Write-up, research outline try 2.

Here I’ve been trying to write a story with the headings, understandable to everyday people, assuming that the body will have the meaty academic content.

We are in crisis, and we need to act with some urgency.

There are two ways to act in crisis, and these are currently in tension.

The first way is to rely on traditional expertise, which is a “command and control strategy”, it is top-down. Experts say things and the rest of us do the things.

The second way is to do it ourselves, as a community, we just get in and do it.

Traditional expertise has a great body of knowledge, proven, and well documented, but it is outdated, and with how times have changed may or may not be relevant anymore. It takes a long time to be implemented because it relies on large infrastructures (‘economy of scale’) and decision-making processes. It is not very flexible to adapt to changing circumstances at short notice.

The do it ourselves, or DIY approach means people can respond to crises quickly, act in small groups and take action quickly. They are very responsive and adaptable, but small groups are also isolated, often re-inventing the wheel or getting stuck when faced with larger structures or more complex challenges. One could argue DIY groups are inherently populist, and/or are vulnerable to exploitation by populist influence, or political lobbying. DIY groups may not have access to the large body of knowledge that traditional experts know how to access, and this knowledge is most often not relevant to the granular scales local groups need.

Therefore, I argue that both of these groups do not have enough of the relevant knowledge, insight or expertise to act appropriately, responsively and responsibly in times of crisis.


  • Appropriately means science-driven. Unpack this in the context of (grass-roots action?).
  • Responsively means adapting to context. Unpack this in the context of time-sensitive and scale-sensitive interventions.
  • Responsibly means having accountability. Unpack this in the context of grass-roots action, and in the context of top-down action.

The data to act, based on science-based decisions, exist. There is probably a lot of research exploring the question, how do we get people to engage with the data? That needs to be unpacked, perhaps to questions like:


  • How do people engage with data?
  • How do people engage with knowledge?
  • How do people get knowledge?

But this all assumes people want to, so this raises the question of .

  • Why would people want to engage? (How do we get them hooked?)
  • Why would people want to act?

Playfulness is important. A not steep learning curve, trading off engagement with difficulty. But also be careful, because striving for low effort interventions may also mean low staying power.

People are increasingly disengaged, to the point where some people write about a crisis of democracy. We want people to use this data to gain knowledge, insight to improve their world. But,


  • What do people want from a data-driven platform?
  • What do people get from Facebook, Twitter, etc, why did that scale?
    (I get a bit lost here and this is why I am starting this project in the social sciences, and I think one of the reasons are power, or influencers)

I think a large part of why people engage with anything is connection (and having success in the actions people take, but that is after getting hooked, and my concern is getting people hooked). I think this is about connecting to people who they identify with, people to follow, feeling close to celebrities or powerful people, or groups who make you feel that you belong.

This raises the point of soft power, for example exerted by influencers.

The data is curated by people who exert power. They create stories.


  • How do we design a platform that enforce, or … encourages? appropriate, responsive and responsible, data-driven stories? How do we hold influencers accountable?
  • Appropriately means science-driven. Unpack this in the context of scale of data, resolution of data, context of other stories, connections to other themes.
  • Responsively means adapting to context. Unpack this in the context of the life-span of stories, archives…?
  • Responsibly means having accountability. Unpack this in the context of verification and validation of data, cross-referencing, structured data.

People need to be able to fact-check in a direct, or peer-to-peer way, the stories, by exploring the data directly, in a way that feeds curiosity
(I’m really lost here, this is what I want to learn in this project)

Then, another form of power is government structures directly.

This data-driven way to respond appropriately and responsively to crises can be thought of as causing friction, or radical institutional critique, maybe with the additional component of clear, micro-outcomes. Real action, at small scales.

This could be considered as “data-driven ecological governance”.

Lesley Green’s project talks about environmental governance that is politically sustainable”. I like this but I don’t want to limit it to the environment, both because everything is connected, and I want infrastructures and urban design more explicitly included, which people tend to ring-fence as “not the environment”. I want people to have fun and use this platform for no other reason than fun and curiosity, and making it explicitly environmental in my view will label it as boring or too serious. Lastly I like the idea of the system of governance itself being an ecological system, with the emphasis on interrelationships. I think.

Because of the appropriate scales of communities, I only want to consider local government here.


  • How do we use data to move from talking to action? (at appropriate scales? Help people get what they want, and/or need, by understanding how they behave.

Local governments across the world have different reputations and it is easy to default to cases where local government is actively and positively engaged in their citizenry. But I want a system that can work even if that is not available. Governance outside of government.

This raises the question of credibility.

Power is given but also taken by authorities and local groups, this is a continual tension.


  • How do we take power, agency, at grass-roots level, responsibly? What does that mean in this context? Can we have international support directly?

The ideal is to work in collaboration with local government. But if that is not possible, we need to act in spite of, in challenge to government. Is this plurality?

Credibility can also mean being able to demonstrate that the decision represents a large mass of people
(But I don’t just want to demonstrate that, signing petitions do that and it means nothing unless it leads to action. I want to lead to action more directly. Like micro-votes)

  • Can peduncle (or a digital data management(?) platform) be a system that can facilitate accountability?

Then there’s some thoughts on Methodology:

Look at what is out there, adapt, incorporate, improve. So any software has to be FLOSS, and open data.

Consider case studies like Joep’s Argu, a digital aid for grassroots decision making processes.
Then interview them.
Next phase can be, how do we adapt that tech to be more useful, to scale?
(For example, is Argu not similar to Discord? but Discord is more playful)

My target audience is people who are not necessarily (politically or environmentally) active or engaged. We need to get more people engaged.

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