ICT and emerging functionalities: analysis of an e-deliberation experiment

ICT and emerging functionalities: analysis of an e-deliberation experiment

Presentation held at the fifth conference of the Italian Society on Science and Technology Studies.

The Platform:
http://deeba.se/

The Cesena Case study:
http://bit.ly/DeebaseLucchi

Abstract:
The relevance of participation in the design of artifacts has been widely recognized in innovation studies. In this respect, this paper proposes to consider innovation as an emerging property determined by the social interactions surrounding an artifact, rather than a designed (whether participated or not) feature of the artifact itself. According to this vision, inspired by the studies of Lane and Maxfield (2005), innovation can be considered as a complex process characterized by a high degree of uncertainty. This uncertainty could be ascribed to the fact that every agent within a community interacts with artifacts, and other agents as well, according to its attributions and values generating new functionalities and needs. Trying to predict every possible attribution, and so every potential functionality that a new artifact could have once in the hands of the final user, is impossible. This uncertainty is so pervasive and intrinsic in respect to the innovation process that it has been described as ontological, given that not just functionalities are unpredictable but even agents, artifacts and attributions that may play key roles in determining the consequences of the cascade of changes initiated during the process may emerge during the course of the process itself. As a result, regardless of the degree of participation to the design process, the set of functionalities that an artifact can come to embodies cannot be foreseen or even imagined a priori. This degree of uncertainty also applies to digital technologies; being artifacts embedded into complex spaces inhabited by agents and artifacts, ICTs are themselves interpreted by users by means of attributions. Governments, along with private companies, have been investing resources, and developing expectations, about digital technologies as a means through which to address one of the crises currently affecting our societies: lack of democratic participation. According to Participedia, a leading network for civic engagement initiatives, there are approximately 100 civic engagement tools available today, which have been tested in over 400 e-deliberation projects. But is it really reasonable to suppose that ICTs will actually provide effective a solution to the problem of lack of democratic participation? What could be perceived by someone as a platform for e-democracy, could be used by someone else by a political tool or as a simple communication channel between local governments and citizens. This paper is aimed at studying how attributions determine the functionality of a digital artifact by studying the outcomes of an e-deliberation experiment performed in Cesena, an Italian mid-sized city. During this one-month experiment, an online platform allowed citizens to contribute in writing the Mayor’s agenda for the years 2014-2019. Data gathered from on field research will show how citizens interacted with ICT, which attributions developed towards it and which functionalities eventually emerged. The final aim is to understand if a shared functionality(-es) emerged, if this functionality(-es) was different from the one imagined by designers and which role facilitators played, or could have played, in fostering attributions convergence.

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Alberto Lusoli

June 13, 2014
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Transcript

  1. 1.

    ICTs and emerging functionalities: analysis of an e-deliberation experiment 5th

    STS Italia Conference - Milan, Italy, June 12-14, 2014
  2. 2.

    * What we’ll talk about Emerging functionalities How features in

    ICT emerge from users’ interactions with digital artifacts: how personal attributions towards digital artifacts determine their functionalities, and how much they differ from those initially envisaged by the designer. E-deliberation This presentation is aimed at illustrate how attributions and relationships determine the functionalities of ICTs by studying the outcomes of an e-deliberation experiment performed in February 2014 in Cesena, Italy. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007- 2013) under grant agreement n°284625
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    * Emerging functionalities New artifact types are designed to achieve

    some particular attribution of functionality. Organizational transformations are constructed to proliferate the use of artifacts of the new type. Novel patterns of human interaction emerge around these artifacts in use. New attributions of functionality are generated by the participants in these interactions design proliferation New interaction patterns New attributions of functionality design New artifacts are designed to instantiate the new attributed functionality. prolifera
  4. 5.

    New interaction patterns New attributions of functionality design proliferation ation

    New interaction patterns New attributions o functionalit
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    A character, previously shaped by evolutionary selection for a particular

    function, or whose origin cannot be ascribed to the direct action of evolutionary selection, is coopted for a new or current use. Gould, Vrba, Exaptation-a missing term in the science of form EXAPTIVE BOOTSTRAPPING Lane, D. and Maxfield, R. Ontological uncertainty and innovation
  6. 8.

    * The history of SMS (1987) The GSM protocol, a

    common cellular telephone system across Europe. GSM conceived the possibility of sending alphanumeric messages. Carriers Network operators Mobile phone brands (Nokia launched the first GSM phones in 1992) SMS are used for sending information about network status of for broadcasting information (stock prices) People start using SMS to communicate with people in the same network, for free design proliferation New interaction patterns New attributions of functionality design New artifacts are designed to instantiate the new attributed functionality: SMS optimized phones, T9 (1995), billing systems
  7. 10.

    THE EXPERIMENT Cesena, an italian mid-sized city 100.000 inhabitants The

    setting Ask citizens to collectively write the Mayor agenda for the second mandate (2014-2019) The aim a cloud platform for collective decision making. The platform
  8. 11.

    * e-deliberation experiment in Cesena John Gastil Defining deliberation Deliberation

    as the act of reflecting carefully on a matter and weighing the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to a problem. The aims of a deliberative process is to arrive at a decision or judgment based not only on facts and data but also on values, emotions, and other less technical considerations.
  9. 12.

    * The design phase 1 month, 7 debates In each

    debate users can: propose an idea, extend ideas inserted by other users or just cast their votes for already expressed ideas. A 2 level competition: one at level of ideas, one at level of motivations. The whole process was unmonitored (no moderators), by design.
  10. 13.

    * The design phase 1 month, 7 debates In each

    debate users can: propose an idea, extend ideas inserted by other users or just cast their votes for already expressed ideas. A 2 level competition: one at level of ideas, one at level of motivations. The whole process was unmonitored (no moderators), by design.
  11. 14.

    * The design phase 1 month, 7 debates In each

    debate users can: propose an idea, extend ideas inserted by other users or just cast their votes for already expressed ideas. A 2 level competition: one at level of ideas, one at level of motivations. The whole process was unmonitored (no moderators), by design.
  12. 17.

    * Was Fishkin right? Most people are not effectively motivated

    to get information, to form opinions, or to discuss issues with those who have different points of view. Each citizen has only one vote or voice in millions and most have other pressing demands on their time. The production of informed, considered opinions for politics and policy is a public good. And the logic of collective action for public goods dictates that motivating large numbers to produce a public good either requires selective incentives (incentives that apply just to those who produce them) or there will be a failure to provide them. Trade-off between deliberation and mass participation James S. Fishkin
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     A shared functionality emerged: Interviews with key agents revealed

    how users perceived the platform, and how they used it in a manner that was not the way it was imagined by the designers  This novel usage was a consequence of the degree of freedom experienced by users, given the absence of moderators driving the discussion  These results open two new possibilities: 1. design a new ICT that specifically address this innovative way to debate online 2. enhance the deliberative scheme by introducing moderators * Yes, but…
  14. 19.

    * Next step Given our aims, we decided to go

    for the second one. We’ll run a second experiment. This time a team of moderators will dynamically monitor users’ interactions trying to understand their attributions towards the platform. Acting as moderators, they will try to provide incentives, and stimulate discussione, in order to combine mass participation with deliberation