Sustainability of Civic Tech

In the so-called digital age, democracy is experiencing unprecedented changes. The new possibilities that digital technologies offer can be both a threat and an opportunity for democratic values.

As we have already witnessed, digital technologies can be used for influencing elections, spreading fake news, or creating polarization; however, they can also be used to help citizens make a positive impact or improve transparency in governments.

In this context, civic technologies emerge as tools and services that can help create new opportunities for democracy. However, there is little research on the actual impact of civic technologies on democratic processes.

From January to September 2019, I visited the Participation Lab at MediaLab Prado in Madrid where I investigated ways in which civic technologies impact, or hinder, democratic processes. During this period I worked with civil servants, policymakers, citizens, and researchers in different projects dealing with participatory, digital technologies, and democracy. One of the outcomes of this research is a report on the sustainability of civic technologies, which can be found here.

FemTech.dk

FemTech.dk seeks to broaden participation in computer science through hands-on workshops and public events. We develop educational toolkits for developing interactive products to foster curiosity and creativity. These toolkits contain microcontrollers, sensors and actuators, and a design concept. All materials, instructions, and source code used in public events are freely available on FemTech.dk.

GRACE

GRACE is an interactive installation that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the “first bug ever found” by Grace M. Hooper in 1947. It is a large wooden installation built using origami, microcontrollers and mobile technology with which participants could interact with their mobile phones. The mobile app is publicly available in iTunes and Google Play. The installation was selected to be part of the Copenhagen Maker Faire in October 2017 and accepted as a demo installation at the GROUP conference.

spazioD

spazioD is a design research project that seeks to challenge the social construction of dyslexia through digital artifacts, and events. spazioD brings researchers, designers, public officers, teachers, children, and parents together. The main outcome is the “Settimana Europea della Dislessia“, an annual event that has been now taking place for three years, attracting thousands of people only in the region of Trentino, in northern Italy. This project is the main case study in my PhD thesis, in which I proposed three main processes that contribute to the formation of publics. My thesis is publicly available under an Attribution-ShareAlike creative commons license.

Event at museum

 

SmartCampus

Smart Campus is a project aimed at creating campus services with and for students. The project followed a participatory design approach, where students were progressively involved in the design and eventually development of the campus services (e.g. food, transportation, and education). The project had a great impact on the local context and it also led to several publications in top conferences and journals, such as this paper on Infrastructuring Participatory Development and this other on Public Design of Digital Commons.

Collage Smart Campus (1)

CUbRIK

CUbRIK is a project that investigated ways to increase precision and relevance when artificial intelligence fails. In CUbRIK, I investigated the potentials of crowdsourcing for multimedia retrieval for machine learning, with a special emphasis on its external and internal validity and on its ethical implications. I was also the leader of the work package on Human Computation, which entailed managerial and organizational responsibilities. Findings related to this project have been published in conferences and journals, such as this crowdsourced creative commons dataset and this crowdsourcing procedure for non-obvious attributes.