Tag Archives: democrazia

Masters of Networks 3: designing the future of online debate

Back in the day, the emergence of the global Internet was saluted with joy and hope by lovers of democracy. Many activists saw an opportunity for an electronic agora, endowed with always-on operations mode and total recall, that would finally deliver an Athenian-style participatory democracy at the planetary scale, and win power to the collective intelligence of people. It turned out things were not so simple. Online communities have been around for at least 30 years: some of them led interesting, deep debates, and even built amazing things like Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap; others, not so much. A large-scale participatory democracy is very far from being realized.

Masters of Networks 3: communities is an event that tries to learn from the experience of 30 years of online debate. Why is debate fruitful and creative in some contexts, sterile and conflictual in others? Are there reliable tests for a debate’s good health? Can we predict how conversations will evolve? We will tackle these questions starting from a key idea: any conversation, both on- and offline, is a network of interactions across humans, i.e. a social network. In the course of the CATALYST project, Wikitalia and its partners have built Edgesense, a simple software for real-time, interactive network analysis of online communities (video demoexample).

Masters of Networks 3: communities is a two-day hackathon for network scientists, active members of online communities and people interested in participatory democracy to get together, discuss these themes and make sense of what we already know about them. We will visualize and analize the networks of several online communities, using the deep knowledge of its active members and moderators as our guiding star; our goal is figuring out what a “healthy” conversation network looks like, and if we can tell them apart from the networks of “sick” conversations (too conflictual, superficial, polarized etc.).

Masters of Networks 2: communities happens in Rome on 10-11 March 2015. Several scientists, developers and community managers from the CATALYST project will attend, but we have set aside about ten places to allow any interested person to participate. In particular, if you are running an online community and would like to visualize and analyze its interaction network, we can probably help – get in touch and we will see what we can do. Participation is free, but registration is necessary – go here to register. The working language will be English.

I will be there. I think this is a central issue; I tried to argue as much in the video below

Debugging democracy: riprogettare la partecipazione con la network analysis

Qualche settimana fa ho presentato al TEDx Bologna. Ne ho approfittato per provare a mettere insieme i pezzi del mio percorso degli ultimi cinque-sei anni per vedere se ne usciva qualcosa di coerente.

Quello che è uscito è il video qui sopra. Detto in pillole: l’intelligenza collettiva è l’arma migliore che abbiamo per affrontare i molti e gravi problemi che minacciano la nostra specie, e che trascendono la scala individuale. Riscaldamento globale, finanza fuori controllo, disuguaglianze in aumento; non possiamo toccare questi fenomeni, perché non esistono alla stessa scala a cui esistiamo noi, ma a una superiore – un po’ come i neuroni non possono capire, né tantomeno governare, il cervello. Purtroppo la democrazia rappresentativa è congegnata in un modo che non consente l’emergere di soluzioni collettive all’interno delle istituzioni democratiche (nel senso in cui Wikipedia è una soluzione collettiva al problema di scrivere e tenere aggiornata un’enciclopedia). La democrazia partecipativa in teoria potrebbe portare a queste soluzioni, ma non scala. Per farla scalare possiamo usare Internet. Prima progettiamo ambienti di interazione online per sviluppare soluzioni collettive; poi misuriamo le dinamiche sociali che questi ambienti ospitano e favoriscono, come barriere coralline colonizzate da molte specie. Ho scritto misurare, perché, grazie all’analisi di rete, le dinamiche di interazione sociale si possono misurare, anche per comunità piuttosto grandi.

Forse, usando queste tecniche, potremo finalmente realizzare il sogno di una democrazia partecipativa che funziona su scala grande. Dopo venticinque secoli! Sicuramente vale la pena di provarci.A few weeks ago I presented at TEDx Bologna. I used the opportunity to try and stitch together the pieces of my intellectual journey of the past five-six years, and see if they form some coherent pattern.

The result was the video above. In a nutshell: collective intelligence is the most promising weapon we have to face the many dire problems threatening our species, and that transcend the individual scale. Climate change, feral finance, mounting inequalities; we can’t touch these (and others), because they don’t exist at the same scale as us – they emerge from the interaction of billions of us. To address these problems, it seems intuitive that we should deploy an equally emergent, same-level collective intelligence. Unfortunately, representative democracy is concocted in such a way that does not allow the emergence of solutions (in the sense that Wikipedia is an emergent solution to the problem of writing an encyclopedia) within democratic institutions. Participatory democracy could, in theory, lead to such a result, but it does not scale. To make it scale we can use the Internet. First, we design online interaction environments from which we think collective solutions might emerge; then we measure the social dynamics the these environments host and foster, as if they were coral reefs colonized by many species. I wrote “measure” because, thanks to network analysis, social interaction dynamics have become measurable, even for large communities.

Maybe, using these techniques, we’ll finally be able to make the dream of a working, large-scale participatory democracy come true. We have held on to it for twenty-five centuries! It’s certainly worth trying.

Debugging democracy with network analysis

A few weeks ago I presented at TEDx Bologna. I used the opportunity to try and stitch together the pieces of my intellectual journey of the past five-six years, and see if they form some coherent pattern.

The result was the video above. In a nutshell: collective intelligence is the most promising weapon we have to face the many dire problems threatening our species, and that transcend the individual scale. Climate change, feral finance, mounting inequalities; we can’t touch these (and others), because they don’t exist at the same scale as us – they emerge from the interaction of billions of us. To address these problems, it seems intuitive that we should deploy an equally emergent, same-level collective intelligence. Unfortunately, representative democracy is concocted in such a way that does not allow the emergence of solutions (in the sense that Wikipedia is an emergent solution to the problem of writing an encyclopedia) within democratic institutions. Participatory democracy could, in theory, lead to such a result, but it does not scale. To make it scale we can use the Internet. First, we design online interaction environments from which we think collective solutions might emerge; then we measure the social dynamics the these environments host and foster, as if they were coral reefs colonized by many species. I wrote “measure” because, thanks to network analysis, social interaction dynamics have become measurable, even for large communities.

Maybe, using these techniques, we’ll finally be able to make the dream of a working, large-scale participatory democracy come true. We have held on to it for twenty-five centuries! It’s certainly worth trying.