Introducing the Partner State: Public-Civil Partnerships for a Better City


Blog by Dirk Holemans: “Imagine: an urban politician wants to insist that some streets become car-free during summer. Even if there are good reasons – better air quality, kids get room to play – the result is quite predictable. The residents of those designated streets would revolt, for different reasons. Some would feel ignored as citizens, others would stand by their right to drive their car to their door, etc. Result: the politician has to withdraw the proposal, disappointed by these negative reactions. So, the gap between politics and people widens further.

But what happens if an independent network of collaborating citizens, businesses and local organisations, supported by the city government, develops a positive narrative for the idea of a Living Street? If they emphasise that a Living Street will be the sustainable place that inhabitants have always dreamed of? What if they offer people who are interested and want to test the idea on their street the possibility to do just that, if they can convince their neighbours to support this potentially great idea? In the city of Ghent we know the answer to this question. Since 2013, in the summer several streets have been transformed into car-free ‘places’ for the community, creating room for picnic benches, playgrounds for children, etc.

The Living Streets is not a top-down project, nor a bottom-up citizens’ initiative. It’s a form of co-creation between residents, the city and other organisations. Residents join forces, get to know each other better and go to work on the challenges of their street (more meeting space, isolation of older residents, traffic, unsafe street layout etc). For the city government, Living Streets are a testing ground for parking solutions, street furniture and the search for new forms of resident participation. The civil servants also roll up their sleeves. They seek solutions, help mediate in conflicts, make their expertise available and translate experiences into new policies.

Living Streets are one of the examples of how the city of Ghent, just as other cities like Bologna and Barcelona, is changing the traditional top-down politics of our modern society. In the latter approach, the provision of services, the introduction of innovations or management of resources, tend to be presented as a stark choice between state organisations or market mechanisms. This binary division ignores a crucial third possibility – that of interventions by autonomous citizens – and underestimates the many possibilities of citizens and (local) authorities working together….(More)”.

In Search of Lost Time on YouTube


Laurence Scott at the New Atlantis: “But while there are few things more clearly of-the-moment than our biggest video-sharing site, YouTube is also the closest thing we have invented to a time machine: Its channels open new routes back to the past. Over these years I’ve come to understand that my YouTube, what I make of it, is one of the most melancholy places I’ve ever visited. I find that I turn to it to experience an exquisite kind of sadness, born from its way of restoring lost time only to take it away once more. The scenes and atmospheres of the past that come and go — as copyright infringements are enforced or channels simply subside — are like digital visitations, having the capriciousness and the fragility of all revenants.

history of our era may one day be told through the hungry, wide-angle lens of YouTube. Adding hundreds of hours of footage to its archive every minute, YouTube captures the appetites and deliriums of our times. Historians of the future will be able to trace contemporary ethics in the site’s “community guidelines.” This evolving document records our prohibitions. It defines the territory of acceptable behavior and the scope of our vision, setting limits on what we can permit one another to see. How will the short-lived “Bird Box Challenge” — in which people recorded themselves performing daily tasks blindfolded, endangering themselves and others in imitation of the eponymous film — come to mark our relationship to reality in our increasingly mediated, movie-like world?

The digital era has given more people than ever before the ability to turn into instant videographers, recording life as it occurs simply by holding up a smartphone. Consider the relative rarity of citizen footage of 9/11, compared to how comprehensively that event would have been documented today.With the improving robustness of live-streaming software, it’s not surprising that video-hosting sites such as YouTube and Facebook have become broadcasters of the ever-unfolding moment. Both sites were widely criticized after the mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, which the perpetrator live-streamed on Facebook. The initial stream was viewed live by about two hundred people, but before Facebook removed it, users recorded it and re-uploaded it to Facebook over a million times. They also uploaded it to YouTube: A spokesperson told the Guardian that the site had received an “unprecedented” volume of content showing the horrific event, with the rate reaching a new video uploaded every second. The sites struggled to subdue these gruesome scenes, which nightmarishly returnedmore quickly than their content moderators, both human and automated, could remove them…

But while there are few things more clearly of-the-moment than our biggest video-sharing site, YouTube is also the closest thing we have invented to a time machine: Its channels open new routes back to the past. Over these years I’ve come to understand that my YouTube, what I make of it, is one of the most melancholy places I’ve ever visited. I find that I turn to it to experience an exquisite kind of sadness, born from its way of restoring lost time only to take it away once more. The scenes and atmospheres of the past that come and go — as copyright infringements are enforced or channels simply subside — are like digital visitations, having the capriciousness and the fragility of all revenants….(More)”.

New technology and ‘old’ think tanks


Article by Tom Ascott: ‘Expert or academic carries out research. Generates rigorous 40-page report. Comms officer is asked to promote said report. Launch event, press release, tweets. Maybe a video. Maybe an infographic’. This is formula for how think tanks seek to influence policy matters. It is how they build, maintain and increase their credibility. While it has arguably worked since the expansion of the think tank community following the Cold War, this model of disseminating information is now fraying.

It is not a sustainable model because it is largely, and in some ways even designed to be, inaccessible to a larger and now increasingly inquisitive public. This inaccessibility is only accentuated by the large number of institutes specialising in niche subjects, which are often more agile and better able to leverage technology to their advantage. Tastes also change: for many of today’s potential punters, the enforced networking associated with think tank events may be considered a negative experience; being able to watch lectures and conferences from home, alone, may now be considered of greater benefit.

The publication of written reports and holding launch events, unlike broader communications methods, are often targeting specific policymakers or stakeholders. In the short term, this strategy may work for think tanks, in the sense that they can address their core audiences. Still, the model faces two main hurdles.

One is providing policymakers with what they need. Paul C Avey and Michael C Desch, two US-based academics, found in their study ‘What Do Policymakers Want From Us?’ that ‘the only methodology that more than half of the respondents characterised as “not very useful” or “not useful at all” was formal models’. The respondents in their study thought that the best policy advice came from practitioners or journalists, those looking at underlying causes. Yet some ‘think tankers’ continue to take a dim view of journalism, for the very reasons which make journalism important: rapidly responding to developing events, and offering a broader perspective, usually shorn of the uncertainties inherent in deeper knowledge or analysis.

The second, broader, problem is how think tanks are perceived. US President Barack Obama famously ‘disdain[ed]’ foreign policy establishments and institutes, and those who are not engaged with them perceive them as being elitist….(More)”.

Citizen Engagement in the Contemporary Era of Fake News: Hegemonic Distraction or Control of the Social Media Context?


Paper by Paul R. Carr, Sandra Liliana Cuervo Sanchez, and Michelli Aparecida Daros: “Social media platforms have gained prominence worldwide over the past decade. Texts, images, recordings/podcasts, videos and innovations of all sorts have been created, and can be shared and disseminated, including fake news in all of its dimensions. By playing supposedly a neutral political role, social media platforms are accessible to users, generally without discrimination, in addition to being a lure and target for certain/targeted constituencies. Political parties and politicians have proved that they can shape, influence and win elections through social media and strategies such as ‘Twiplomacy’. Social media has the potential to be a democratizing force, yet corporate, neoliberal and hegemonic forces have a tethered grip that can control large swaths of what is happening. This article presents a case study of Spain in relation to fake news, disinformation and misinformation concerning immigration, underscoring that fake news in Spain, like elsewhere, has a long-standing foundation. We explore citizen engagement in the era of social media, referencing as well fake news in Europe and the USA, and make connections with the potential for media literacy as a means to more effectively navigate the murky waters of vast, interwoven online/offline, formal/informal, mainstream/alternative experiences, identities and realities. Lastly, we discuss the implications and consequences for media literacy and democracy, which, we believe, needs to be a central feature of the debate…(More)”.

New App Uses Crowdsourcing to Find You an EpiPen in an Emergency


Article by Shaunacy Ferro: “Many people at risk for severe allergic reactions to things like peanuts and bee stings carry EpiPens. These tools inject the medication epinephrine into one’s bloodstream to control immune responses immediately. But exposure can turn into life-threatening situations in a flash: Without EpiPens, people could suffer anaphylactic shock in less than 15 minutes as they wait for an ambulance. Being without an EpiPen or other auto-injector can have deadly consequences.

EPIMADA, a new app created by researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, is designed to save the lives of people who go into anaphylactic shock when they don’t have EpiPens handy. The app uses the same type of algorithms that ride-hailing services use to match drivers and riders by location—in this case, EPIMADA matches people in distress with nearby strangers carrying EpiPens. David Schwartz, director of the university’s Social Intelligence Lab and one of the app’s co-creators, told The Jerusalem Post that the app currently has hundreds of users….

EPIMADA serves as a way to crowdsource medication from fellow patients who might be close by and able to help. While it may seem unlikely that people would rush to give up their own expensive life-saving tool for a stranger, EPIMADA co-creator Michal Gaziel Yablowitz, a doctoral student in the Social Intelligence Lab, explained in a press release that “preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal EpiPen to patient-peers in immediate need.”…(More)”.

How can Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDS) be promoted and mainstreamed within open data movements?


OD Mekong Blog: “Considering Indigenous rights in the open data and technology space is a relatively new concept. Called “Indigenous Data Sovereignty” (IDS), it is defined as “the right of Indigenous peoples to govern the collection, ownership, and application of data about Indigenous communities, peoples, lands, and resources”, regardless of where the data is held or by whom. By default, this broad and all-encompassing framework bucks fundamental concepts of open data, and asks traditional open data practitioners to critically consider how open data can be used as a tool of transparency that also upholds equal rights for all…

Four main areas of concern and relevant barriers identified by participants were:

Self-determination to identify their membership

  • National governments in many states, particularly across Asia and South America, still do not allow for self-determination under the law. Even when legislation offers some recognition these are scarcely enforced, and mainstream discourse demonises Indigenous self-determination.
  • However, because Indigenous and ethnic minorities frequently face hardships and persecution on a daily basis, there were concerns about the applicability of data sovereignty at the local levels.

Intellectual Property Protocols

  • It has become the norm in the everyday lives of people for big tech companies to extract data in excessive amounts. How do disenfranchised communities combat this?
  • Indigenous data is often misappropriated to the detriment of Indigenous peoples.
  • Intellectual property concepts, such as copyright, are not an ideal approach for protecting Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights because they are rooted in commercialistic ideals that are difficult to apply to Indigenous contexts. This is especially so because many groups do not practice commercialization in the globalized context. Also, as a concept based on exclusivity (i.e., when licenses expire knowledge gets transferred over as public goods), it doesn’t take into account the collectivist ideals of Indigenous peoples.

Data Governance

  • Ultimately, data protection is about protecting lives. Having the ability to use data to direct decisions on Indigenous development places greater control in the hands of Indigenous peoples.
  • National governments are barriers due to conflicts in sovereignty interests. Nation-state legal systems are often contradictory to customary laws, and thus don’t often reflect rights-based approaches.

Consent — Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

  • FPIC, referring to a set of principles that define the process and mechanisms that apply specifically to Indigenous peoples in relation to the exercise of their collective rights, is a well-known phrase. They are intended to ensure that Indigenous peoples are treated as sovereign peoples with their own decision-making power, customary governance systems, and collective decision-making processes, but it is questionable as to what level one can ensure true FPIC in the Indigenous context.²
  • It remains a question as too how effectively due diligence can be applied to research protocols, so as to ensure that the rights associated with FPIC and the UNDRIP framework are upheld….(More)”.

Nudging Us To Health


Blog by Chuck Dinerstein: “Policymakers love nudges – predictably altering people’s behavior without forbidding choices or changing economic incentives. That is especially true for our food choices since we all eat, and it is clear that diet does have some effect on our health. The “promise to improve people’s diet at a fraction of the cost of economic incentives or education programs without imposing new taxes or constraints on business or consumers,” is a have my cake and eat it world. A study by the masters of understanding our behavior, the marketers, sheds light on which nudges work best….

Cognitive nudges include those often-invoked nutritional labels or evaluative labels that skip the verbiage and are green for buy, red for put it back on the shelf, and yellow for it’s up to you. Visibility enhancements refer to getting the item into your visual field at the right time and place, like eye-level on the shelf or in the check-out line. Nudges that appeal to our feelings include all the images making food appealing, think food porn, or simple slogans, e.g., “natural,” “healthy choice,” or ”just like mama made.” (Assuming mom was a good cook). As the researchers point out, there are no labels on foods that promote guilt or concern as we see on tobacco’s Surgeon General warnings. Finally, there are behavioral nudges that make one choice easier than another,  precut fruits and vegetables, or big utensils for vegetables, and tiny ones for fried chicken. It also includes smaller plates that might look fuller or large drink glasses that are 80% ice

Here is the graphic of their findings:

Graphic by Pierre Chandon

  • Nudges do move behavior, although the effect is small, a change of about 124 calories, or in the author’s words “eight fewer teaspoons of sugar.” For those who do not eat sugar by the spoonful, you might consider this to be 1 ½ Jelly Filled Munchkins.
  • As the graph shows, appealing to our intellect works the least well, appeals to our emotions are twice as effective, and making it easy to do the “right thing” works the best, five-fold better, than educating us.
  • Nudges are better at decreasing bad choices than increasing good ones. “it is easier to make people eat less chocolate cake than to make them eat more vegetables…” In fact, total eating was basically unaffected by nudges, again as the authors write, “this finding is consistent with what we know about the difficulty – perhaps even pointlessness – of hypocaloric diets.”
  • The effect of nudges is a lot less when you’re shopping than when you’re eating.
  • The effect of nudges in isolation seems more pronounced statistically speaking than when considered in conjunction with where they take place and other contextual information.
  • Nudges were equally effective, or ineffective, with adults and children; although you might expect that adults would be more responsive given their presumably better understanding of diet and health

The study makes two points. First, nudges can move behavior a little bit, and the fact that it has few recognized costs means that policymakers will continue to utilize them. Second, it provides an analytic framework highlighting areas where the evidence is scant and could, I suggest, nudge researchers to explore….(More)”.

Beyond Open Data Hackathons: Exploring Digital Innovation Success


Paper by Fotis Kitsios and Maria Kamariotou: “Previous researchers have examined the motivations of developers to participate in hackathons events and the challenges of open data hackathons, but limited studies have focused on the preparation and evaluation of these contests. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to examine factors that lead to the effective implementation and success of open data hackathons and innovation contests.

Six case studies of open data hackathons and innovation contests held between 2014 and 2018 in Thessaloniki were studied in order to identify the factors leading to the success of hackathon contests using criteria from the existing literature. The results show that the most significant factors were clear problem definition, mentors’ participation to the contest, level of support to participants by mentors in order to launch their applications to the market, jury members’ knowledge and experience, the entry requirements of the competition, and the participation of companies, data providers, and academics. Furthermore, organizers should take team members’ competences and skills, as well as the support of post-launch activities for applications, into consideration. This paper can be of interest to organizers of hackathon events because they could be knowledgeable about the factors that should take into consideration for the successful implementation of these events….(More)”.

Proposal for an International Taxonomy on the Various Forms of the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’: A Study on the Convergence of Norms


Paper by W. Gregory Voss and Céline Castets-Renard: “The term “right to be forgotten” is used today to represent a multitude of rights, and this fact causes difficulties in interpretation, analysis, and comprehension of such rights. These rights have become of utmost importance due to the increased risks to the privacy of individuals on the Internet, where social media, blogs, fora, and other outlets have entered into common use as part of human expression. Search engines, as Internet intermediaries, have been enrolled to assist in the attempt to regulate the Internet, and the rights falling under the moniker of the “right to be forgotten,” without truly knowing the extent of the related rights. In part to alleviate such problems, and focusing on digital technology and media, this paper proposes a taxonomy to identify various rights from different countries, which today are often regrouped under the banner “right to be forgotten,” and to do so in an understandable and coherent way. As an integral part of this exercise, this study aims to measure the extent to which there is a convergence of legal rules internationally in order to regulate private life on the Internet and to elucidate the impact that the important Google Spain “right to be forgotten” ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union has had on law in other jurisdictions on this matter.

This paper will first introduce the definition and context of the “right to be forgotten.” Second, it will trace some of the sources of the rights discussed around the world to survey various forms of the “right to be forgotten” internationally and propose a taxonomy. This work will allow for a determination on whether there is a convergence of norms regarding the “right to be forgotten” and, more generally, with respect to privacy and personal data protection laws. Finally, this paper will provide certain criteria for the relevant rights and organize them into a proposed analytical grid to establish more precisely the proposed taxonomy of the “right to be forgotten” for the use of scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and students alike….(More)”.

How an AI Utopia Would Work


Sami Mahroum at Project Syndicate: “…It is more than 500 years since Sir Thomas More found inspiration for the “Kingdom of Utopia” while strolling the streets of Antwerp. So, when I traveled there from Dubai in May to speak about artificial intelligence (AI), I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Raphael Hythloday, the character in Utopia who regales sixteenth-century Englanders with tales of a better world.

As home to the world’s first Minister of AI, as well as museumsacademies, and foundations dedicated to studying the future, Dubai is on its own Hythloday-esque voyage. Whereas Europe, in general, has grown increasingly anxious about technological threats to employment, the United Arab Emirates has enthusiastically embraced the labor-saving potential of AI and automation.

There are practical reasons for this. The ratio of indigenous-to-foreign labor in the Gulf states is highly imbalanced, ranging from a high of 67% in Saudi Arabia to a low of 11% in the UAE. And because the region’s desert environment cannot support further population growth, the prospect of replacing people with machines has become increasingly attractive.

But there is also a deeper cultural difference between the two regions. Unlike Western Europe, the birthplace of both the Industrial Revolution and the “Protestant work ethic,” Arab societies generally do not “live to work,” but rather “work to live,” placing a greater value on leisure time. Such attitudes are not particularly compatible with economic systems that require squeezing ever more productivity out of labor, but they are well suited for an age of AI and automation….

Fortunately, AI and data-driven innovation could offer a way forward. In what could be perceived as a kind of AI utopia, the paradox of a bigger state with a smaller budget could be reconciled, because the government would have the tools to expand public goods and services at a very small cost.

The biggest hurdle would be cultural: As early as 1948, the German philosopher Joseph Pieper warned against the “proletarianization” of people and called for leisure to be the basis for culture. Westerners would have to abandon their obsession with the work ethic, as well as their deep-seated resentment toward “free riders.” They would have to start differentiating between work that is necessary for a dignified existence, and work that is geared toward amassing wealth and achieving status. The former could potentially be all but eliminated.

With the right mindset, all societies could start to forge a new AI-driven social contract, wherein the state would capture a larger share of the return on assets, and distribute the surplus generated by AI and automation to residents. Publicly-owned machines would produce a wide range of goods and services, from generic drugs, food, clothes, and housing, to basic research, security, and transportation….(More)”.