Impressions from DigiSi event

This wiki provides a summary of information gathered during the Digital Social Innovation event tied to the CAPSS program. It consists of three parts:

1. Overview relevant to building our proposal

2. General discussions during the event

3. Nadia’s rough and unstructured notes from the event

1. Overview relevant to building our proposal

Do include (keywords/concepts):

Digital social innovation, Growing a digital social innovation ecosystem for Europe, Digitally driven social transformation, digital technologies for the social good, digital single market, meaningful social innovation, moral ownership of data, Internet of things, data entitlement structures, open and fair platforms, platform capitalism, trust, people, demand, meaning, use, design and systems thinking, collection, Aggregation and manipulation of data, digital sovereignty, distributed architectures

Do read:

1. Nesta’s big report on Europe’s digital social innovation ecosystem: Pay special attention to the policy recommendations as they were endorsed both by Markkula and Campolargo:

2. Article on key issues around data entitlement in the internet of things

3. Manifesto for smart citizens

NB: My own observation is that an important missing component from the NESTA report is in the overlap between economic viabilitiy/ sustainability or success digital social innovation and ownership of physical assets especially means of production, distribution and sales. And this is something we can perhaps include in our proposal- I am personally very interested in this topic.

Nadia's Conclusions for the CAPSS proposal

One stated aim in our proposal should be providing recommendations for possible priorities and outcomes of a 10 million Euro research on distributed architectures.

If you try to talk to most national politicians and policymakers about tech, you will not get far. My impression from involvement the Pirate movement is that discussing information politics from an ideological perspective (liberty, sovereingty, bla bla) is a dead end.

It is the key topics of jobs, healthcare etc that are always the focus. And right now all the major political actors are basically devoid of any credible visions for how to tackle systemic crisis within the welfare paradigm.

What is needed are visionary and well-articulated alternative approaches to tacking big problems. Then we frame the distributed architectures in the context of removing obstacles to the identified possible solutions.

So it may be wise to build a bridge between the work on Future of Care in the Hands of Hackers and development of the agenda for distributed architectures research in our proposal.

Background to conclusion: A call for collaboratively creating an agenda for Europe to invest in distributed architectures

According to Fabrizio Sestini there is an intuition at the European Commission that decentralisation is good. At the political level the EC is currently tackling data-monopolies through conventional means.

According to Fabrizio Sestini the ec is considering launching an initiative on distributed architectures for decenteralised data management. At the political level the EC is currently tackling data-monopolies through conventional means but this is clearly not enough.

During the afternoon session it is my interpretation that Fabrizio Sestini indicated there is currently an opportunity to produce a collaboratively written agenda for Europe in this area. And that he wished to contribute to this effort by building an appropriate research program and getting member states to accept it.

Sestini: “…Problem: when we talk about distributed, different people mean different things. Data storage, data management, do we need a different internet? What is technically or practically are the directions we should investigate and priorities ?”

Morozov: " biggest contribution you can make is to show that there is alternative mode of action to the mode of action imposed by silicon valley. Take a device, release all the data it collects…and then make app for experimenting with it. In a way that does not require us to pay one dollar to a developer in Slilicon Valley. A key to that is the ability to compare notes, and you cannot do that currently because devices are locked. And because an economy has emerged in selling us solutions.

So you need to fund a project that will take problem currently being solved in a commodified way, and tackling it differently. That is the argument you can then make to cities and governments that the problems they currently cannot solve and that citizens now have to pay to solve…can be tackled differently. But this not about open data. The problem you have is that of the providers of solutions."

Fabrizio told people in the room that If we wish to see the EC support work on distributed architectures, we need to help him and others build a case for this. To succeed in this endeavor he believes we would need to make a proposal that touches three levels:

A. Strategic level - The problem is that when we talk about distributed, different people mean different things. Data storage, data management, do we need a different internet? What is technically or practically are the directions we should investigate and priorities? Right now if we ask people, some will say put all the money in crypto. Others will say data storage. What is a strategically sound plan for what to prioritise in which order?

B. Technical level - How do we shape a research agenda? It is very difficult- we need to answer the question of what could be desirable (from political perspectives) outcomes of a 10 million Euro investment in research? What is the level of funding required in order to have an impact?

C. Political level - How do we build a political case and sell it at the level of national governments. Many of which are actively pushing policies at odds with the agenda of decentralised solutions. Which in turn depends on public opinion. We need to make the case through examples and cases which are clear and easy to understand, also for the non-technical:

“We need to produce a pedagogical description of distributed architectures. Starting with defining basic concepts. Think questions like “what is a blockchain” and replies like “Blockchains are chains of contracts stamped with timestamps that cannot be faked” + clear explanation as to why this is the case. So people feel they have a clear understanding”. Some examples included resilience of storage (so we are not fucked by central points of failure), finance/online payment and credit cards.

2. General discussions during the event

What is the role of policymakers in social innovation and digital social innovation?

A key discussion revolved around policymakers and others placing emphasis on technological innovation, rather than focusing on technological arbitrage. Purely engineering focus leads to self-indulgent idea of the act of making as sufficient. This applies both to social innovators and to policy makers.

Is internet always empowering? Is innovation always inclusive? Do we really need to code to make the most of the internet?

There is a problem with mis-identification of problems through fetishisation of data and technology as “optimisation”. Also a claim was made that “the digital aspect of social innovation induces exclusion”. Are there bigger issues of access, usability & community relevance? We need holistic thinking.

One of the questions posed by the European Commission was they could invent from Brussels a ‘modest policy’ that fosters small grassroots innovation.

“As government services are outsourced to Silicon Valley, how can smaller, local SMEs build services on the data?”

A key point put forward was that we have to focus on critically looking at gatekeepers of the internet as big (mostly American) data monopolies taking over public services in Europe.

Technological giants are locking out smaller actors in digital social innovation. They can offer for nothing a service or product it took smaller actors a lot of investment to develop (Cuartielles). To address this requires us to better equip institutions with appropriate competence as the lack of smart laws leave vacuums 4 technology giants rules. It also requires public investment in distributed architectures.

A third way in which policymakers can help is to put open and fair technologies at the centre of public procurement.

A second theme revolved around how policymakers can back up the narrative of empowerment by prevention of disempowerment.

The consensus was that this requires focusing on issues bigger than technical ones. If you reduce all business to information exchange does, there is nothing that data giants cannot trade in. Also, there is an urgent need encourage and adopt means to ensure informed decisions and consent. In part this required a more nuanced and deeper investigation in to what it means if we are able to create something that is a commodity (data), Umair Haque (speaker).

“Algorithms are instructions. Not “acts of God”. Algorithms are subjective. What are we doing about this to democratize debates?” - Renata Avila

As Caspar Bowden points out, when it comes to digital social innovation, the European Commission assumes that Big Data and Privacy are compatible. However, if you reduce everything to information rather than social (as Google does) you end in very undemocratic place. The reason being that data and the Algorithms that define how those data are processed, are not neutral. They are based on subjective interpretations of reality, and embed values that need to be debated on a philosophical level rather than a technical one alone. There are already indications that this view is paving the way for the erosion of civil liberties

‘Europe needs a moral & intellectual re-think on if it is right to consider data a commodity’ - Evgeny Mozorov

The internet of things is not about discoverability (as the web was) but about entitlement. How do citizens get involved as producers of data or entitlement structures? A person is moral owner of data. How do we get citizens to decide which are the meaningful decisions to be made? Especially when you really do need digital literacy to understand the effect of algorthms on your futures. During lote4, individuals failing to understand how valuable their data is in the aggregate is one of the market failures in the digital economy that we need to address.

One approach proposed was to measure the costs of disenfranchisement with solutions made for us by something or someone other than ourselves. The reasoning is that If something is not measured it doesn’t get factored into institutional decision making.

3, Nadia’s unstructured notes

Morning Sessions

  1. It was basically a launch for this NESTA report: dsireport.pdf
  • This will be informing EC perspectives and priorities around Social Innovation.

  • Not sure how heavily what panel says influences perceptions within EC.

  • Not sure how much it will affect evaluation of CAPSS applications. Will ask Sestini.

My own observation is that an important missing component from the NESTA report is in the overlap between economic viabilitiy/ sustainability or success digital social innovation and ownership of physical assets especially means of production, distribution and sales. And this is something we can perhaps include in our proposal- I am personally very interested in this topic.

  1. Also Markku Markkula, President of the EU committee of the Regions refers to it heavily.
  • Maybe someone can look through his talk? I tweeted to as him for notes
  1. Mario Campolargo, Director for Net Futures, European Commission, DG Connect
  • Mentions positive that not only usual suspects, young people and hackers in the crowd.

  • distributed infrastracture for decentralised data management (I think he said this)

  • “It’s important to wonder : What is the social value of open data in addition to its financial value?”

Afternoon Q&A

It seems that parts of the EC have clocked that distributed frameworks are important.

And that they are now in the process of 1) building a research agenda to support efforts building a case to the member states

Examples of CAPS

Collaborative consumption: lending echvahange, swapping and bartering made to operate act scale across geographic boundaries

Airbnb: rent a place from other people

Getting facts/evidence from citizens for better decision making (at persopal institutional levele)

safecast: collecting data about radiation through individuals deices



Driving sustainable behaviours and lifestyles (self esteem)

the eatery: records eaten food, calculates healthiness gives peronalised advice and compares individual behaviours with peers

Decarbonate: Raising collective awareness

Developing alternative collaborative apporaches to problem soving:

-Kickstarter: crowdfunding platforms for startups or scientific research

  • Satalyst

  • Dcent

To harness ICT netwrks, network effects and collective intellicence for cooperation, supporting new economic models beyond GDP

To create wareness of sustainability challenges based on bottom up solutions grounded on real communities of people

Based on open data, open source, and open hardware participatory innovation paradigms

“Find new ways to self organise or cope with challenges.” Be open and usable. To benefit all society and not just producers of technologu

Requires participation of at least two entities from non ICT-Domains (non Academia or large tech corpos). Arts, usability etc. is ok but not related to ussual suspect

Appeals to new grassroots actors including social entreprensuers, hackers, students, civil society organisations

Key for understanding is to be multidisciplinary

Simple online reputation mechanism ( based on identitity, but for preserving privacy, not biased by commercial or political interests)

New collective models for value co-creation beyond monetisation

Motivations and incentives for online collaboration

Impacts of social networks on sustainable collective behaviours

Next calls

Demonstrating new forms of bottom up innovation

new innovation models for economy ad society

solutions for sustainable lifestyles such as collaborative consumption

emerging ethics of digital social innovation

Distributed architectures

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The politics of it all

Nadia this is very sophisticated and valuable knowledge, thank you!

So more than having the open approach to decentralization and one that’s grounded in real communities and their needs, what matters is building a credible case that citizens CAN be providers of goods that are currently commodified. It seems this is what sustainability in CAPSSI means, building new economic models…

I assume @Lakomaa would also find it useful for the policy scaling sections in the proposal.

Event in next few weeks to write the agenda

Hi guys,

I just spoke to Sestini. In the next few weeks he is organising a meeting in Brussels during which the actual research program proposal will be written. The aim is to send the proposal to the member states in March. We are invited to the meeting and we should definitely be there. He asked me to send him a few names to invite formally.

Also, we can prepare a proposal with a collection of case studies.

Who should go? @Alberto?