Echo Chambers and ‘Post-fact’ Politics – developing ideas

Half day workshop to build tools for a ‘post-fact’ world

Apparently we’ve ‘had enough of experts’. Increasingly online platforms quietly tailor what we encounter to fit our existing views- creating echo chambers out of our prejudices. We are worried that the role of evidence in politics is slipping- and we want to do something about it.

A preliminary workshop was held in November attracting a broad range of people from far and wide. Together a list of initiatives was created responding to these challenges. Click this link to read the list of initiatives and add your own thoughts.

Now we are running a follow-on event to allow people to develop these ideas. If you’re an activist, policy wonk, artist, or simply someone interested in this topic we’d love for you to join us. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t make the first event as we will get you up to speed with a chance to add new ideas on the day.

For more information regarding the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-fact’ Politics workshops go to www.postfactpolitics.com

Provisional programme for 2017

IMG_0066From last night’s planning meeting we now have a provisional programme for 2017 and it is quite an ambitious one. What is great from our perspective is that there is a continuation of a number of themes that we have been looking at over the last year and a resurfacing of perennial ones. Highlights include the ‘making and doing’ workshops that have been developed as part of the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-Fact’ Politics programme and the Visualising Data workshops. There are a number of sector and technically specific events but one to watch out for is alternative ways of looking at the world which will be a day of walks, talks and explorations. As always there is a large dose of how data and technology impact on society and much more.

This is a provisional programme and we are looking for as much input as possible (Dates and sessions are subject to change). Please click on the Google Doc and add comments. We are looking for people who can contribute, sponsors, venues and partners.

Link to Google Doc

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Echo5

A one-day workshop to develop new ways of tackling a ‘post-fact’ world

12th November 2016, 10.00 – 16.00. The Shed, Chester Street, Manchester
The event is free, register here

We live in interesting times. Trust in, and respect for experts seems to be declining-  Michael Gove recently said that we’ve ‘had enough of experts’. Increasingly online platforms quietly tailor what we encounter to fit our existing views- creating echo chambers out of our prejudices. At the same time political issues are becoming more and more complex as science and technology advances and society becomes more complicated.

These and other changes seem like a perfect storm for breeding a dystopian world in which the importance of evidence slowly slips out of view. But at the same time technology also offers hope for more enlightened debate- with the internet creating many new opportunities to engage, learn, and create. So we want to do something about these issues.

We want to draw together people with a wide range of experience and interest to try and unpick these issues and think what we can start developing ways of tackling these. Whether you’re an artist, an activist, a policy wonk, or simply someone interested in this area we want to hear your ideas.

We will be using an ‘unconference’ style, which means that people who come to the event will shape what we talk about. The aim will be to identify where the challenges lie and think of potential solutions, leading to a future event where we will develop these ideas further and- hopefully- start to get them built.

To start the discussion we will be creating a website and encourage people to submit short blogs related to the theme.

Register here

This event is organised by Open Data Manchester and The Democratic Society with the kind support of Manchester Metropolitan University and Digital Innovation at MMU

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Making data useful and other stories – How GM authorities are using data to help their citizens

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 27th September 2016
Greenheys Business Centre
Manchester Science Park
Pencroft Way
Manchester M15 6JJ

Map here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

This month’s Open Data Manchester looks at how two local authorities are using data to deliver service.

Alison Mckenzie Folan and Alison Hughes from Wigan Council will show how they are using data and open data to help them engage the community, target resources and enhance services. Wigan Deal has been seen as an exemplar of engagement between the public sector, local businesses and community.

Jamie Whyte leads Trafford Innovation Lab which has been developing new and innovative ways to make open data understandable. The insight created has enabled community groups to use data to help them apply for funding, created resources for councillors and shown a spotlight onto the complex world of school admissions

Open Data Manchester events are spaces for learning, discussion and collaboration. The events are open and free

What happened? Looking at the data behind the referendum

Tuesday 26th July, 18.30 – 20.30
CoopHQ, 1 Angel Meadows, Manchester M60 0AG

Partial truths, distorted facts and outright lies have helped create the febrile climate that exists post Brexit. The information war that took place prior to the referendum created an atmosphere in which rational judgements were hard to make and gut instinct rose to the fore. Within this context, advocates of Vote Leave rubbished experts and mishandled facts with glee. Anyone contesting these claims were branded as promoters of Project Fear and part of the expert-led conspiracy that sought to undermine the public’s right to self-determination.

Post referendum and the dust hasn’t yet settled. We are starting to see lots of data giving us insight into what happened – from polls to voting patterns, from demographics to economic forecasts. This is an opportunity to analyse and share thoughts on a most extraordinary event.

We are an open forum and anyone who has insight and analysis to share are encouraged to participate.

Tickets are free and available here

Democracy Projects – Open Election Special

It was appropriate that March’s Open Data Manchester meeting should focus on projects related to the forthcoming elections. Not only because the country goes to the polls next month but also that election data was the first area of interest when Open Data Manchester started five years ago. The release of election data by Trafford Council in 2010 started them off on their journey to become open data champions, and it is through forums such as Open Data Manchester and Social Media Cafe Manchester people became connected.

Election Station

In 2015 there are a number of fantastic initiatives that try and unpick the proposed policies of the political parties, and filter through the fluff and bluster of our incumbent and prospective parliamentary candidates.

Digital and networked technology as well as access to data that is either open, scraped, scanned, manually transcribed or crawled, creates the opportunity to understand and analyse what is proposed and how parliamentarians have delivered on the promises of the past. Not only do these technologies allow us to be more informed but might also offer a way of building the policies of the future through novel forms of engagement and participation. Advocates for direct democracy see that creating opportunities for people to have a say in policy decisions makes for a more engaged society. Estonia’s Charter 12 and Iceland’s Crowd Sourced Constitution Bill are examples of these approaches in action. Both coming directly out of crises, where faith had been lost in the democratic process.

The need to re-enfranchise people into democratic participation is critical. In Manchester Central constituency where Labour candidate Lucy Powell was elected in a 2012 by-election, there was an 18% voter turnout. Without democratic mandate the legitimacy of government is vastly reduced. Which in turn has impact on the way the country is run and how people engage and align with the decisions of government.

There are many examples of projects in the UK that are seeking to make the sometimes arcane processes of government and its representatives more understandable. Notable in this space are the many projects that have been supported and developed by mySociety, with the stated aim of inventing and popularising digital tools that enable citizens to exert power over institutions and decision makers. Democracy Club, Full Fact and Unlocking Democracy are active in this space, as well as a raft of people who volunteer their time and see the importance of making the election process more open.

  • YourNextMP – Built by Democracy Club is an open database and API of candidate data
  • Meet Your Next MP – Created by JMB Technology lists independent events and hustings in your constituency
  • The Big Monitoring Project – Being developed by Full Fact seeks to record what politicians and the media says and hold them to account.
  • ElectionLeaflets.org – By Election Leaflets, Unlocking Democracy and Democracy Club. Crowdsourcing a database of the leaflets that candidates shove through your door and what they say.

Many of these initiatives are looking for people to volunteer their time and expertise.

The subsequent discussions focussed on why people don’t engage and possible ways that technology can help. Many of the group had direct experience of trying to get social housing tenants to vote on matters that affected their tenancy due to a large housing stock transfer. Although the subject affects tenants in an immediate and tangible way there was difficulty engaging people who were not otherwise engaged. In the end staff from the housing association had to knock on doors and explain to people what they were voting for in order to get people to vote. This highlights the difficulty those working on engagement with the democratic process face. Ways of making the process easier were discussed but this led to a deeper exploration as to the nature of engagement. If we make voting easier does it change the nature and relationship between the voter and the subject being voted upon? Perhaps we are trying to look at the symptoms rather than the cause and a democracy based upon weak or passive interaction was not as strong as one where effort was needed to register an opinion. One of the group highlighted the difference between the situation in the UK compared to countries where engaged public discussion where part of life.

Making the democratic process more understandable is vitally important to engagement. Voters need to feel as though they have agency and that their decision has importance. A challenge faced when trying to decide who to vote for is cutting through the rhetoric masking policy. There is also difficulty in creating key comparators and metrics. How do we create an environment where we can compare what one person says over another and how can we understand the impact those position would make to our communities. It was suggested that if we could standardise certain aspects of a manifesto we would be able to compare across positions. This could then be overlaid on to data from local communities that has been modelled in a standardised way allowing direct comparison of potential impact. There are a number of challenges associated with this – such as the candidates local position might differ from that of the party.

There is a wealth of data that evidences the voting behaviour of incumbent MPs which could be used as a metric to judge the attractiveness of a candidate. This data is only available for incumbents and not those in opposition. Party politics can override the voting preferences of individual MPs and politicians often have to make difficult decisions that may be seen as undesirable. If an MP stated a position to which you voted for and then evidences a pattern of voting behaviour in office that doesn’t correlate, that information would be useful in helping you choose who to vote for.

Creating a service where you can map your own preferences with those of candidates and then follow the voting patterns of your parliamentary representative over time was deemed useful – allowing the user to understand the reasons why they voted for that candidate and whether, in light of those historic preferences, the candidate was a good representative.

Creating standardisation so that you can map candidates directly onto locality – assumes that the individual would act independently and not be whipped by the party.

Voting data also enables you to see how rebellious a candidate who doesn’t necessarily tow the party line is. A number of the group suggested that ‘Rebellion Ratings’ could be seen as a good indicator of principled behaviour, over the representatives desire to further their own political career.

Democracy Club is crowdsourcing the CVs of prospective candidates so that people get a better idea of who they are voting for. It was mentioned that this would be interesting to compare with the LinkedIn profiles of candidates. Comparing a professional business facing persona with one that has been created to garner public support.

There are a lot of excellent projects that are trying to make the process of government and the effectiveness of MPs more understandable. It would be interesting to see if some of these could be implemented at a local government election level. If people are more connected to their locality it would make sense to develop projects that help people to engage with local decision making. Perhaps this could be another front to fight disenfranchisement within the democratic process.

 

 

Open Election Special – March 31st

Tuesday 31st March 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Spaceport X
1st Floor
24-26 Lever Street
Manchester
M1 1DZ
More details and directions here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

The country will go to the polls on May the 7th and decide the government that will represent us over the next five years. In many boroughs local elections will also be taking place.

Five years ago Open Data Manchester advocated for making available data relevant to the elections. Chris Taggart who was at the time working on OpenlyLocal came and did a presentation about the Open Election Data initiative and explained why we need to have relevant open data about those that seek to represent us and the election process.

This month’s event looks at what has changed, whether access to these data has improved and what we can do to make the process and choosing of our representatives more understandable.

The event is a precursor to an election data hack event that will be taking place later in April.

More details will be released nearer the date.

As ever Open Data Manchester is a forum for anyone who is interested in open data and we encourage people to come along and share their interests and propose new sessions and events.

For more details contact Julian

Open Data Manchester – July Edition

6.30pm – 8.30pm Tuesday 29th July 2014
Greenheys Business Centre
Manchester Science Park
Pencroft Way
Manchester M15 6JJ

Map here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

This month’s Open Data Manchester is a chance to see some of the open data initiatives being led by Salford and Trafford Councils, and hear about some of the highlights of the Open Knowledge Festival taking place in Berlin 14-17th July

Amongst the data initiatives taking place, Trafford are looking to develop an Intelligence and Innovation Lab, which will take the principles by which InfoTrafford was developed, and use them to bring together a greater range of datasets from Trafford’s organisations. Accompanying these datasets will be the people from the respective organisations who understand the data – where it comes from, how to get it, and, crucially, what stories the data tells. This means that the right people will be sitting and working together – using their collective insight and knowledge to give greater understanding of the needs and opportunities in Trafford. The Lab will be focussed on the release of data as 5* linked data. Trafford is looking to create an environment where digital social innovation methods can be used to help people get things done – from giving practitioners a space to test innovative ideas that may help shape services, to allowing developers the opportunity to see and request datasets, and test apps with a potential user base. Jamie Whyte from Trafford will talk about the Intelligence and Innovation Lab and how you can get involved.

John Gibbons from Salford City Council will talk about the work they are doing relating to the European Commission INSPIRE regulations. INSPIRE seeks to create a common and shared geospatial infrastructure to allow strategic and sustainable development. It is a little understood initiative outside the GIS community, but as it is underpinned by European Commission legislation to which the UK has signed up to, it has the potential to have a large impact on the release of geospatial data.

As always, there will be opportunity to discuss and share ideas, and hear about the latest opportunities in open data.

Open : Data : Cooperation – OKFEST Fringe Meeting 16th July 2014

OKF DE Office
3rd Floor
Singerstraße 109
10179 Berlin
Map

Wednesday 16th July, 6 – 8pm

Please sign up on Eventbrite here as numbers are limited.

Join us for an informal discussion around data cooperatives.  From personal data co-operatives, through to organisation-level collaboration, there is a lot of interest around the notion of a data cooperative. Whilst the idea of member-owned organisations and open data seems logical, a number of interesting discussion points arise:

Models: How do the varied models of cooperative ownership fit to data?
Simplicity: Can one model fit all data?
Transparency: How can a cooperative that is steered by its membership along ethical grounds also be considered open?
Representation: Do individuals have enough control over their data to enable third party organisations such as a cooperative, to represent their data?
Negotiation: How can cooperative members balance control over their data with use by third parties?
Governance: How would you create an efficient system of governance that respected the wishes of all members?

Open Data Manchester will be hosting an informal discussion around these issues in a fringe meeting at OK Festival in Berlin on Wednesday 16th July at 6pm 3rd Floor Singerstraße 109, 10179 Berlin. https://goo.gl/maps/q4Gvj

The meeting will is a precursor to a larger event around cooperatives and data to be hosted in Manchester, UK at the end of October

Further reading:
Annmarie Naylor – Common Futures
http://commonfutures.eu/developing-data-coops-for-community-benefit/
Julian Tait – Open Data Manchester
http://littlestarmedia.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/data-custodianship-and-cooperatives/

Open Data Manchester – May Edition

Open Data Manchester – May Edition

Tuesday 27th May, 6.30pm – 8.30pm
TechHub Manchester
1st Floor
24-26 Lever Street
Manchester
M1 1DZ
Link

Sign up here

This months edition of Open Data Manchester finds us located in tech Hub Manchester’s new space on Lever Street.

A lot has been happening over the last couple of months in the field of open data and there will be plenty of discussion around a few initiatives and competitions that have recently been launched.

Open Data Manchester’s Berlin representative will talk about ways of making data ready for release and there will be plenty of opportunity to share ideas and discuss projects.

For all of those that attended the Open Data Manchester/FutureEverything GMDSP Data Dive in March, there will be a chance to see some of the great applications and ideas that were created from the released linked data. We also hope to announce a fantastic Open Linked Data training course that will be run as part of GMDSP.

Light Raider
Light Raider – An application that uses locations of street furniture to create motivation to exercise.

Lights Off
Lights Out – Switch off Manchester’s street lights and see how much you can save.

We are also planning on going through the latest Open Data Challenge call from the Open Data Institute with a potential package of £40,000 support.

As always the event is free, so see you there.