Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Social Media sparks democracy

"One of the core pillars of our political process is the belief that democracy works best when the most people participate. Yet with the election just one week away, we are confronted with a number of challenges to ensuring that our democracy functions to the best of its abilities. With the acceleration of technology and increased access to information, however, it has been found that social media sparks democracy.
Tools made available by social media have encouraged alternative voices to enter the political arena, voices that in previous years have been muted. As a result of technology, participation in the political process is accessible and direct engagement is feasible..."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Using the Internet to win the war

"Perhaps it is the parallel war being waged by the opposition on YouTube to convince the remaining Syrians who support Bashar al-Assad that the regime now survives only on a thin tissue of lies.

One of the more popular chants during demonstrations has been “Syrian media is a liar!” To challenge the state’s censorship and its massive propaganda machine, the opposition has smartly used the Internet, relying on satellite connections to upload videos on YouTube. Many Syrians rely heavily on their satellite dishes to watch these daily depictions of what the regime actually does.
The effect is powerful. A string of myths has been knocked down, starting with Mr. Assad’s superficial attempt at political reform last year. Also gone is the regime’s pretense of widespread support in the Arab and Muslim world."

   If you can't control what your people see and hear, it's hard to be a successful dictator.


and here's another similar article today;

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sociological paper; looks good?

In their forward for social change, political action is understood through their own practices of collaborative creation and the commons as their principal value (economic and moral). They do not see themselves as “militants” or even as “activists” (although some participate in movements like the 15M)  because they move on horizontal network structures of sharing that opposite the classic conception of social movement as which links together structural organization, collective identity and political goals.
This case study, situated mainly in Spain, offers an example of new forms of mobilization that question the current frameworks of  “social movement”, an de-centre the focus of analysis from the organized “political action” to the everyday practices that entails to look at materiality, space, sociality and expectations of future.

* * *

   I think this must have been originally written in Spanish, as it's a bit tricky to read. Hopefully the english translation will be good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Social media alters society

"The power and speed at which social media can be put to use was exemplified in 2009, when an agency of the U.S. Department of Defence sponsored a contest known as The Red Balloon Challenge. First prize: $40,000.
It involved the launch of 10 red weather balloons deployed at unidentified locations across the country. The object was to use social media to identify the GPS co-ordinates for all 10 balloons.
More than 4,000 teams entered the competition. The Defence Department figured it might take up to a month for the team messages to get out across the Internet and for reported information to be collected from the public and verified.
But the winner — a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — took just less than nine hours to find the red balloons.
They did it with financial incentives — offering to share the prize money with anyone who helped provide them with information."

This is kind of a bland article but it does show how social media can make things possible that were impossible before. 

Iceland votes for crowd-sourced Constitution

Last Saturday, the citizens of Iceland voted in favor of the new Constitution, EurActiv reports. The bill was drafted thanks to a crowdsourced process that started a year and a half ago.
The first results showed that 66 percent of citizens participated to the non-binding vote (Iceland has about 235,000 eligible voters.)
On the ballot, citizens could answer “yes” or “no” to six questions, including the role of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as state church and the declaration of all non-privately owned natural resources as “national property” (the “yes” won with more than 80 percent votes.)
Back in June 2011, I wrote about the participation process that was in the making:
The “crowdsourcing body in charge” is a council of 25 members elected by popular vote from a field of 522 candidates over the age of 18 ... The council is basing its work on a 700-page report prepared by a committee that took into account the recommendations of the National Forum.
Recommendations need to be approved by local staff before being passed on to the council and posted online for discussion, but then, when approved by the council, they are added to the draft of the document."
 This looks like a pretty complicated process, but it includes input directly from citizens. As I recall the US Constitution was written by a few smart dudes who hung out in a room together and argued until they finished the thing.  I like this new way better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crowd sourced mapping

"OpenStreetMap, a free crowdsourced online world map started eight years ago, has seen its ranks swell to over 800,000 volunteer mapmakers around the world — 300,000 in the last year alone — rapidly becoming the go-to source of map data for successful tech brands including Apple, Foursquare and Wikipedia, as well as for government agencies like the National Parks Service, all of whom are wary of Google’s decision to begin charging for heavy use of its Maps API starting in January 2012.
But as the project grows and matures, it’s facing a whole new set of challenges, the biggest of which is the question of whether or not to commercialize and move away from its open source roots."

Hm. A simple (well, single) goal, anybody can help as much or as little as they want, but really no end to the project. Heck, it's  still ICA I think.  But when something gets this huge it's probably hard to stay simple.  It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RIP Diaspora

I admit that I was one of those early cheerleaders who were sure that Diaspora could replace Facebook.  I'm sad that the vision it started with has faded.  Hopefully someone, somewhere, will be able to knock Facebook out with something better.

Monday, October 8, 2012

European Occupy Movements; where they're going

"These citizens and activists share an opposition to the way national governments and the EU deal with the economic crisis. They provide alternative meanings to the crisis and reclaim a more democratic society. Their strategies, actions, concepts of social change, movements and democracy however vary considerably, to the point that some of their discourses and tactics may appear contradictory. Some citizens want to build stronger democratic institutions; others don’t trust elected representatives any more and promote a change that starts at a local level and in daily life. The interviews and exploratory empirical fieldwork conducted in six European countries[1] under the heading of the 'Subterranean politics project' coordinated by Mary Kaldor and Sabine Selchow[2] (2012) pointed to four main cultures of activism[3] that animate this progressive sector: occupation/direct participation, local and ecological transition, expertise and advocacy, movement building and protest mobilizations."

This is an attempt at an overview of European Occupy-related movements.  A long but good read.

Let's start a Peer Progressive Party!

"Peer progressives believe that 'peer networks,' consisting of many people of roughly equal status freely swapping ideas and information, can accomplish things that top-down, centralized, hierarchical organizations can’t. Peer progressives 'believe in social progress, and we believe the most powerful tool to advance the cause of progress is the peer network.' That quote comes from the new book by science writer Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age (Riverhead Books), which I just reviewed for The Wall Street Journal."

OMG!  There's actually an ICA movement now??  Yay!  I try to be an ICA evangelist, and am glad to see something like this. Now off to order that book!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

OWS experiments with democracy and diversity

"But, if we take the time to look more closely, we quickly see that the Occupy movement embodies a crucial and important political message that is clear to those who participate. And far from having no structure at all, Occupy inherited a complex political structure that has been actively developed for nearly half a century. The fact that this structure is not perfect, does not mean that it is not there. With the rise of the Occupy movement this political structure, referred to differently everywhere, began to get a common name: horizontality. Horizontality is a term that is used to refer to a fiercely egalitarian, decentralized, networked form of democratic decision-making and it is offered by this movement not as a demand, but as an alternative political system to replace representative democracy."

The article labels this new system as a "horizontal decision-making structure" that allows input from the people at a grassroots level.  "Horizontal decision-making today has built on this long history to develop highly structured, yet fluid systems of democratic decision-making that incorporate many of the critiques and lessons learned from these previous movements.  First, horizontality is premised on the rejection of fixed representation as a political structure. Second, it functions through the political structure of networks and not the geographically delineated space of the nation-state. Third, it embraces a rejection of uniformity as the guiding ideal of democratic deliberation in favour of a system that fosters diversity. Finally, the movement takes equality to be always desirable but never fully achievable and equality is therefore treated as something for which each member of the polity has to take active responsibility. This creates a decision-making process in which the participants are continuously challenging (with varying degrees of success) inequalities and discriminations as they arise within their own structures of governing. "

Each participant in this system is allowed input, either in putting forward ideas or contesting something the body might be about to agree on.  As you can imagine, this wonderful idea can drag out decision making into hours of debate.  I witnessed this in a broadcast of the Denver OWS group when they spent about two hours debating what to call one type of action they were planning.  So while I admire the notion that everyone has input, I also think there needs to be some mechanism to "stay on target" as Anonymous says.

Anonymous is a group that uses horizontal decision-making to a degree. But they can be heartless when it comes to the idea of letting everyone have input.  You can be shouted down for getting off-topic.  If your idea seems stupid, you will be told to go die in a fire.  I don't like this method of weeding out the crazy ideas either, but I can see why they do it.  It DOES keep them on target, and it DOES shut down crazy talk that would otherwise divert and delay deliberation.

So what I see missing from horizontal decision-making (not quite the same as ICA but close) is how to quash ideas that will only derail the process, and yet still allowing every participant to have input.  Let's face it, not everyone has good ideas.  Not everyone can articulate their idea well even if it IS a good idea.  I don't have a friendly answer to this dilemma yet.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

crowdsourcing old naval logs information

"Britain's Royal Navy in the First World War - animated
Imagine the data you'd get from recording the original Captain's logs from every Royal Naval vessel from the First World War: location, temperature and time providing a unique record of climate change. The excellent Old Weather has been crowdsourcing every one of those log books - and the result, created by Simon Tokumine using CartoDB, is a fascinating insight into the British Empire at war - albeit of the records which have survived"

Well hey.  If you've got some interesting work that would be tedious and extremely time-consuming for a few people, maybe a couple thousand people would be willing to donate a bit of their time to do the job?  Simple task, people do what they want to help, project done when completed. ICA FTW!