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DEMOsfera: a Laboratory for eCitizenship in Sicily


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Case study paper presentation at the eChallenges 2004 conference, Vienna (AT), 29 October 2004

Published in: Technology, News & Politics
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DEMOsfera: a Laboratory for eCitizenship in Sicily

  1. 1. DEMOsfera: a Laboratory for eCitizenship in Sicily Jesse B.T. Marsh Atelier Studio Associato Italy [email_address]
  2. 2. DEMOsfera Hypotheses <ul><li>DEMOsfera: an exemplar of a truly participative development methodology </li></ul><ul><li>DEMOsfera: an original and effective means of generating ideas for innovative ISTs </li></ul><ul><li>DEMOsfera: a catalyst of social innovation, based on stakeholder cost/benefit exchanges </li></ul>
  3. 3. Background <ul><li>Rise of citizen movements since 2002 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In Sicily, link with historical anti-mafia groups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Primary election experiment in Palermo </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Innovative Web+people–based service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reported at eChallenges 2003 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Enthusiastic but chaotic use of basic ISTs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mail lists, Web pages, scanned invitations… </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. The eCitizenship Divide Diffusion of own ideas Idealised peer-to-peer interaction View of communication Importance of editorial validation of knowledge Expressiveness of multimedia View of information Inclusion of the technically less aware Conformity of behaviour to norms and standards Emphasis of practice Technology as a cure for political apathy What technology makes theoretically possible Empasis of interest Aware of widely diffused tools, critical view on rest Enthusiasm for latest, most sophisticated tools Awareness of IST potential Political culture Technical culture Issue
  5. 5. Limits of Free Services <ul><li>Bandwidth differential </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Home/office divide, discontinuous workstyles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Email address glut </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Full mailboxes, unused addresses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Corresponding to groups or people? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Closed systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social groups conceived as bounded and unique </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Impossible to access/modify functionalities </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The DEMOsfera Scenario <ul><li>Collective laboratory open to all </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meeting place for the technical and the political </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Unite short-term and long-term thinking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Solve practical problems ad-hoc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specify robust solutions, e.g. XML/RSS </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Experiment new services together </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote what’s possible, define what’s needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote dialogue between different actors </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Architecture <ul><li>MESSAGING </li></ul><ul><li>Authentication </li></ul><ul><li>Mail </li></ul><ul><li>Conferencing </li></ul><ul><li>BASIC WEB </li></ul><ul><li>Firewall </li></ul><ul><li>Home page </li></ul><ul><li>Links </li></ul><ul><li>SERVICES </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging </li></ul><ul><li>XML indexing </li></ul><ul><li>RSS </li></ul><ul><li>MICROSOFT </li></ul><ul><li>FrontPage </li></ul><ul><li>FP extensions </li></ul><ul><li>ASP pages </li></ul>DEMOsfera HOSTING FREE EXTERNAL <ul><li>FREEWARE </li></ul><ul><li>XML </li></ul><ul><li>RSS feeds </li></ul><ul><li>Experiments </li></ul>DEMOsfera <ul><li>STREAMING </li></ul><ul><li>Audio </li></ul><ul><li>Video </li></ul><ul><li>Laboratory </li></ul>DEMOsfera
  8. 8. Services <ul><li>Shared calendar </li></ul><ul><li>Mail list database (multi-directory) </li></ul><ul><li>Forums and conferencing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Permissions by user groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decentralised administration </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ad-hoc services </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ready-made, e.g. petitions, opinion polls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Freeware service environments for experimentation </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. First Experiments <ul><li>DEMOnews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Weekly relay service of documents, events… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Over 2,000 addresses in Sicily </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DEMOdai </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Networked fund-raising system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Applicable for referendum signatures? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DEMOfesta </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Extended participation in political events </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Business case? Innovative solutions Dealing with ad-hocism Market share Big solution provider Widespread usage Dealing with politicians Hacker-type prestige Developer / integrator Enhanced offer Facilitation, assistance Quality system usage Platform provider Increased impact Increased involvement Participation Active citizen Increased reach Sharing Social mobilisation Association leader Citizen consensus Learning Power Political activist Benefits seeked Perceived costs Currency Stakeholder
  11. 11. Lessons learned <ul><li>Political: participation requires trust </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Citizens are tired being commoditised </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Active groups have distinct constituencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Politicians are wary of un-accountable groups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Technical: technology is not a-political </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The ethics of practice as political action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The technology is never really understood </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Solutions” can never be neutral </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Further research <ul><li>Formalisation of laboratory approach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Applicability across cultural and regional differences </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Further development of an e-demXML </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Linking bottom-up experimentation with top-down analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Co-operation survival plan” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Working alternatives to the “business plan” concept for the civic sphere </li></ul></ul>