Yesterday my paper with Prof. Raoni Rajao (UFMG, Brazil) was published at the Journal for Social Movement Studies. The article examines the relation between data transparency and environmental activism in the Amazon rainforest. For this purpose, we analyze the history of PRODES and DETER, two satellite-based monitoring systems developed by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE). We discuss its role in environmental activism and the formulation of policy toward the Amazon over the last three decades. Based on this analysis, we argue that the level of aggregation (e.g. regional figures vs. individual events) and temporality (e.g. yearly consolidations vs. near real-time releases) of open data configure different ways of performing environmental activism. Aggregated figures tend to have wider policy significance due to their simplicity and scale, yet allow very little room for reinterpretation, contribution from environmental activists, and direct use in policy implementation. Disaggregated data, while allowing more forms of (unexpected) reinterpretations and additions via the overlay of different data-sets, also require the intervention of environmental activists and other info-mediators in order to acquire meaning for the broader public. Similarly, while consolidated data-sets have the advantage of allowing more time for the creation of higher quality data, they are often published at a point in the policy-making cycle in which the negative effects of current choices are irreversible. At the same time, while more frequent data releases may lead to more responsive policies, they also place governmental agencies in a more vulnerable position since near real-time data are more prone to contain errors. Based on these considerations we conclude that monitoring data do not simply represent deforestation in the Amazon. Instead, different publics and data configurations (i.e. spatial and temporal aggregation levels) produce different objects (e.g. a threatened Amazon, a successful policy) and subjects (e.g. knowledgeable environmental activists, an unresponsive government).
You may find the full article here.
The research was supported by the University of Bremen and the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI).
Since my last post, we have had a busy time with our co-creators in MobileAge to not only co-design the map-based application for Bremen’s district Osterholz but to also co-creation, validate and integrate relevant data. Our participants received their own tablets for the duration of 8 weeks and actively complemented the efforts of other stakeholders in the district. We will soon launch the official app (usability tests and evaluation are still to be done).
We have also submitted the interim study of our co-creation activities in Bremen and South Lakeland: D1.2 FINAL Interim study on co-creation practices.
We kicked-off our co-creation activities in one of Bremen’s most diverse districts: Osterholz. Last Wednesday, 8 June 2016, we conducted the first workshop with 12 interested participants in a meeting room of the district’s administration office. The participants were recruited with support of a local project team at an information event that took place two weeks earlier, through ifib’s participation at a neighbourhood festival and articles in the local newspaper as well as personal communication. The goal of ifib’s co-creation activities in Osterholz is to jointly design and develop a mobile public service application for senior citizens that facilitates social inclusion.
After presenting the project and the team, the participants were asked to introduce themselves. Most participants emphasised their close connection to the district and were looking forward to learning more about it. They bring together a great and complementary mix of expertise and knowledge with respect to knowledge about the district, experience and use of mobile technologies and technology development as well as engagement in voluntary work. They all share an interest in creating something together that might be helpful and interesting for themselves, other seniors and their district
The workshop’s main engagement activity was the validation of a customised quartets (card game) about Osterholz. During the information event, our project team had asked participants to complete questions concerning places of interest, information needs and other topics regarding the district such as “What do I like about the district?”, “Where do I go with visitors?”, “What is missing in Osterholz”. At the kick-off workshop we discussed the contents and complemented them while having coffee and cake. This was a first activity to jointly develop an understanding of the potential diversity of information needs of senior citizens as well as an appreciation for the knowledge and experience that the co-creators bring to the project.
At the end of the workshop cultural probes were handed out to the participants. Cultural probes are hand-made research materials that help participants to self-document their everyday activities regarding certain topics. In case of the Mobile Age project we are especially interested in the participant’s relation to their district, their social networks, their information needs as well as their technology and media experiences and use. The participants examined the cultural probes bag and its contents with curiosity and said they were looking forward to engaging with the material.
We will be meeting again with our participants in ten days to collect the cultural probes. After analysing the materials, single interviews will be conducted with the participants in order to discuss the probes and to gain deeper understanding of their content. We feel excited that thanks to the local support we are able to start their fieldwork with so many interested and motivated participants and are looking forward to the future co-creation process.
I am very excited to announce that we have been selected by the European Commission for a 3-year research and innovation action. The MobileAge project started in February 2016 and will focus on open government data, mobile technology, and the provision of public services in relation to Europe’s elderly population. Europe’s senior citizens are growing steadily and are predicted to comprise of 28% of Europe’s population by 2020. However, senior citizens do not normally share the same level of connectivity to the Internet as younger generations, and while government agencies are increasingly providing their services through digital platforms, this risks excluding senior citizens from the design and use of such services.
Mobile Age will provide the basis for the development of mobile-based open government services focused on senior citizens. We follow a co-creation methodological approach that will allow for a substantive participation of senior citizens. MobileAge will focus on the co-creation of services related to the production and use of open data for cities. This will be achieved by pursuing four objectives:
i) exploring and implementing innovative ways to support senior citizens to access and use public services through personal mobile technologies that are based on open government data,
ii) develop and deploy co-creation approaches and methodologies to engage senior citizens effectively;
iii) develop a situated, practice-based understanding of accessibility, mobility and usability of services from a senior-citizen point of view; and
iv) develop a framework for impact assessment and evaluation for co-creation approaches to open service development for the ageing population.
Mobile Age’s approach will be applied in cities and counties that are already providing innovative approaches for the participation of senior people in the development of city services: Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and the Region of Central Macedonia, with scenarios related to social inclusion, extending independent living, data curation for a safer and more accessible city, and the management of personal health information.
My role will be to lead a work package on Participatory Design in Civic Tech and Open Data, and I am very much looking forward to this challenging project.