Capturing citizen voice online: Enabling smart participatory local government


Tooran Alizadeh, Somwrita Sarkar and Sandy Burgoyne in Cities: “Social media and online communication have changed the way citizens engage in all aspects of lives from shopping and education, to how communities are planned and developed. It is no longer one-way or two- way communication. Instead, via networked all-to-all communication channels, our citizens engage on urban issues in a complex and more connected way than ever before. So government needs new ways to listen to its citizens. The paper comprises three components. Firstly, we build on the growing discussions in the literature focused on smart cities, on one hand, and social media research, on the other, to capture the diversity of citizen voices and better inform decision-making. Secondly, with the support of the Australian Federal Government and in collaboration with the local government partners, we collect citizen voices from Twitter on selected urban projects. Thirdly, we present preliminary findings in terms of quantity and quality of publicly available online data representing citizen concerns on the urban matters. By analyzing the sentiments of the citizen voices captured online, clustering them into topic areas, and then reevaluating citizen’s sentiments within each cluster, we elaborate the scope and value of technologically-enabled opportunities in terms of enabling participatory local government decision making processes….(More)”.

Understanding our Political Nature: How to put knowledge and reason at the heart of political decision-making


EU report by Rene Van Bavel et al: “Recognising that advances in behavioural, decision and social sciences demonstrate that we are not purely rational beings, this report brings new insights into our political behaviour and this understanding have the potential to address some of the current crises in our democracies. Sixty experts from across the globe working in the fields of behavioural and social sciences as well as the humanities, have contributed to the research that underpins this JRC report that calls upon evidence-informed policymaking not to be taken for granted. There is a chapter dedicated to each key finding which outlines the latest scientific thinking as well as an overview of the possible implications for policymaking. The key findings are:

  • Misperception and Disinformation: Our thinking skills are challenged by today’s information environment and make us vulnerable to disinformation. We need to think more about how we think.
  • Collective Intelligence: Science can help us re-design the way policymakers work together to take better decisions and prevent policy mistakes.
  • Emotions: We can’t separate emotion from reason. Better information about citizens’ emotions and greater emotional literacy could improve policymaking.
  • Values and Identities drive political behaviour but are not properly understood or debated.
  • Framing, Metaphor and Narrative: Facts don’t speak for themselves. Framing, metaphors and narratives need to be used responsibly if evidence is to be heard and understood.
  • Trust and Openness: The erosion of trust in experts and in government can only be addressed by greater honesty and public deliberation about interests and values.
  • Evidence-informed policymaking: The principle that policy should be informed by evidence is under attack. Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend this cornerstone of liberal democracy….(More)”

From Hippocrates to Artificial Intelligence: Moving Towards a Collective Intelligence


Carlos María Galmarini at Open Mind: “Modern medicine is based upon the work of Hippocrates and his disciples and is compiled in more than 70 books comprising the Hippocratic body of work. In its essence, these writings declare that any illness originates with natural causes. Therefore, medicine must be based on detailed observation, reason, and experience in order to establish a diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. The Hippocratic tradition stresses the importance of the symptoms and the clinical exam. As a result, medicine abandoned superstition and the magic performed by priest-doctors, and it was transformed into a real, experience-based science….

A complementary combination of both intelligences (human and artificial) could help overcome the other’s shortcomings and limitations. As we incorporate intelligent technologies into medical processes, a new, more powerful form of collaboration will emerge. Analogous to the past when the automation of human tasks completely changed the known world and ignited an evolution in the offering of products and services, the combination of human and artificial intelligence will create a new type of collective intelligence capable of building more efficient organizations, and in the healthcare industry, it will be able to solve problems that until now have been unfathomable to the human mind alone.

Finally, it is worth remembering that fact based sciences are divided into natural and human disciplines. Medicine occupies a special place, straddling both. It can be difficult to establish the similarities between a doctor who works, for example, with rules defined by specific clinical trials and a traditional family practitioner. The former would be more related to a natural science, and the latter with a more human science – “the art of medicine.”

The combination of human and artificial intelligence in a new type of collective intelligence will enable doctors themselves to be a combination of the two. In other words, the art of medicine – human science – based on the analysis of big data – natural science. A new collective intelligence working on behalf of a wiser medicine….(More)”.

Crosscope


Crosscope is revolutionizing the way practitioners and researchers are leveraging digital pathology to share and solve medical cases.

Since the 1900s cancer diagnosis has been limited to the subjective interpretation of what the pathologist could see under a microscope. To transform the way we perform pathology and cancer research, we are developing new tools to leverage powerful AI & perspectives of medical experts at the same time.

At Crosscope, we are building a place for the convergence of collective intelligence of our massive online medical community and AI. We are commited to developing cutting edge AI tools for better decision support in cancer care. We aim to be the largest database for tagged histopathology images which will contain a lot more information than genomics alone and will be crucial in early diagnosis of cancer….(More)”.

Number of fact-checking outlets surges to 188 in more than 60 countries


Mark Stencel at Poynter: “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.

Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.

Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.

The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own.

Over the past 12 months, five separate multimedia partnerships enlisted more than 60 different fact-checking organizations and other news companies to help debunk claims and verify information for voters in MexicoBrazilSweden,Nigeria and the Philippines. And the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network assembled a separate team of 19 media outlets from 13 countries to consolidate and share their reporting during the run-up to last month’s elections for the European Parliament. Our database includes each of these partnerships, along with several others— but not each of the individual partners. And because they were intentionally short-run projects, three of these big partnerships appear among the 74 inactive projects we also document in our database.

Politics isn’t the only driver for fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation — often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads.

We also continue to see new topic-specific fact-checkers such as Metafact in Australia and Health Feedback in France— both of which launched in 2018 to focus on claims about health and medicine for a worldwide audience….(More)”.

The European Lead Factory: Collective intelligence and cooperation to improve patients’ lives


Press Release: “While researchers from small and medium-sized companies and academic institutions often have enormous numbers of ideas, they don’t always have enough time or resources to develop them all. As a result, many ideas get left behind because companies and academics typically have to focus on narrow areas of research. This is known as the “Innovation Gap”. ESCulab (European Screening Centre: unique library for attractive biology) aims to turn this problem into an opportunity by creating a comprehensive library of high-quality compounds. This will serve as a basis for testing potential research targets against a wide variety of compounds.

Any researcher from a European academic institution or a small to medium-sized enterprise within the consortium can apply for a screening of their potential drug target. If a submitted target idea is positively assessed by a committee of experts it will be run through a screening process and the submitting party will receive a dossier of up to 50 potentially relevant substances that can serve as starting points for further drug discovery activities.

ESCulab will build Europe’s largest collaborative drug discovery platform and is equipped with a total budget of € 36.5 million: Half is provided by the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and half comes from in-kind contributions from companies of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries an Associations (EFPIA) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. It builds on the existing library of the European Lead Factory , which consists of around 200,000 compounds, as well as around 350,000 compounds from EFPIA companies. The European Lead Factory aims to initiate 185 new drug discovery projects through the ESCulab project by screening drug targets against its library.

… The platform has already provided a major boost for drug discovery in Europe and is a strong example of how crowdsourcing, collective intelligence and the cooperation within the IMI framework can create real value for academia, industry, society and patients….(More)”

The 100 Questions Initiative: Sourcing 100 questions on key societal challenges that can be answered by data insights


100Q Screenshot

Press Release: “The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering announced the launch of the 100 Questions Initiative — an effort to identify the most important societal questions whose answers can be found in data and data science if the power of data collaboratives is harnessed.

The initiative, launched with initial support from Schmidt Futures, seeks to address challenges on numerous topics, including migration, climate change, poverty, and the future of work.

For each of these areas and more, the initiative will seek to identify questions that could help unlock the potential of data and data science with the broader goal of fostering positive social, environmental, and economic transformation. These questions will be sourced by leveraging “bilinguals” — practitioners across disciplines from all over the world who possess both domain knowledge and data science expertise.

The 100 Questions Initiative starts by identifying 10 key questions related to migration. These include questions related to the geographies of migration, migrant well-being, enforcement and security, and the vulnerabilities of displaced people. This inaugural effort involves partnerships with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Commission, both of which will provide subject-matter expertise and facilitation support within the framework of the Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M).

“While there have been tremendous efforts to gather and analyze data relevant to many of the world’s most pressing challenges, as a society, we have not taken the time to ensure we’re asking the right questions to unlock the true potential of data to help address these challenges,” said Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder and chief research and development officer of The GovLab. “Unlike other efforts focused on data supply or data science expertise, this project seeks to radically improve the set of questions that, if answered, could transform the way we solve 21st century problems.”

In addition to identifying key questions, the 100 Questions Initiative will also focus on creating new data collaboratives. Data collaboratives are an emerging form of public-private partnership that help unlock the public interest value of previously siloed data. The GovLab has conducted significant research in the value of data collaboration, identifying that inter-sectoral collaboration can both increase access to information (e.g., the vast stores of data held by private companies) as well as unleash the potential of that information to serve the public good….(More)”.

Living Labs As A Collaborative Framework For Changing Perceptions And Goals


Co-Val: “In the…Report on cross-country comparison on existing innovation and living labsLars Fuglsang and Anne Vorre Hansen from Roskilde University describe various applications of living labs to decision-making. The basic two examples are living labs as a collaborative framework for changing perceptions and goals and living labs as an ecosystem for policy innovation.

Living labs can involve a change in mindset and goals as expressed in one paper on public sector innovation labs (Carstensen & Bason, 2012). Carstensen and Bason (2012) report the important story of the Danish Mindlab (2002-2018) – a cross-governmental innovation lab involving public sector organisations, citizens and businesses in creating new solutions for society. They argue that innovation labs are designed to foster collaboration since labs are platforms where multiple stakeholders can engage in interaction, dialogue, and development activities.  Innovation needs a different approach than everyday activities and a change in mindset and culture shift of employees towards thinking more systematically about innovation. Mindlab’s methodologies are anchored in design thinking, qualitative research and policy development, with the aim of capturing the subjective reality experienced by both citizens and businesses in the development of new solutions. Carstensen and Bason (2012) list the following key principles of Mindlab: take charge of on-going renewal, maintain top management backing, create professional empathy, insist on collaboration, do – don’t just think, recruit and develop likeable people, don’t be too big, communicate.

Also, Buhr et al. (2016) show how living labs can be important for developing and implementing collective goals and creating new opportunities for citizens to influence public affairs. They describe two cases in two suburban areas (located in Sweden and Finland), where the living lab approach was used to improve the feeling of belonging in a community. In one of the two suburbs studied, a living lab approach was used to change the lightning on a pathway that seemed unsafe; and in the other case, a living lab approach was used to strengthen the social community by renovating a kiosk and organizing varied activities for the citizens. Both living labs motivated the residents to work on societal goals for sustainability and choose solutions. The study indicates that a living lab approach can be used for gaining support for change and thereby increasing the citizens’ appreciation of a local area. Further, living labs may give citizens a feeling that they are being listened to. Living labs can thus create opportunities for citizens to develop the city together with municipal policy-makers and other stakeholders and enable policy-makers to respond to the expressed needs of the citizens….(More)”

Echo Chambers May Not Be as Dangerous as You Think, New Study Finds


News Release: “In the wake of the 2016 American presidential election, western media outlets have become almost obsessed with echo chambers. With headlines like “Echo Chambers are Dangerous” and “Are You in a Social Media Echo Chamber?,” news media consumers have been inundated by articles discussing the problems with spending most of one’s time around likeminded people.

But are social bubbles really all that bad? Perhaps not.

A new study from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that collective intelligence — peer learning within social networks — can increase belief accuracy even in politically homogenous groups.

“Previous research showed that social information processing could work in mixed groups,” says lead author and Annenberg alum Joshua Becker (Ph.D. ’18), who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “But theories of political polarization argued that social influence within homogenous groups should only amplify existing biases.”

It’s easy to imagine that networked collective intelligence would work when you’re asking people neutral questions, such as how many jelly beans are in a jar. But what about probing hot button political topics? Because people are more likely to adjust the facts of the world to match their beliefs than vice versa, prior theories claimed that a group of people who agree politically would be unable to use collective reasoning to arrive at a factual answer if it challenges their beliefs.

“Earlier this year, we showed that when Democrats and Republicans interact with each other within properly designed social media networks, it can eliminate polarization and improve both groups’ understanding of contentious issues such as climate change,” says senior author Damon Centola, Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School. “Remarkably, our new findings show that properly designed social media networks can even lead to improved understanding of contentious topics within echo chambers.”

Becker and colleagues devised an experiment in which participants answered fact-based questions that stir up political leanings, like “How much did unemployment change during Barack Obama’s presidential administration?” or “How much has the number of undocumented immigrants changed in the last 10 years?” Participants were placed in groups of only Republicans or only Democrats and given the opportunity to change their responses based on the other group members’ answers.

The results show that individual beliefs in homogenous groups became 35% more accurate after participants exchanged information with one another. And although people’s beliefs became more similar to their own party members, they also became more similar to members of the other political party, even without any between-group exchange. This means that even in homogenous groups — or echo chambers — social influence increases factual accuracy and decreases polarization.

“Our results cast doubt on some of the gravest concerns about the role of echo chambers in contemporary democracy,” says co-author Ethan Porter, Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. “When it comes to factual matters, political echo chambers need not necessarily reduce accuracy or increase polarization. Indeed, we find them doing the opposite….(More)… (Full Paper: “The Wisdom of Partisan Crowds“)

Group decisions: When more information isn’t necessarily better


News Release from the Santa Fee Institute: “In nature, group decisions are often a matter of life or death. At first glance, the way certain groups of animals like minnows branch off into smaller sub-groups might seem counterproductive to their survival. After all, information about, say, where to find some tasty fish roe or which waters harbor more of their predators, would flow more freely and seem to benefit more minnows if the school of fish behaved as a whole. However, new research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B sheds light on the complexity of collective decision-making and uncovers new insights into the benefits of the internal structure of animal groups.

In their paper, Albert Kao, a Baird Scholar and Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, and Iain Couzin, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Chair of Biodiversity and Collective Behavior at the University of Konstanz, simulate the information-sharing patterns of animals that prefer to interact with certain individuals over others. The authors’ modeling of such animal groups upends previously held assumptions about internal group structure and improves upon our understanding of the influence of group organization and environment on both the collective decision-making process and its accuracy.

Modular — or cliquey — group structure isolates the flow of communication between individuals, so that only certain animals are privy to certain pieces of information. “A feature of modular structure is that there’s always information loss,” says Kao, “but the effect of that information loss on accuracy depends on the environment.”

In simple environments, the impact of these modular groups is detrimental to accuracy, but when animals face many different sources of information, the effect is actually the opposite. “Surprisingly,” says Kao, “in complex environments, the information loss even helps accuracy in a lot of situations.” More information, in this case, is not necessarily better.

“Modular structure can have a profound — and unexpected — impact on the collective intelligence of groups,” says Couzin. “This may indeed be one of the reasons that we see internal structure in so many group-living species, from schooling fish and flocking birds to wild primate groups.”

Potentially, these new observations could be applied to many different kinds of social networks, from the migration patterns of birds to the navigation of social media landscapes to the organization of new companies, deepening our grasp of complex organization and collective behavior….(More)”.

(The paper, “Modular structure within groups causes information loss but can improve decision accuracy,” is part of a theme issue in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B entitled “Liquid Brains, Solid Brains: How distributed cognitive architectures process information.” The issue was inspired by a Santa Fe Institute working group and edited by Ricard Solé (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Melanie Moses (University of New Mexico), and Stephanie Forrest (Arizona State University).