of the consortium) and author of “Lean UX: Applying lean principles to improve user experience“.

Description

D-CENT will accelerate innovation in the use of the Internet to help communities share data and collaborate to address major societal challenges. Despite its huge potential to transform everyday democratic decision making or to enable citizens to shape their own economic destiny, today’s Internet is becoming highly centralised. D-CENT will create a bottom-up, decentralised, open platform for collective awareness based on integrating already successful open-source codebases. Its practical experiments will address:

  • Democratic engagement, building on Europe’s largest experiments in direct democracy – the Open Ministry linked into parliament in Finland, and the involvement of the whole population in shaping a new wiki-constitution in Iceland – as well as one of Europe’s most dynamic social movements, in Spain. These will show how millions of citizens can become engaged in day-to-day deliberation, and decision-making.
  • The connection of these new approaches to empowerment to economic platforms. Freecoin, a new disruptive digital social currency based on Bitcoin, will be deployed in Finland, Iceland and Spain to encourage the sharing economy and to extend, scale and link up community currencies. Our aim is that these tools will then be spread to currencies currently being implemented in France, the Netherlands, and the UK, creating the building blocks for an economy that links exchange to trust, deliberation, and collective awareness.

D-CENT will provide civil society with immediately useable digital tools for social innovation and sustainability. But it will also grow longer-term alternatives to today’s highly centralised platforms and power structures

The reinvention of democracy in the network society

11 Oct

reinvention-democracyIn May and June 2012 Arnau Monterde, coordinator of the program “Communication and Civil Society” at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (Open University of Catalonia) organized two workgroups:

I was invited to the first one to discuss with very valuable people as Gala Pin, Carlos Tomás Moro, Javier Toret, Débora Lanzeni, Carlos S. Almeida, Adrià Rodríguez and Cristina Cullell March. Our discussion has been recently synthesized and documented by Arnau, Adrià and the professor Ismael Peña-López as part of the following working paper which has been recently released:

The reinvention of democracy in the network society (in Spanish)

Abstract:

From the Arab Spring, through movement occupywallstreet or 15M it has been opened a new cycle of political network movements which propose many new elements regarding the political use of new technologies and the Internet to collective action. These new movements see the network not only as a tool or battlefield, but also as an organizational form, establishing a relationship that commonly has been linked to ethics and ways to do of hacker communities.

Moreover, the financial crisis in Europe is deepening blocking political institutions that have been building since the beginning of modernity. This crisis is expressed not only in the inability of these institutions to tackle the current economic, social and political, but also in its complicity with the mechanisms of financial dispossession. Such institutional crisis determines the need to exercise both a critical and process of invention and construction work that starts from the new technological possibilities and lessons of network movements, hacker culture and free software, which enable reinventing institutional and constitutional forms, and therefore also of democracy itself.

Innovation and social networks in public administration

6 Sep

The Universidad Autónoma de Madrid organized the Summer Course “Innovation and social networks in government: transparency, participation and collaboration”  between September 4 and 6. This course, directed by the associate professor J. Ignacio Criado, was to make an approach to the use of social networks in the three levels of Spanish public administration, defining its characteristics, identifying some of the best practices and listening to the opinion of public managers.

I participated as a lecturer with Ismael Peña-López, Professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia. In our presentation we focused on the intersection between Spanish public administrations, new grassroot movements and social media, and we also introduced some social network analysis metrics that provide insights on how Internet and social media could boost a new political paradigm based on network-centric organization models.

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15MP2P Conference

9 Jul

The 15M movement is part of a wave of protests that began in 2011 which generated a new global political cycle. This global wave is characterized by the occupation of the urban space and the strategic use of digital communication networks, which express a new self-organized collective behavior and, also, a new paradigm of political network-centric organizations. The Civil Society and Communication Seminar (IN3-UOC) and the DatAnalysis15M group organized the 15MP2P Conference between July 3 and 5. This conference was designed as a common space to:

  • multiply the visibility between different studies about the 15M
  • collect valuable productions in the academic field
  • improve the networking between interested researchers

As a DatAnalysis15M member, I participated in the forth panel “Networks, data science, cognitive science complexity” with my colleagues Javier Toret, Oscar Marín Miró, Miguel Aguilera and Xabier Barandiarán. In this panel I presented the study “DatAnalysis15M: Evolution of the 15M network system through the network topology” which corresponds to a chapter of the study “Technopolitics: the potential of connected multitudes. The 15M network-system as a new paradigm of distributed politicsreleased some weeks ago.

 

Additionally, I had the honor to present the study “Spanish Indignados and the evolution of 15M: towards networked para-institutions” conducted ​​with the researchers Ismael Peña-López and Mariluz Congosto.

9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics

27 Jun

In the last two days, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) Law and Political Sciences department under the auspices of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) organised the 9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics (IDP2013). This edition, held at the Agora Room of the CosmoCaixa Barcelona, was focused on Big Data from a legal standpoint and from the approach of politics.

The panel “Social Movements” moderated by Rosa Borge, included the study “Techno-politics and 15M” in which I contributed as member of DatAnalysis15M, “The study of social mobilization in the age of Big Data” by Jorge L Salcedo and Camilo Cristancho (UAB), and the study “Spanish Indignados and the evolution of 15M: towards networked para-institutions” that I co-authored with Ismael Peña-López and Mariluz Congosto

Figure by M. Congosto

Abstract:

The Arab Spring, the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Movement (#jan25, #egypt, #arabspring, #15M, #29S, #occupywallst, #ows, #15O). In the last months the world has witnessed the emergence of networked citizen politics: besides institutions, but many times mimicking their nature; unlike traditional citizen movements, but very much alike in their essence. Networked citizen politics, characterized by decentralization, swarm-like action and an intensive use of Information and Communication Technologies, have been having a starring role in world-wide protests and movements, most of the times overtaking and circumventing the actions of governments, parliaments, political parties, labour unions, non-governmental organizations, mass media and all kinds of formal democratic institutions.

Taking the case of Spanish Indignados, the aim of this paper is to analyse the nature of networked citizen politics as an extra-representational kind of political participation after the usage of Twitter that has been made around the so called 15M movement. Firstly, users will be characterized, including a description on how movements propagate one onto another. Secondly, the paper will see what are the bonds between networked citizen movements and formal democratic institutions, how do they relate one with each other, especially the movements with political parties and mass media. It will also emphasize how networked citizen politics may use similar tools as the so mentioned Politics 2.0, but with very different purposes and, thus, results, and what is the result of the two clashing approaches.

Our analysis will show that different movements – i.e. 15M and 25S – act as a continuum for networked citizen politics that use the Internet as the support for new institutionalisms, and despite the lack of traditional organizations, people, practices and ideas are shared and used as foundations for further action. Notwithstanding, there almost is no inter-institutional dialogue with exceptions related with individuals belonging to minor and left-wing parties.

Technopolitics: the potential of connected multitudes

21 Jun

In June 2012, I was invited by Javier Toret to an initial gather between researchers and activists for starting an ambitious study of the #15M movement (aka. Indignados movement or #spanishrevolution). That meeting evolved into a interdisciplinary research group known as @datAnalysis15M. One year after (while we also organized workshops, lectures and hackatons), we release our first production:

“Technopolitics: the potential of connected multitudes. The 15M network-system as a new paradigm of distributed politics”

tecnopoliticaMy collaboration consists of the analysis of the diffusion networks based on retweets in key intervals of time during the first year of the movement. The results show different patterns of interaction in comparison with previous studies about political parties. Specifically, we observe a large amount of interactions between different (geographical and ideological) communities of the movement while politicians only propagate messages generated by their own sub-network. We also emphasize the importance of the fact that the most relevant users in the #15M network are collective profiles and selected users (meritocratic model) while the most central users in political parties are the ones who were previously designed as leaders in the offline world (hierarchical model).

Shared material (licensed under CC-by-sa and GFDL):

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