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Data power and Civic Hacking at mySociety

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Presentation given at the Data Power Conference at Sheffield University, June 2015

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Data power and Civic Hacking at mySociety

  1. 1. Civic hacking: Re-imagining civic engagement in datafied publics Stefan Baack (s.baack@rug.nl, @tweetbaack) Tamara Witschge (t.a.c.witschge@rug.nl) Centre for Media and Journalism Studies University of Groningen
  2. 2.     Empowerment?
  3. 3. State simplifications vs. Local knowledge
  4. 4. Empowerment? 1. Civic hacking is about creating better means of connecting local knowledge and practices with centralized government
  5. 5. 1. Not knowing who is responsible 2. Council websites not user-friendly
  6. 6. “If somebody is able to report a problem with a pothole outside their house and next week it’s fixed, they have learned that engagement with authority is not futile… FixMyStreet is a gateway drug into bigger civic engagement.”
  7. 7. Giving citizens “a sense of agency”
  8. 8. Designing tools for the “citizen user” è Enabling ‘direct’ exercise of power
  9. 9. Designing tools for the “citizen user” è Enabling ‘direct’ exercise of power -  Connecting local knowledge with centralized government
  10. 10. Data Power?
  11. 11. Empowerment? 2. Civic hacking as a struggle for legibility
  12. 12. Structured data? Going through a webpage “and trying to spot in that where the names of speakers are, where eldest votes is…to work out…which people voted in which way”
  13. 13. Structuring data as an editorial process.  
  14. 14. Increasing legibility by reducing a problem of scale? “I reviewed those documents, you couldn't – you were too busy trying to pay the mortgage – so let me tell you what they show” (Rosen 2013)
  15. 15. Conclusion
  16. 16. 1.  Empowering citizens by giving them a sense of agency è Connecting local knowledge and practices with centralized government
  17. 17. 2. Structured data a necessary precondition for doing so è Struggle for legibility
  18. 18. Thank you! Stefan Baack (s.baack@rug.nl, @tweetbaack) Tamara Witschge (t.a.c.witschge@rug.nl) Centre for Media and Journalism Studies University of Groningen
  19. 19. References Rosen, J. (2013, September 3). The “awayness” problem. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/ the_awayness_problem.php Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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