The Routledge Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance 

Open Access Book edited by Stephen Boucher, Carina Antonia Hallin, and Lex Paulson: “…explores the concepts, methodologies, and implications of collective intelligence for democratic governance, in the first comprehensive survey of this field.

Illustrated by a collection of inspiring case studies and edited by three pioneers in collective intelligence, this handbook serves as a unique primer on the science of collective intelligence applied to public challenges and will inspire public actors, academics, students, and activists across the world to apply collective intelligence in policymaking and administration to explore its potential, both to foster policy innovations and reinvent democracy…(More)”.

How Would You Defend the Planet From Asteroids? 

Article by Mahmud Farooque, Jason L. Kessler: “On September 26, 2022, NASA successfully smashed a spacecraft into a tiny asteroid named Dimorphos, altering its orbit. Although it was 6.8 million miles from Earth, the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) was broadcast in real time, turning the impact into a rare pan-planetary moment accessible from smartphones around the world. 

For most people, the DART mission was the first glimmer—outside of the movies—that NASA was seriously exploring how to protect Earth from asteroids. Rightly famous for its technological prowess, NASA is less recognized for its social innovations. But nearly a decade before DART, the agency had launched the Asteroid Grand Challenge. In a pioneering approach to public engagement, the challenge brought citizens together to weigh in on how the taxpayer-funded agency might approach some technical decisions involving asteroids. 

The following account of how citizens came to engage with strategies for planetary defense—and the unexpected conclusions they reached—is based on the experiences of NASA employees, members of the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network, and forum participants…(More)”.

Citizens’ juries can help fix democracy

Article by Martin Wolf: “…our democratic processes do not work very well. Adding referendums to elections does not solve the problem. But adding citizens’ assemblies might.

In his farewell address, George Washington warned against the spirit of faction. He argued that the “alternate domination of one faction over another . . . is itself a frightful despotism. But . . . The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual”. If one looks at the US today, that peril is evident. In current electoral politics, manipulation of the emotions of a rationally ill-informed electorate is the path to power. The outcome is likely to be rule by those with the greatest talent for demagogy.

Elections are necessary. But unbridled majoritarianism is a disaster. A successful liberal democracy requires constraining institutions: independent oversight over elections, an independent judiciary and an independent bureaucracy. But are they enough? No. In my book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, I follow the Australian economist Nicholas Gruen in arguing for the addition of citizens’ assemblies or citizens’ juries. These would insert an important element of ancient Greek democracy into the parliamentary tradition.

There are two arguments for introducing sortition (lottery) into the political process. First, these assemblies would be more representative than professional politicians can ever be. Second, it would temper the impact of political campaigning, nowadays made more distorting by the arts of advertising and the algorithms of social media…(More)”.

Why voters who value democracy participate in democratic backsliding

Paper by Braley, A., Lenz, G.S., Adjodah, D. et al.: “Around the world, citizens are voting away the democracies they claim to cherish. Here we present evidence that this behaviour is driven in part by the belief that their opponents will undermine democracy first. In an observational study (N = 1,973), we find that US partisans are willing to subvert democratic norms to the extent that they believe opposing partisans are willing to do the same. In experimental studies (N = 2,543, N = 1,848), we revealed to partisans that their opponents are more committed to democratic norms than they think. As a result, the partisans became more committed to upholding democratic norms themselves and less willing to vote for candidates who break these norms. These findings suggest that aspiring autocrats may instigate democratic backsliding by accusing their opponents of subverting democracy and that we can foster democratic stability by informing partisans about the other side’s commitment to democracy…(More)”

Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond

Book by Tamara Kneese: “Since the internet’s earliest days, people have died and mourned online. In quiet corners of past iterations of the web, the dead linger. But attempts at preserving the data of the dead are often ill-fated, for websites and devices decay and die, just as people do. Death disrupts technologists’ plans for platforms. It reveals how digital production is always collaborative, undermining the entrepreneurial platform economy and highlighting the flaws of techno-solutionism.
Big Tech has authority not only over people’s lives but over their experiences of death as well. Ordinary users and workers, though, advocate for changes to tech companies’ policies around death. Drawing on internet histories along with interviews with founders of digital afterlife startups, caretakers of illness blogs, and transhumanist tinkerers, the technology scholar Tamara Kneese takes readers on a vibrant tour of the ways that platforms and people work together to care for digital remains. What happens when commercial platforms encounter the messiness of mortality?..(More)”.

Civic Participation in the Datafied Society

Introduction to Special Issue by Arne Hintz, Lina Dencik, Joanna Redden, Emiliano Trere: “As data collection and analysis are increasingly deployed for a variety of both commercial and public services, state–citizen relations are becoming infused by algorithmic and automated decision making. Yet as citizens, we have few possibilities to understand and intervene into the roll-out of data systems, and to participate in policy and decision making about uses of data and artificial intelligence (AI). This introductory article unpacks the nexus of datafication and participation, reviews some of the editors’ own research on this subject, and provides an overview of the contents of the Special Section “Civic Participation in the Datafied Society.”… (More)”.

Citizens’ Assemblies Could Be Democracy’s Best Hope

Article by Hugh Pope: “…According to the OECD, nearly 600 citizens’ assemblies had taken place globally by 2021, almost all in the preceding decade. The number has expanded exponentially since then. In addition to high-profile assemblies that take on major issues, like the one in Paris, they include small citizens’ juries making local planning decisions, experiments that mix elected politicians with citizens chosen by lot, and permanent chambers in city or community governance whose members are randomly selected, usually on an annual basis from the relevant population.

Sortition, also known as democracy by lot, has been used to randomly select citizens’ assemblies in the Philippines, Malawi and Mexico. Citizens’ assemblies were used in the U.S. in 2021 to debate the climate crisis in Washington state and to determine the fate of a fairground in Petaluma, California. Indeed, whereas few people had heard of a citizens’ assembly a few years ago, a late 2020 Pew Research poll found that in the U.S., Germany, France and Britain, three-quarters or more of respondents thought it either somewhat or very important for their countries to convene them.

Though a global phenomenon, the trend is finding the most traction in Europe. Citizens’ assemblies in Germany are “booming,” with over 60 in the past year alone, according to a German radio documentary. A headline in Britain’s Guardian newspaper wondered if they are “the Future of Democracy.” The Dutch newspaper Trouw suggested they may be “the way we can win back trust in politics.” And in France, an editorial in Le Monde called for a greater embrace of “this new way of exercising power and drawing on collective intelligence.”…(More)”.

The 2023 State of UserCentriCities

Report by UserCentricities: “Did you know that Rotterdam employs 25 service designers and a user-interface lab? That the property tax payment in Bratislava is reviewed and improved every year? That Ghent automatically offers school benefits to families in need, using data held by different levels of administration? That Madrid processed 70% of registrations in digital form in 2022, up from 23% in 2019? That Kyiv, despite the challenges of war, has continuously updated its city app adding new services daily for citizens in need, such as a map of bomb shelters and heating points? Based on data gathered from the UserCentriCities Dashboard, UserCentriCities launches The 2023 State of UserCentriCities: How Cities and Regions are Delivering Effective Services by Putting Citizens’ Needs at the Centre, an analysis of the performance of European cities and regions against 41 indicators inspired by The 2017 Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment.…(More)”.

The Rise of Virtual Communities

Book by Amber Atherton: “Uncover the fascinating history of virtual communities and how we connect to each other online. The Rise of Virtual Communities, explores the earliest online community platforms, mapping the technological evolutions, and the individuals, that have shaped the culture of the internet.

Read in-depth interviews with the visionary founders of iconic online platforms, and uncover the history of virtual communities and how the industry has developed over time. Featuring never-before told stories, this exploration introduces new ideas and predictions for the future, explaining how we got here and challenging what we think we may know about building online communities….(More)”.

Let’s Randomize America! 

Article by Dalton Conley: “…As our society has become less random, it has become more unequal. Many people know that inequality has been rising steadily over time, but a less-remarked-on development is that there’s been a parallel geographic shift, with high- and low-income people moving into separate, ever more distinct communities…As a sociologist, I study inequality and what can be done about it. It is, to say the least, a difficult problem to solve…I’ve come to believe that lotteries could help to crack this nut and make our society fairer and more equal. We can’t randomly assign where people live, of course. And we can’t integrate neighborhoods by fiat, either. We learned that lesson in the nineteen-seventies, when counties tried busing schoolchildren across town. Those programs aimed to create more racially and economically integrated schools; they resulted in the withdrawal of affluent students from urban public-school systems, and set off a political backlash that can still be felt today…

As a political tool, lotteries have come and gone throughout history. Sortition—the selection of political officials by lot—was first practiced in Athens in the sixth century B.C.E., and later reappeared in Renaissance city-states such as Florence, Venice, and Lombardy, and in Switzerland and elsewhere. In recent years, citizens’ councils—randomly chosen groups of individuals who meet to hammer out a particular issue, such as climate policy—have been tried in Canada, France, Iceland, Ireland, and the U.K. Some political theorists, such as Hélène Landemore, Jane Mansbridge, and the Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck, have argued that randomly selected decision-makers who don’t have to campaign are less likely to be corrupt or self-interested than those who must run for office; people chosen at random are also unlikely to be typically privileged, power-hungry politicians. The wisdom of the crowd improves when the crowd is more diverse…(More)”.