Towards better means for democratic assembly and collective action: the AppCivist Project

Inria with CITRIS and its partners at University of California Berkeley have engaged into research collaboration on smart cities, leveraging their related initiatives in the area among which the CityLab@Inria Project Lab – under creation at Inria – and the CITRIS core initiatives on “Data and Democracy” and “Intelligent Infrastructure”. AppCivist is part of this effort.
To what extent can social media and information technology improve our democracies? How can they help us in making better arguments, discuss, deliberate and propose better ideas for our cities? How do they help us construct alternatives, and better forms, of democracy; with more and better participation and citizen engagement?. These complex socio-technical questions are at the forefront of our quest to build a better world, and in their complexity, they call for an interdisciplinary approach, one that brings together the best of the social and computer science worlds. AppCivist is the result of this type of approach, with a partnership between Inria@SiliconValley and the Social Apps Lab at CITRIS, at UC Berkeley..


AppCivist Screenshot

The goal of AppCivist is to build a middleware platform for democratic assembly and collective action, letting users (particularly social activists), create their own applications, called Assemblies, with modular components that will support a wide range of civic engagement capabilities including proposal making, deliberation, voting, mapping, visualization, and others.  When assembled, they help people engage issues and places in their city, maintain rich discussions around alternative proposals, and eventually reach consensus about the best alternative.



Cristian Parra2To support the research and development of AppCivist, CityLab@Inria with the  Inria@SiliconValley Program have awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship to Cristhian Parra, a young researcher who recently joined the AppCivist team after receiving his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Trento, located in northern Italy. Cristhian’s Ph.D. work on the role of IT in supporting social reminiscence and active ageing, provides him with knowledge and experiences about how to work within the interdisciplinary space of social informatics, where both technology and its social impact are intermingled and, often, inseparable.