I take the blame for the millennials

In ’97 I was a quinoa-eating, gender-confused, yoga practising vegan, buying second hand clothes and de-cluttering my room.

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3v4fs1

Me and others like me took the fight for the kind of lifestyle that the millennials take for granted. We fought against parents, the school cafeteria and the general perception to normalise all these things that we thought constituted a better lifestyle.

I don’t regret any of these things, yoga really helps my back problems. The sadness in retrospect comes from knowing that all these things didn’t help create a demilitarised, direct democratic society with economic equality, which I also hoped for in 1997.

While the millennials have a wider range of options when it comes to a lot of important choices in life, they are much worse off than my generation when it comes to some of the basic conditions of life — they have more unemployment, more income inequality, less housing and more mental health issues.

And I take part of the blame for that. Capitalism has an astonishing ability to co-opt and commodify every subversive act that doesn’t directly threatens its existence. So while I think it can be a good thing to have an alternative culture and lifestyle, that culture also needs to take some swings at the people that benefit from the exploitation of most of us. And I don’t think we did that enough.

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.

Algorithms are making internet into a small town

There is a sense of familiarity to how Facebook’s and other Internet giants’ algorithms are presuming what we want or don’t want to see. Having grown up in a small town in the 90’s I know what it is like when you only get exposed to cultural influences from the people in your immediate surrounding and with similar views and ideas.

As the Internet giants increasingly use algorithms to predict what we like and steer our preferences, what they really are doing is to replicate a small town.

What used to be so great about the Internet was that it offered a way out of this. You could explore political views, culture and ideas from anyone, anywhere, just based on what you searched for. Growing up without any other options that playing football, hockey or being a nerd it opened up immense possibilities to explore any subculture ever heard of.

The difference now is that Facebook rather wants me to see what people in my own area, with supposedly similar views, are up to. That sort of narrow-mindedness was the reason I moved to a bigger city when I was 18. Now I need to move to more open minded parts of the Internet.

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.