Fostering sustainability through civic engagement

Fostering sustainability through civic engagement

Games, Science and Society - Vienna, Oct.10-11 2013

There are many decisions being made by policies which affect citizens’ daily lives, from introducing high speed fiber-optic Internet cables, to building a new motorway that passes through a residential area. Traditional decision making tools proved to be incapable to foresee the impact of innovations processes given the complexity of the environments in which they are deploying, creating in this manner unpredictable social, economic and environmental consequences. As a result, the society we’re living in is endangered by these unpredictable - and sometimes not even perceptible at first - side effects of innovation. To prevent the proliferation of these byproducts, traditional decision making tools have been recently coupled with some forms of civic consultations. Nevertheless, when it happens that citizens are encouraged to participate into decision making processes, this is done mainly through “old-fashioned” means of interactions, i.e. surveys, town hall meetings, etc. Real debates among agents can hardly be grasped and then used to inform the decision making process, as most of these forms of civic consultations are one-way communications from agents (or groups of agents) to project designers/initiators. Moreover, civic consultation is still perceived as the preliminary stage of a process that will later propel autonomously towards defined goals, without further continuing the interaction with citizens as the process goes on. However, a new approach to innovation processes design and evaluation, called Dynamic Evaluation (DE), is being developed by the EU funded research project Emergence by Design (MD) . The DE is a methodology that aims at providing constant feedbacks to project initiators and designers, as well as to all the people and organizations affected by these projects, about the transformations and changes that are occurring in the agents-artifacts space that the projects seek to transform. The DE brings into focus the need for a new approach to evaluation, specifically designed for innovative settings, where goals and directions are emergent and constantly changing, rather than being pre-determined and fixed. The ultimate aim of the Dynamic Evaluation is to increasingly include in the evaluation activity all the participants affected by an innovation project, in order to raise the sensitivity of the agents about unwanted side effects, improve their self-awareness and help them to better control the innovation process. The research challenge MD is now facing is how to create effective feedback loops capable to engage agents affected by the project in the evaluation process. In this respect, how can concepts such as Gamification and Crowdsourcing contribute to improve the effectiveness of these loops? How through ICTs can we engage citizens in taking control of the innovation processes that will ultimately have an impact on their communities?

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Alberto Lusoli

October 10, 2013
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