Hur ska föreningslivet förhålla sig till Facebook?

Efter den senaste tidens avslöjanden har det blivit uppenbart att Facebook inte är ett företag som värnar om demokrati, personlig integritet eller unga personers psykiska hälsa. Så hur kan föreningslivet förhålla sig till den här teknikjätten, som vi är så beroende av för att organisera oss och nå ut till medlemmar?

Foto av Shadowsun7

Vad vi vetat sedan tidigare är att Facebook samlar in all vår användardata för att sälja riktade annonser. Det kan låta harmlöst, men har till exempel använts för att sälja annonspaket som riktar sig specifikt till psykiskt instabila tonåringar.

Det nya som kommit fram de senaste veckorna är hur den sammantagna datan från miljontals användare använts för att påverka politiska val och folkomröstningar, utan användarnas godkännande och eventuellt i strid mot lagen.

För att ge en kort sammanfattning, så samlade tvivelaktiga forskare och företag 2014 in data från 50 miljoner ovetande användare. Baserat på den informationen skapade de ett system för “psykologisk profilering”, till exempel genom kartläggning av användarnas sexuella läggning, barndoms-trauman eller etnicitet. Det systemet användes sedan för att, ofta med skrämselpropaganda, skapa riktad annonsering för Trumps valkampanj och Brexit i Storbritannien. Facebook har känt till att användardatan missbrukats, men i princip inte gjort något alls för att stoppa det.

Hur kan demokratiska föreningar, speciellt föreningar för unga personer, förhålla sig till det här? Vi vet att många föreningar är beroende av Facebook för att nå ut till nya och gamla medlemmar, för att opinionsbilda, ordna event, diskutera och organisera sig internt.

Hur skyddar vi våra medlemmars personliga data från att missbrukas av skrupellösa företag eller xenofoba politiska kampanjer?

Är det överhuvudtaget förenligt med demokratiska värderingar att använda Facebook?

I Digidem Lab arbetar vi med att hitta och rekommendera säkra digitala verktyg för organisering för föreningslivet. Säkerhet är alltid relativt, och behöver ofta vägas mot användarvänlighet, effektivitet och förmåga att nå ut till många. Även om vi föredrar kryptering, öppen källkod och decentraliserade tjänster är det inte alltid praktiskt möjligt att använda den typen av tjänster.

Det finns ändå några saker som vi tycker att alla föreningar kan börja göra redan idag

  • Gör inte era medlemmar beroende av att skapa konton hos teknikjättar som Facebook och Google, som lever på att samla in och sälja personlig data. Det är en sak om medlemmar vill använda de tjänsterna privat, men som förening bör ni inte göra det valet åt dem. Se till att det finns fler ställen än Facebook för att hålla sig uppdaterad om vad som händer i föreningen.
  • Utforska alternativa tjänster för event-organisering, diskussioner, beslutsfattande och kommunikation i föreningen, för att successivt kunna byta till tjänster som respekterar demokrati och personlig integritet.
  • Flytta diskussioner och distansmöten mellan aktiva medlemmar till andra tjänster, även om ni fortsätter att använda Facebook för att nå ut till nya medlemmar.
  • Diskutera sociala medier med era medlemmar och vad det kan få för konsekvenser att dela personlig information och politiska åsikter.

I nästa blogginlägg kommer vi att rekommendera några säkrare digitala verktyg för föreningar.

Making Madrid´s citizen platform accessible to a wider audience

Upcoming project at Medialab Prado’s Collective Intelligence 2017.

The citizen platform Consul is used by Madrid and over thirty other cities in Spain, as well as several cities in Latin America. In the last few months it has also been used by the social housing company of Paris for participatory budgeting and the British People’s Momentum for their annual meeting. This makes it one of the most interesting and well used open source projects for deliberative democracy right now.

Many of the organisations and social movements that we in Digidem Lab are in contact with are impressed by the possibilities of Consul. But it is also hard to demo the tool for them, and show them what their next step for implementing it would be.

Although a very useful tool with a wide range of use cases, the installation and setup process requires a lot from its administrators, and is something we believe is holding it back from being more widely used.


Adapting to new needs

With the new target audiences for Consul (cities abroad, NGO:s, different kind of participatory budgets), we need to look at the user journeys for adapting the tool for the different users and see how to best meet their needs and expectations.

This project is about finding the best ways to lower the threshold for the installation and setup process for these new target audiences. With an interdisciplinary team of marketers, developers and designers, we would be able to tackle many of the obstacles to wider implementation of Consul and provide a clear step by step process for any organisation interested in implementing and adapting it.

Any self hosted platform will of course have the problem of needing people with technical expertise. But some open source platforms, like for example Nextcloud, has shown an ability to meet their users half way by providing a range of options for installations, demo versions and documentation.

Finding the pain points

We will work in two phases, by first identifying new target audiences, their needs and pain points; then work iteratively on the setup process and documentation.

In the first phase we will get to know the users by defining target audiences, researching user experiences, defining personas and drawing user journeys.

Defining new target audiences: Which are the new groups using Consul, and how do we pinpoint and define these new users?

Researching user experiences: Interviewing for example Open Source Politics from France and Peoples Momentum from the UK about their experiences from using Consul in new contexts.

Personas and user journeys: Defining detailed profiles for our new personas. Creating user journeys for how the personas ideally would come to adopt Consul. Identifying pain points and obstacles where improvements in the documentation and installation process can be made.

Working on improvements in iterations

In the next stage, we work on improvements in iterations looking at for example automated installation options; a clearly designed installation guide; pre-configured installation profiles or demo versions based on the known user cases like citizen platforms, annual meetings, participatory budgeting.

Automated installation: Help the Consul development team with automated installation scripts for Ansible or Heroku. There are some progress in making Docker images that we could develop further.

Installation guide: There is a new drafted text from the Consul team. We could design and set up a manual in for example Read the docs or Hexo and work on the texts. Another option to explore is to make instruction videos for the different user cases.

Installation profiles and demo versions: The Consul team is working on a preconfigured setup file that we could extend to cover more cases that would be useful for demo versions.

Going worldwide

We are collaborating with the Consul development team to contribute to their work and base this development on their future needs. They are already making progress in these three areas, that we could feed into and develop further during the lab.

The overall theme is to make the installation and setup process easier and more accessible, to make it go worldwide! While these are general ideas about how to do it, the exact ways will depend on the identification of personas and user journeys, our contact with the Consul team, and the input and different skills that the working team contribute with during the lab.

Pirates as democratic role models

A cool thing about pirates, that I only learned just recently, (the other ones being obvious: a bad-ass flag etc etc) is that they were extremely democratic, both in political and economic matters.

By Jean Leon Gerome Ferris — http://www.neatorama.com/2007/10/22/pirate-lore-7-myths-and-trrrrruths-about-pirates/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8643114

The 17th century pirates, during the golden days of ship-robbing in the Caribbean, elected their captains and quarter masters (the person responsible for the staff) and divided their loot equally among the staff, with some extra stuff for the captain (a cooperative counselling company in my city does the same thing, equal pay for everyone but an “anxiety bonus” for the coordinator, who gets to deal with some of the more anxiety creating stuff, like managing the workforce. Fair enough. The captain had to lead the battles, which probably also kept him awake at night once in a while).

This is maybe not what you would expect from violent outlaws, especially at a time when the rest of society, and in particular the other ships, had strict and brutally enforced hierarchies with no room for voting or fair distribution of wealth.

The pirates had in one way or another fled that oppressive society, knowing that if they got caught they would face a certain death. They were good fighters with nothing to lose, which ultimately made them impossible to govern. A despotic or unpopular captain wouldn’t last long with them, and an unfair distribution of the loot would create a mutiny. There was only one way to run a ship with these kind of people — with a just and democratic system that everyone could agree on.

Why referendums don’t work

In the Colombian referendum last year, people got the options of “yes” or “no” to a thick pile of paper outlining the exact conditions for peace with the Farc guerilla. The result was even, but the no side won.

Referendums in general must be the least democratic process for decision making that you can possibly participate in (while still actually participating in a decision).

The problem is that you are not involved in the processes that should come before a decision, like defining the problems to solve and coming up with constructive solutions.

That leaves you with a decision that is not about solving peoples actual problems, but some other thing that the politicians can’t make up their mind about.

When you ask a confusing question and it’s unclear what actual problem it pretends to solve, you will get a random result. Like in the referendums in the UK or Colombia last year.

If the suggested solution was unclear to Colombian voters, the issues addressed must have been extremely confusing to UK voters.

Which problem did the people who voted for Brexit try to solve? A lot of the debate was about immigration. But “leave the EU” and “less immigration” are both suggested solutions, not actual problems. So the issues must be something else, but what were they?

Looking at the statistics, a qualified guess is that two immediate concerns for many of the no voters are a secured income and affordable housing.

… most of those not working voted to Leave. More than half of those retired on a private pension voted to leave, as did two thirds of those retired on a state pension.

Around two thirds of council and housing association tenants voted to Leave.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/who-voted-brexit-how-eu-8277077

When acute problems don’t get addressed in other ways, they spill over into referendums and general elections, where you at least get a chance to piss off the academic elite.

If our democratic processes were more about addressing peoples needs, and less about token participation, we would use methods for real participation and problem solving instead of confusing referendums.

Trying to think rationally about the nation state

There is this weird void in rational thinking when it comes to the state, and it really confuses me.

The far right holds a belief in the state that is somewhat religious. It’s unclear exactly what they love about it, and the affection don’t seem to be based on any rational ideas. They clearly don’t love everybody living in the particular geographic area at this given time, not even the ones who’s relatives have lived there forever. Historically they’ve also been known to mess with the nation state’s geographic borders, which really is the only thing that defines it from other states.

The conservatives and neoliberals seem to have a pretty clear idea about what the state is for: they let it do all the policing and warfare and leave the decision making to the capitalists. They also like the state to bail out crooked bankers if needed. What’s confusing about them is that they pretend to dislike the state, but really just want it do all the dirty work.

The whole spectrum of the left is confused on a much higher level: “it will fade away”, “we need to control it”, “it’s the enemy” and so on. Neither the communist/social democratic or anarchist camp ever get into any deep discussions about this (believe me, I’ve read their books).

My main question are: 1) Is the nation state a relevant tool to solve the big problems that humanity is facing right now? 2) Is it a practical entity to decide on day to day issues or administer our common wealth?

If we forget about the police and military for a while (which can and often is organised locally, regionally or internationally anyway), we’re left with the governing. I would say that decision making basically is about trying to solve common problems. The thing about common problems is that they need to be addressed on the right level. Kind of what the EU calls “subsidiarity” (“the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level”). It goes the other way too — you can’t solve an international problem in your local council. And geographically, it’s hard to solve a problem that happens somewhere else. In practise, this means that my city is a good place to decide about how to build our local park or how to deal with the trash, but not so good for solving the war in Syria or take international measures against climate change. That could be dealt with regionally in the Middle East (yes, that means that the US should stay out of it) or globally.

So it comes down to which entity is the right one to deal with any given problem. These entities don’t need to be geographically based, since we have ways to communicate with other people than those within shouting or horse riding distance.

So for my first question earlier, there’s the world market, climate change, global poverty and war. I would say the answer is no. These are problems on a global or at least continental level and we need to deal with them on that level. For the second question I guess it sort of depends on the issue. I might be confused about this, but I can’t really see for which particular problems the state is the exact right entity. I’m sure there are specific cases, but often it’s probably better to deal with things on a more local level.

I think this confusion has major political consequences. People feel alienated from national politics because it’s just not able to deal with things the right way. The traditional left (in a small country like mine) that still pretends it can set economic policies on a national level, will surely lose support, because people see that it’s just not working. The conservatives benefits from this, because they can still use the state for policing, but they never touch the real challenges people are facing. The far right is probably the ones taking the issues of decision making most seriously, but all they’ve got is a short term strategy of isolating each country (and being assholes to people they don’t like).

What’s lacking, especially in the left, is just some political imagination. There is no god given choice between a super strong nation state or everybody just hunting and gathering. We can organise in any shape or size, and we can’t expect one entity to solve all of humanities problems, be it the nation state, the UN or your local squat pub. But we have to be very practical about addressing some life threatening problems on the right level now, or we’re done.

Designing a guiding app for digital democracy

This is a description my project for as a part of the Collective Intelligence for Democracy workshop in November 2016 for MediaLab Prado Madrid.

In Sweden, more young people use Facebook every day than who voted in the last general election. This is an international trend, and most certainly does not come down to lack of interest in politics from young people, but from outdated and excluding tools and processes for democratic participation.

Digital tools open up completely new possibilities for instantaneous participation, discussions and decision making, without relying on geographical proximity. If traditional political instances and organisations do not adapt to new ways of working and thinking, they will keep losing trust and members. If they take advantage of the new possibilities of participation they will have enormous potential.

In the rest of Europe, we look up to you in Spain. You have found ways of implementing some interesting digital services in your local municipalities, political parties and NGO:s, and the rest of Europe has a lot to learn from you.

So we know that there are a lot of interesting tools already available, that needs to be tested and evaluated in local contexts.

In my organisations, Digidem Lab and ABF Göteborg, we are planning a long term project starting next year together with Sweden’s Local Municipalities, the Green Party, The National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations, Young People with Disabilities and Young Media. The project will research new ways for young people to get involved with digital democratic processes.

What we have seen in the run up to this project is that there is a demand for new technology, both in municipalities, parties and NGO:s. But also an urgent need for concrete examples of implementation, cost efficient solutions and practical guidance. And we think that this also is true in an international context.

Digidem Guide, the project that we will develop during this workshop, is an app guiding organisations to the digital tools that meet their specific needs for direct democratic participation via the Internet. The app will help organisations to find the right tools for digital democracy based on criteria like field of application, scope, need for security, technical knowledge and licensing.

The target group is decision makers in NGO:s, political parties and local municipalities. By developing it in an international context with all the valuable experiences from other team members, we will widen the reach to an international audience.

The project’s aim is to make existing tools available to a wider audience without technical knowledge or previous experience in the field. By broadening the user base we will also be able to get better feedback on the tools to help proceed the development further.

As a web strategist who has worked for NGO:s for about fifteen years, I know that it takes time to introduce new technologies and new ways of working. Having said that, there is often a willingness in organisations to find ways to get people involved and widen the reach of the organisation.

My experience is that usability is the key to succeeding in introducing new digital services. We need to be sure that the new tools and workflows that we introduce are as intuitive and user friendly as possible. To be honest, that is not always the case with open source applications. Therefore, to make the tools work for everyone, we need to involve people from all sorts of backgrounds and levels of technical experience who are willing to do user tests and evaluations, and help developers and designers in finding the right tools for the right task.

The development and design of the app will be focused on early user testing with the whole team, and I would therefore very much welcome the participation of activists, politicians and NGO representatives in the process.

The development of the app will kick off with an the initial workshop where we share ideas and visions for the project, after which we will all start researching and collecting tools to document in the app.

As I said earlier, focus then will be on creating an early prototype, with open source app frameworks, that can be tested by the whole team. We will prioritise the three most important improvements, and work on them until the next iteration of user testing and development. The process will be repeated three times, while we will also integrate a shiny user interface and a user friendly back-end for adding content. After that, we will be ready to launch the app as a web interface and eventually an Android and iPhone app!

I am very much looking forward to this workshop, as an opportunity to combine experiences from Sweden and the Spanish and international community, and to find ways of networking and collaborating on an international scale.