The Multistakeholder Model in Global Technology Governance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

New APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper by Nanette S. Levinson: “This paper examines two key but often overlooked analytic dimensions related to global technology governance: the roles of culture and cross-cultural communication processes and the broader framework of Multistakeholderism. Each of these dimensions has a growing tradition of research/conceptual frameworks that can inform the analysis of Internet governance and related complex and power-related processes that may be present in a multistakeholder setting. The use of the term ‘multistakeholder’ itself has grown exponentially in discussing Internet governance and related governance domains; yet there are few rigorous studies within Internet governance that treat actual multistakeholder processes, especially from a cross-cultural and comparative perspective.
Using research on cross-cultural communication and related factors (at small group, occupational, organizational, interorganizational or cross- sector, national, regional levels), this paper provides and uses an analytic framework, especially for the 2012 WCIT and 2013 WSIS 10 and World Telecommunications Policy Forum that goes beyond the rhetoric of ‘multistakeholder’ as a term. It includes an examination of variables found to be important in studies from environmental governance, public administration, and private sector partnership domains including trust, absorptive capacity, and power in knowledge transfer processes. “

Big Data and Disease Prevention: From Quantified Self to Quantified Communities

New Paper by Meredith A. Barrett, Olivier Humblet, Robert A. Hiatt, and Nancy E. Adler: “Big data is often discussed in the context of improving medical care, but it also has a less appreciated but equally important role to play in preventing disease. Big data can facilitate action on the modifiable risk factors that contribute to a large fraction of the chronic disease burden, such as physical activity, diet, tobacco use, and exposure to pollution. It can do so by facilitating the discovery of risk factors for disease at population, subpopulation, and individual levels, and by improving the effectiveness of interventions to help people achieve healthier behaviors in healthier environments. In this article, we describe new sources of big data in population health, explore their applications, and present two case studies illustrating how big data can be leveraged for prevention. We also discuss the many implementation obstacles that must be overcome before this vision can become a reality.”

A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project

Paper by Maxat Kassen in Government Information Quarterly: “This article presents a case study of the open data project in the Chicago area. The main purpose of the research is to explore empowering potential of an open data phenomenon at the local level as a platform useful for promotion of civic engagement projects and provide a framework for future research and hypothesis testing. Today the main challenge in realization of any e-government projects is a traditional top–down administrative mechanism of their realization itself practically without any input from members of the civil society. In this respect, the author of the article argues that the open data concept realized at the local level may provide a real platform for promotion of proactive civic engagement. By harnessing collective wisdom of the local communities, their knowledge and visions of the local challenges, governments could react and meet citizens’ needs in a more productive and cost-efficient manner. Open data-driven projects that focused on visualization of environmental issues, mapping of utility management, evaluating of political lobbying, social benefits, closing digital divide, etc. are only some examples of such perspectives. These projects are perhaps harbingers of a new political reality where interactions among citizens at the local level will play an more important role than communication between civil society and government due to the empowering potential of the open data concept.”

Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization

Book review by José Luis Cordeiro:  Eric Drexler, popularly known as “the founding father of nanotechnology,” introduced the concept in his seminal 1981 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This paper established fundamental principles of molecular engineering and outlined development paths to advanced nanotechnologies.
He popularized the idea of nanotechnology in his 1986 book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, where he introduced a broad audience to a fundamental technology objective: using machines that work at the molecular scale to structure matter from the bottom up.
He went on to continue his PhD thesis at MIT, under the guidance of AI-pioneer Marvin Minsky, and published it in a modified form as a book in 1992 as Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation.

Drexler’s new book, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, tells the story of nanotechnology from its small beginnings, then moves quickly towards a big future, explaining what it is and what it is not, and enlightening about what we can do with it for the benefit of humanity.
In his pioneering 1986 book, Engines of Creation, he defined nanotechnology as a potential technology with these features: “manufacturing using machinery based on nanoscale devices, and products built with atomic precision.”
In his 2013 sequel, Radical Abundance, Drexler expands on his prior thinking, corrects many of the misconceptions about nanotechnology, and dismisses fears of dystopian futures replete with malevolent nanobots and gray goo…
His new book clearly identifies nanotechnology with atomically precise manufacturing (APM)…Drexler makes many comparisons between the information revolution and what he now calls the “APM revolution.” What the first did with bits, the second will do with atoms: “Image files today will be joined by product files tomorrow. Today one can produce an image of the Mona Lisa without being able to draw a good circle; tomorrow one will be able to produce a display screen without knowing how to manufacture a wire.”
Civilization, he says, is advancing from a world of scarcity toward a world of abundance — indeed, radical abundance.”

Making/Design Policies Together

Paper by Stefano Maffei, Marzia Mortati, and Beatrice Villari for the 10th European Academy of Design Conference – Crafting the Future: “In this paper we present the idea of connecting co-design approaches and techniques to the process of policy formation. The objective is to explore the possibilities to co-design policies (making policies together), through a better understanding of the policy formation cycle and analysing the new roles, competencies, skills, and tools that could support such process. Acknowledging the recent interests of the European Commission, the paper focuses on the European policy formation cycle, comparing the current practices to an on-going initiative which is investigated as a case-study of collaborative policy making (an example of policy co-design). Both the case-study analysis and the literature research are integrated with governmental documents, reports, and initiatives that support the relevance and interest on this topic.
The analysis highlights a context where the idea of collaborative policy making is just now emerging. Three main reflections are proposed throughout the paper to further the contribution of design research to policy making: (a) the issues to be considered for citizens’ participation in policy formation through design, (b) the inclusion of co-design approaches for policymaking, (c) the possibility to include participative processes in the emerging field of design policies.”

On our best behaviour

Paper by Hector J. Levesque: “The science of AI is concerned with the study of intelligent forms of behaviour in computational terms. But what does it tell us when a good semblance of a behaviour can be achieved using cheap tricks that seem to have little to do with what we intuitively imagine intelligence to be? Are these intuitions wrong, and is intelligence really just a bag of tricks? Or are the philosophers right, and is a behavioural understanding of intelligence simply too weak? I think both of these are wrong. I suggest in the context of question-answering that what matters when it comes to the science of AI is not a good semblance of intelligent behaviour at all, but the behaviour itself, what it depends on, and how it can be achieved. I go on to discuss two major hurdles that I believe will need to be cleared.”

Manipulation Among the Arbiters of Collective Intelligence: How Wikipedia Administrators Mold Public Opinion

New paper by Sanmay Das, Allen Lavoie, and Malik Magdon-Ismail: “Our reliance on networked, collectively built information is a vulnerability when the quality or reliability of this information is poor. Wikipedia, one such collectively built information source, is often our first stop for information on all kinds of topics; its quality has stood up to many tests, and it prides itself on having a “Neutral Point of View”. Enforcement of neutrality is in the hands of comparatively few, powerful administrators. We find a surprisingly large number of editors who change their behavior and begin focusing more on a particular controversial topic once they are promoted to administrator status. The conscious and unconscious biases of these few, but powerful, administrators may be shaping the information on many of the most sensitive topics on Wikipedia; some may even be explicitly infiltrating the ranks of administrators in order to promote their own points of view. Neither prior history nor vote counts during an administrator’s election can identify those editors most likely to change their behavior in this suspicious manner. We find that an alternative measure, which gives more weight to influential voters, can successfully reject these suspicious candidates. This has important implications for how we harness collective intelligence: even if wisdom exists in a collective opinion (like a vote), that signal can be lost unless we carefully distinguish the true expert voter from the noisy or manipulative voter.”

The Participatory Turn: Participatory Budgeting Comes to America

Thesis by Hollie Russon Gilman: “Participatory Budgeting (PB) has expanded to over 1,500 municipalities worldwide since its inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989 by the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party). While PB has been adopted throughout the world, it has yet to take hold in the United States. This dissertation examines the introduction of PB to the United States with the first project in Chicago in 2009, and proceeds with an in-depth case study of the largest implementation of PB in the United States: Participatory Budgeting in New York City. I assess the outputs of PB in the United States including deliberations, governance, and participation. I argue that PB produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York City, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders. However, there are serious challenges to participation, including high costs of engagement, process exhaustion, and perils of scalability. I devise a framework for assessment called “citizenly politics,” focusing on: 1) designing participation 2) deliberation 3) participation and 4) potential for institutionalization. I argue that while the material results PB produces are relatively modest, including more innovative projects, PB delivers more substantial non-material or existential results. Existential citizenly rewards include: greater civic knowledge, strengthened relationships with elected officials, and greater community inclusion. Overall, PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”

Improved Governance? Exploring the Results of Peru's Participatory Budgeting Process

Paper by Stephanie McNulty for the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (Aug. 29-Sept. 1, 2013): “Can a nationally mandated participatory budget process change the nature of local governance? Passed in 2003 to mandate participatory budgeting in all districts and regions of Peru, Peru’s National PB Law has garnered international attention from proponents of participatory governance. However, to date, the results of the process have not been widely documented. Presenting data that have been gathered through fieldwork, online databases, and primary documents, this paper explores the results of Peru’s PB after ten years of implementation. The paper finds that results are limited. While there are a significant number of actors engaged in the process, the PB is still dominated by elite actors that do not represent the diversity of the civil society sector in Peru. Participants approve important “pro-poor” projects, but they are not always executed. Finally, two important indicators of governance, sub-national conflict and trust in local institutions, have not improved over time. Until Peruvian politicians make a concerted effort to move beyond politics as usual, results will continue to be limited” 

Smartphones As Weather Surveillance Systems

Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review: “You probably never think about the temperature of your smartphone’s battery, but it turns out to provide an interesting method for tracking outdoor air temperature. It’s a discovery that adds to other evidence that mobile apps could provide a new way to measure what’s happening in the atmosphere and improve weather forecasting.
Startup OpenSignal, whose app crowdsources data on cellphone reception, first noticed in 2012 that changes in battery temperature correlated with those outdoors. On Tuesday, they published a scientific paper on that technique in a geophysics journal and announced that the technique will be used to interpret data from a weather crowdsourcing app. OpenSignal originally started collecting data on battery temperatures to try and understand the connections between signal strength and how quickly a device chews through its battery.
OpenSignal’s crowdsourced weather-tracking effort joins another accidentally enabled by smartphones. A project called PressureNET that collects air pressure data by taking advantage of the fact many Android phones have a barometer inside to aid their GPS function (see “App Feeds Scientists Atmospheric Data From Thousands of Smartphones”). Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, is working to incorporate PressureNET data into weather models that usually rely on data from weather stations. He believes that smartphones could provide valuable data from places where there are no weather stations, if enough people start sharing data using apps like PressureNET.
Other research suggests that logging changes in cell network signal strength perceived by smartphones could provide yet more weather data. In February researchers in the Netherlands produced detailed maps of rainfall compiled by monitoring fluctuations in the signal strength measured by cellular network masts, caused by water droplets in the atmosphere.”