Civic Lab Journey #2 : D-cent

From TICTEC to D-cent, here are further issues raised in international conferences, additional bricks down our yellow path to Emerald democracy.

Civic Lab Barcelona was at the d-cent conference recently in Madrid, which was organized in the delightful setting of the Reina Sofia Museum. Here is a quick recap of the most stimulating ideas which we liked best.

To provide some background, D-cent is a European project seeking to use open source tools to foster direct democracy as well as economic empowerment. D-cent believes in reinventing politics thriving on the array of new opportunities provided by the digital age. The conference in Madrid, entitled Democratic Cities — Commons technology and the right to a democratic city, was meant to discuss network democracy and citizen participation in democratic cities, right up Civic Lab Barcelona’s alley. The event gathered great minds from all spheres and all continents, from Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

As first presented by event coordinator Francesca Bria, the discussion was designed to deliberate on the production of tools drafted to reenergize and reinvent direct democracy. One meant to be governed for the people with the people, along the lines of openness, experiments, and integration.

While there was a lot of critique of the system in place and notably of capitalism, defined as a “corpse” which we need to get out of, the conference offered little practical ideas and solutions to enter a paradigm shift. In order for the production of tools to soar, coordination needs to happen so as to build a common framework under which we can work. This is exactly Civic Lab Barcelona’s offer, a scheme designed to articulate civic engagement, which we felt was somehow lacking in Madrid.

To begin with, concern was raised on the topic of the asymmetry in data governance and the trend of the weakening fabric of power, from Brazil to Korea. Philosopher Francesco Berardi spoke on the matter about the rise of ‘national sovereignism’. Indeed, he said, we seem to be witnessing a form of self identification of the white race, from LePen to Trump.

To address the endemic problems of current day political systems, the debate shifted towards finding new ways to create a decentralized innovative ecosystem in order to reconstruct democracy. However, in order for that construction to happen we need to deconstruct the foundations of democracy. Jinsin Lee, founder of WAGL, a Korean politics startup promoting the establishment of a better democracy by the crowd, spoke of ARTful politics. Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent is the way WAGL envisions innovative politics. Mrs Lee stressed the importance of transparent communication channels linking common people to the political will. An example of which would be a voting guide service app, designed to attract more young voters to participate.

Thus the debate oriented itself outside of the reductive spectrum of ideology focusing on structural politics which is what Civic Lab Barcelona is all about. It is important to note that political discussions do not have to be partisan or taboo.

Further, a consensus was found in that decisions are best made in groups, and that as citizens, we need to reapropriate technology so as to reprogram the way we live.

To reshape the political landscape said Diego Arredondo Ortiz, representing Wikipolitíca, we need to empower citizens. Community by the crowd, leadership of the crowd, and technology for the crowd. Indeed, direct democracy, he stated, cannot exist without an online activity.

Overall the conference provided some very stimulating and eye-opening concepts and tools, on the topic of reshaping direct democracy and civic engagement, which we seek to further debate and bring to light with Civic Lab Barcelona.

| Written by Alexis Sarfati |