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DSI project presents study findings. Read our conference report here.

The EU funded project “Digital Social Innovation” (http://digitalsocial.eu/) presented their study findings on 17th February in Brussels. Bastian Pelka and Christoph Kaletka from TUDO participated for the SIMPACT consortium.

Avilla Project coordinator Francesca Bria (Nesta) introduced the study. It applied a crowd mapping tool to gather 1,000 organisatons and over 600 projects on digital social innovations and analyzed their connections. The project’s final report (http://issuu.com/digitalsocialinnovation/docs/dsireport-forwebsite-print) visualizes cases of digital social innovations, their regional origin, topics and interlinks on a map. The report is strong in infographics and “easy to grab” information. It reveals several networks that lack connections between the described cases. Bria: “The challenge is to provide more coherence and inter network connections between theses cases of digital social innovation.”

The study distinguishes two main scenarios for further development of digital media in Europe: “Power to the people” (technologies empowering people by connecting and providing infrastructure) versus a “Big Brother” scenario, with strong central agents gathering data and using these for their needs. The conference discussed different aspects of both scenarios and means to hinder or foster them. The underlying key question: Is it possible to design and operate more democratic infrastructure for individual and collective empowerment without intrusion and surveillance?

Bria drew a line from the rather technological perspective of DSI towards the economic perspective of SIMPACT: Could digital social innovations foster a shift for more sustainable socio-economic models? Can Europe go beyond financial value and monetization of personal data? An interesting collection of speakers - scrutinizing the challenges towards the digital space from different perspectives and suggesting a variety of approaches to overcome digital exclusion or negative effects of digitalization - indicated some answers to these questions:

“Human rights must always be at the heart of the web we want”, said Renata Avilla from web we want campaign (https://webwewant.org/). This organization is bringing together people to give “normal” web users a voice, acting as an advocate of the people’s internet and opposing industry ambitions for a more closed and proprietary internet.

“How do we allow the small entrepreneurs to be small – and stay small – but to follow their ambitions?”, asked David Cuarteilles, Co-founder of Arduino platform (http://www.arduino.cc/). He suggested to scrutinize the role of the legal system in the innovation process: “Provide help with legal matters for small entrepreneurs and avoid criminalization of the unknown.” In a certain perspective, the legal system could be understood as means of existing structures to keep new ideas small – such as in property right or legal frameworks for internet or hardware access. The Arduino platform aims to provide technological and legally open platforms allowing people to design hardware.

Tomas Diez, from the FaB Academy (http://www.fabacademy.org/), presented the FabLab idea as an approach to overcome negative effects of globalisation, such as world wide shipping with high energy waste, exploitation of poor countries and the power of global companies: Instead of splitting production between countries, the FabLab approach aims at producing goods in local or regional environments – building on local goods, people and knowledge. Fablabs combine technological approaches – for example by 3D printers – with knowledge sharing – for example via the web or in local communities – with empowerment functions – like advocacy and learning opportunities. Their approach links to the SIMPACT question: How can social innovation be supported outside traditional funding schemes and outside “big money” structures?

The project website offers rich reports: http://content.digitalsocial.eu/resource-category/research