Digital Civic Space

I am working on a number of things at the moment which come back to my working definition of digital civic space and its design criterion. I thought it would be handier to reference all that here rather than keep repeating it in other posts.

My definition of Digital Civic Space describes an online equivalent to the village green or the market square. Its a shared community space which can be put to many uses. Within my description a successful Digital Civic Spaces could be said to have the following qualities:

  • You know when you are there
  • You are provided with visual and social clues as to how you should behave there
  • You understand the expectations as to the type of conversations you are going to have – and these interactions will be about your local community
  • The space is able to evolve and change as its community changes – but it will always be identifiable
  • It sets an expectation of shared action and purpose – rather than just talking this is a space to get things done
  • Further to this it is a space which connects the network of networks which can be said to make up a community or locality.

Beneath this definition I am suggesting design criterion which are needed in order for this space to function in a way which connects informal and formal civic behaviours and participation – it is these qualities which can be argued to be missing from the social web as it mainly commercially engineered. These criterion are:

Design criterion 1: Public:  The purpose of a digital civic space is to provide an environment in which any citizen who chooses to can observe, audit and participate in democratic debate and decision-making – it is a Public and Open space that is available to any interested citizen.

Design criterion 2: Co-productive:  The space should facilitate a co-productive relationship between citizen and Government. This should extend to the content curation and management of the space

Design criterion 3: Place defined by people:  The geographical reach of the space should be self-defined by users with administrative boundaries being subordinate to ‘natural place’ described by the Civic Creators.

Design criterion 4: Open: The space should support the principles of open government with respect to data, process and transparency. This means, for example, that no information should be available by the space that is not available for all participants.

Design criterion 5: Identity managed:  The space should be able to authenticate the identity of participants to a standard that makes their contribution available to consultation and policy-making processes.

We are getting organised with implementing Citizenscape as part of some new civic space experiments in the Autumn – I will of course be blogging those here! The challenge in translating these criterion into software is to a great extent a UX challenge but one of the things I will be looking at is to what extent the parallel face to face community engagement work of implementing these can contribute to use of the space or whether this work can be self-organising.

Beyond this I am also increasingly interested in the intersection between physical and virtual civic space and also how we might actively use this intersection to strengthen networks and as a result communities – more on this as I develop some ideas.

[button link=”#” newwindow=”yes”] You can read other posts about digital civic space here[/button]