Decidim Fest 2020: rethinking citizen participation during states of emergency

Decidim Fest 2020: rethinking citizen participation during states of emergency

Participation. This new edition will be totally online and will address the challenges at the crossroads between democracy and technology.

Decidim Fest 2020, organised by the Decidim community, will take place on 18, 19 and 20 November under the slogan “Democracy and technology during states of emergency”.

The idea of this year’s edition, which will take place totally online, is to think about and get involved in the challenges of democracy in the network society. It is free to take part and you can register here around the middle of October.

For a feminist, resistant, free Internet

The issues to be addressed at Decidim Fest 2020 are all related to “the feminist Internet, harassment and digital defence, and combating online hate speech”, explains Ángela Precht, one of the organisers.

The Decidim community’s digital strategy can be explained in that harassment and hate speech in particular “affect the health of the Internet and are important issues to address. But apart from exposing them as toxic behaviours, we want to make suggestions that raise the profile of good practices and everything they can contribute to our democracies”.

In terms of the framework issues of the festival, the organisers have received more than 60 content proposals, which are currently undergoing the selection process. However, some of the content and participants have already been confirmed.

The festival will begin with an opening session presented by Arnau Monterde, coordinator of Decidim and Barcelona City Council’s Democratic Innovation Management Service, who will talk about the experience up until now and the state of play regarding the open code digital platform Decidim and its municipal application: DecidimBCN.

This first talk will be followed by debates with leading international experts in technology, participation and digital democracy. “What will be very interesting will be the talk by the researcher Gabriella Coleman, author of the study on Anonymous carried out some years ago”, says Ángela. “It will be about the new forms of digital resistance. She will explain how the extreme right, for example, is appropriating the techniques used by Anonymous and Fan Cam”.

“We will also be welcoming a visit from Dutch researcher Geert Lovink, networks analyst and author of the book Tristes por diseño: las redes sociales como ideología (Consonni, 2019) [Unhappy by design: social networks as ideology], who will analyse why social networks cause unhappiness, melancholy, and the feeling of time wasted”, the organisers explain. “At Decidim Fest, he will deliver a talk criticising social networks and make a new proposal.”

“And another important person will be Paz Peña from Chile, co-author of the website Acoso Online, which provides a huge amount of information and resources to protect yourself against the online harassment of people that are victims of non-consensual pornography. It’s a website that’s adapting to the legal context of each country, and at the beginning of the year it was adapted to Spain”, explains Precht.

Two specific round tables to discuss the particular experience of DecidimBCN are also being organised. The first will be about how to construct citizen participation platforms, and the second about the limits and possibilities of digital deliberation”, adds Arnau Monterde.

Online reflections about technology and democracy

Due to the current measures and restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the festival will take place totally online, through MetaDecidim, the community platform that portrays and improves the Decidim project.

As Ángela says, “This year, it will take place totally online over three days, but the talks will be uploaded on the platform a week beforehand so that the public can see them and ask any questions via the website. The debates themselves will be held during the three days of the festival”.

Three hundred people took part in the last edition of Decidim Fest. Attendance figures for this year will be difficult to predict given the totally digital format, “But what we have seen is that the Decidim community has grown enormously in a year. A lot of people have realised that there is a need for digital solutions like this. This year has seen a special interest in Decidim and the ecosystem it generates”, concludes Ángela.

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