Mental Geography, Wonky Maps and a Long Way Ahead


Paper by Alan Dix at GeoHCI Workshop at CHI 2013, April 27–28, 2013: ” It has never been easier to create your own maps, creating data mashups with Google Maps and similar tools and embedding them in web pages. This has benefited tourism and commerce, and has also revolutionised many areas of social activism, allowing open government data and other public (or leaked) data to be visualised in ways that may subvert or offer alternative views to the official narrative. However, like all maps, digital mapping  embodies a particular politics and world view…”

Big Data can help keep the peace


NextGov story: “Some of the same social media analyses that have helped Google and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spot warning signs of a flu outbreak could be used to detect the rumblings of violent conflict before it begins, scholars said in a paper released this week.
Kenyan officials used essentially this system to track hate speech on Facebook, blogs and Twitter in advance of that nation’s 2013 presidential election, which brought Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
Similar efforts to track Syrian social media have been able to identify ceasefire violations within 15 minutes of when they occur, according to the paper on New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict prepared by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Peace Institute and presented at the United States Institute of Peace Friday.”

The politics of Open Data sets


Tim Davies in The Guardian: “In practice, datasets themselves are political objects, and policies to open up datasets are the product of politics. If you look beyond the binary fight over whether government data should be open or not, then you will find a far more subtle set of political questions over the what and the how of opening data. Datasets are built from the categories and relationships that the database designer (or their political masters) decide are important…. The design of a dataset has a big impact on the policy that can be made with it. The practical and political decisions that went into constructing a dataset do not disappear when that dataset is opened, but are instead carried with it.”

June 1: National Day of Civic Hacking


From Peter Welsch at the White House: “On the first weekend in June, civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs around the country will gather together for the National Day of Civic Hacking. By combining their expertise with new technologies and publicly released data, participants hope to build tools that help others in their own neighborhoods and across the United States”.

Apply for the National Day of Civic Hacking at the White House. The deadline for applications is 5:00pm on Friday, April 19.

New Report on "Europeans Engagement in Participatory Democracy"


From the intro (Flash Eurobarometer) :“This report examines the extent to which European citizens engage in participatory
democracy, and the extent to which they believe that political decision-making can be influenced through their own actions and through those of non-governmental  organisations (NGOs).
The first section examines the respondents’views of NGOs and similar associations,  asking whether such groups have the power to influence local, national and EU decision-making. Respondents are also
asked whether NGOs share their own interests and values, and whether European citizens need these types of organisations.
In the second section, the discussion switches to the perceived effectiveness of various means of influencing political decision-making, especially voting in local, national and European elections. Respondents are also asked to consider whether joining an NGO is an effective way of exerting influence.
The third and final section covers citizens’ engagement in political decision-making, examining whether respondents seek to express their views by signing petitions or by communicating through social media, for example. Finally, the discussion turns to the level of participation in NGOs and other associations, such as Trade Unions.”