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“Come to Venice” awarded of the Journalism Price for Venice

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 3 Date: 25 Sep 2014
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Come to Venice“, the artistic documentary by Benedetta Panisson, will be shortly honoured with one of the most important academic award. The Istituto Veneto’s Journalism Price for Venice Award, (ex æquo with Dirk Schümer Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung journalist) bestowed on works dedicated to Venice future, safeguard and nature.

The awards ceremony will be at 11 a.m., on Sunday, September 28th at Palazzo Franchetti, Accademia, Venice. The awards ceremony is open to public. The complete version of the documentary will be screened for the first time in Venice.

Come to Venice” has been part of the EU project INSITE coordinated by the European Centre for Living Technology .

Stories of change: your ideas for a sustainable future

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 1 Date: 21 Jul 2014
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The globalised society is going out of control, for many reasons.

The innovation ideology, which dominates current political and economic discourse, emphasizes the importance of priming the pump of technical invention as the only way for tackling the social, economic and environmental crises which challenge the sustainability of our societies. But this faith in the salvific power of innovation can also be seen as a primary factor inducing these crises, through the cascade of unanticipated (and often unpredictable) consequences that follow in the wake of innovation processes.

In the last three years, the INSITE project had been investigating on how it might be possible to change the way European society organizes its transformation processes, in order to achieve a higher level of social cohesion and to steer innovation processes in socially positive directions.

In its multidisciplinary journey, the project involved and interacted with the Social Innovation world, a movement capable of inspiring many young people to explore new career opportunities, which combine entrepreneurialism with the desire for social change.

But despite the success and the results achieved so far, we believe that Social Innovation still lacks the concepts and means to orient its development in more socially promising directions. This is the case because up to now, nobody has addressed, with a usable robust methodology, the problems of monitoring and steering in socially positive directions the cascades of unexpected social and attributional transformations that innovations trigger.

With this video, we want to share our ideas about innovation and unpredictability and opening a call for “stories of change”: examples of how an unexpected event, an idea, an artifact, or a person changed your life, or the story of your community, in a better way.

Have you an inspiring story to tell? Share your thoughts by posting it below!

Women experiencing domestic violence

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 0 Date: 16 Jun 2014
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How can we support more women to stand on their own two feet? When they’ve just left an abusive relationship. For a shelter. That’s surrounded by fences. To keep them safe? That’s the question we started with, 3 months ago, as we got to know 18 women living at
a domestic violence shelter in Apeldoorn. A mid-size city on the edge of the Bible Belt in the East of Holland.

But after more than 100 hours, 17 Big Macs, 10 pizzas, and more fries than we’d like to count, we’re asking a different set of questions. We’re questioning whether standing on your own two feet is a sufficient policy goal. Nearly all of the women we’ve met are still standing. Surprisingly, they haven’t let the trauma or the uncertainty knock them down. And yet standing is not the same as moving forwards. Most of the women we’ve met remain lonely, left out, and on the margins. Despite having up to 8 services in their lives. 
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Lab Matters: Challenging The Practice Of Social Innovation Laboratories

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 0 Date: 16 Jun 2014
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Just Lab It?

Social innovation labs are ‘hallelujah-ed’ as the latest vehicles for transforming the way our cities, our schools, our welfare programs, and even our economic systems run. Yet we, lab practitioners, encounter a lack of critical literature and struggle to find learning spaces to improve our practices and deepen our knowledge. The paper “Lab Matters: Challenging the practice of social innovation laboratories” aims to move beyond the current lab hype and deepen our discussions by asking ourselves tough questions. How do we ‘lab’ social challenges? Does labs’ pursuit of systemic impact miss the point? And how could we better prompt social change?
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Masters of Networks 2: Where does research funding go?

Author: Alberto Cottica Tags: , , , , Comments: 1 Date: 09 May 2014
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Team 2 at Masters of Networks 2 investigated the pattern of allocation of research funding in Italy, using official data from the Italian Education Department. They had rather intriguing questions: do research institutions form semi-stable coalitions to scoop up the funding? What role do external consultants play? Are they also part of the coalitions, if there are any?

Team 2 had a healthy mix of policy makers (mostly from the Education Department and the Italian Treasury) and network and data scientists, led by INRIA’s Guy Melançon and University of Bologna’s Matteo Fortini. Their conclusion:

These intense two days of collaborative work did convince the group of the potentialities of the SNA. One by-product clearly was to refine the questions policy makers originally had, in light of what the data as able to uncover.

Read the whole paper that came out of the session, it’s well worth it.

Have your say on Future and Emerging Technologies!

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 0 Date: 06 May 2014
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Do you have a great idea for a new technology that is not possible yet? Do you think it can become realistic by putting Europe’s best minds on the task? Share your view and the European Commission – via the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme @fet_eu #FET_eu – can make it happen. The consultation is open till 15 June 2014.

The aim of the public consultation launched today is to identify promising and potentially game-changing directions for future research in any technological domain.

Vice-President of the European Commission @NeelieKroesEU, responsible for the Digital Agenda, said: “From protecting the environment to curing disease – the choices and investments we make today will make a difference to the jobs and lives we enjoy tomorrow. Researchers and entrepreneurs, innovators, creators or interested bystanders – whoever you are, I hope you will take this opportunity to take part in determining Europe’s future”.

The consultation is organised as a series of discussions, in which contributors can suggest ideas for a newFET Proactive initiative or discuss the 9 research topics identified in the previous consultation to determine whether they are still relevant today.

The ideas collected via the public consultation will contribute to future FET work programmes, notably the next one (2016-17). This participative process has already been used to draft the current work programme (2014-15).


€2,7 billion will be invested in Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) under the new research programmeHorizon 2020 #H2020 (2014-2020). This represents a nearly threefold increase in budget compared to the previous research programme, FP7. FET actions are part of the Excellent science pillar of Horizon 2020.

The objective of FET is to foster radical new technologies by exploring novel and high-risk ideas building on scientific foundations. By providing flexible support to goal-oriented and interdisciplinary collaborative research, and by adopting innovative research practices, FET research seizes the opportunities that will deliver long-term benefit for our society and economy.

FET Proactive initiatives aim to mobilise interdisciplinary communities around promising long-term technological visions. They build up the necessary base of knowledge and know-how for kick-starting a future technology line that will benefit Europe’s future industries and citizens in the decades to come. FET Proactive initiatives complement FET Open scheme, which funds small-scale projects on future technology, and FET Flagships, which are large-scale initiatives to tackle ambitious interdisciplinary science and technology goals.

FET previously launched an online consultation (2012-13) to identify research topics for the current work programme. Around 160 ideas were submitted. The European Commission did an exhaustive analysis and produced an informal clustering of these ideas into broad topics. 9 topics were identified as candidates for a FET Proactive initiative. Three are included in the current programme, namely Global Systems Science; Knowing, Doing, Being; and Quantum Simulation.

See examples of FET projects.

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This is a writeup of the Team 1 hackathon at Masters of Networks 2. Participants were: Benjamin Renoust, Khatuna Sandroshvili, Luca Mearelli, Federico Bo, Gaia Marcus, Kei Kreutler, Jonne Catshoek and myself. I promise you it was great fun!

The goal

We would like to learn whether groups of users in Edgeryders are self-organizing in specialized conversations, in which (a) people gravitate towards one or two topics, rather than spreading their participation effort across all topics, and (b) the people that gravitate towards a certain topic also gravitate towards each other.

Why is this relevant?

Understanding social network dynamics and learning to see the pattern of their infrastructure can become a useful tool for policy makers to rethink the way policies are developed and implemented. Furthermore, it could ensure that policies reflect both needs and possible solutions put forward by people themselves. The ability to decode linkages between members of social networks based on the areas of their specialization can allow decision makers and development organisations to:

  1. Tap into existing networks of knowledge and expertise to gain increased understanding of a policy issue and of the groups most affected (i.e. the target population of a policy)
  2. Identify pre-existing bottom-up (ideas for) solutions relevant to the policy issue at hand
  3. Bring together networks with a proven interest in a policy issue and leverage their engagement to design new solutions and bring about change

Compared to traditional models of policy development, this method can allow for more effective and accountable policy interventions. Rather than spending considerable resources on developing a knowledge base and building new communities around a policy theme, the methodology would enable decision makers and development organisations alike to tap into available knowledge bases and to work with these existing networks of interested specialists, saving time and resources. Moreover, pre-existing networks of specialists are expected to be more sustainable as a resource of information and collective action than ad-hoc networks built around emerging policy issues.

The data

Edgeryders is a project rolled out by the Council of Europe and the European Commission in late 2011. Its goal was to generate a proposal for the reform of European youth policy that encoded the point of view of youth themselves. This was done by launching an open conversation on an online platform (more information).

The conversation was hosted on a Drupal 6 platform. Using a Drupal module called Views Datasource, we exported three JSON files encoding respectively information about users; posts; and comments.
These data are sufficient to build the social network of the conversation. In it, users represent nodes; comments represent edges. Anna and Bob are connected by an edge if Anna has written at least one comment to a piece of content authored by Bob. We used a Python script with the Tulip library for network analysis to build the graph and analyze it. The result was a network with 260 active people and about 1600 directed edges, encoding about 4000 comments.

To move towards our goal, we needed to enrich this dataset with extra information concerning the semantics of that conversation (see below).

What we did

To define to which degree people gravitate towards certain topics, and towards each other, we carried out “entanglement analysis” on a dataset containing all conversations carried out between members of the Edgeryders network. Entanglement analysis was proposed by Benjamin Renoust in 2013; we performed it using a program called Data Detangler (accessible at http://tulipposy.labri.fr:31497/).

1. Understanding Edgeryders as a social network of comments

These data can be interpreted as a social network: people write posts and comment on them; moreover, they can comment other people’s comments. Within this dataset, each comment can be interpreted as an edge, connecting the author of the comment to the author of the post or comment she is commenting on. Alternatively, we could interpret them as a bipartite network that connects people to content: comments are edges that connect their authors to the unit of content they are commenting.

2. Posts are written in response to briefs

Each of the posts written on Edgeryders is a response to set briefs, or missons, that sit under higher level campaigns. This means that many posts – and associated comments – live under the higher level ‘topic’ of one of nine campaigns.

3. Keywords indexing briefs

In order to understand how the various topics and briefs connect to each other we analysed the keywords that defined each mission/brief. This was carried out by manually analysing the significance of word frequency for each post. Word Frequency was asceratained by using the in-browser software http://tagcrowd.com/faq.html#whatis to work out the top 12-15 words per mission. We then manually verified these words (removing, for example names, or words that were too general, or that were a function of the Edgeryders platform itself- e.g. ‘comment’ or ‘add post’).

The combination of these three elements gives us a multiplex social network, that is indexed by keywords. A multiplex social network is one where there are multiple relations among the same set of actor.

4. Drop one-interaction specialists

We dropped edges that are linked to only one brief. These are edges of ‘degenerate specialists’; as they only interact in the context of one brief, they are specialists only by default.

5. Remove generalist conversations

At this point, we had a multiplex social network of users and keywords. Users were connected by edges carrying different keywords – indeed, each keyword can be seen as a “layer” of the multiplex network, inducing its own social network: the network of the conversation about employment, the network of the conversation about education etc. Many of the interactions going on are non-specialized; the same two users talk of several different things. In order to isolate specialized conversation, for each individual edge of the multiplex we remove all keywords except those that appear in all interactions between these two users. In other words, we rebuild the network by assigning to each edge the intersection of the sets of keywords encoded in each of the individual interactions. In many cases, the intersection is empty: it only takes two interactions happening in the context of two briefs with no keywords in common for this to happen. In this case, the edge is dropped altogether.

A nice side-effect of 4 and 5 is to greatly reduce the influence of the Edgeryders team of moderators on the results. Moderators are among the most active users; while this is as it should be, they tend to “skew” the behaviour of the online community. However, 4 removes all the one-off interactions they tend to have with users that are not very active; and 5 removes all the edges connecting moderators to each other, because they – by virtue of being very active – interact with one another across many different briefs, and as a result the intersection of keywords across all their interactions tends to be zero.

6. Look for groups of specialists

We then identified groups of specialists by identifying those users interacting together solely around a small number of keywords (e.g. in example, n(keywords) = 2).

Figure 1. Specialized conversations on education ad learning Figure 1. Specialized conversations on education and learning


The method does indeed seem to be able to identify groups of specialists. “Groups” is used here in the social sense of a collection of people that not only write content related to the keywords, but interact with one another in doing so – this is to capture the collective intelligence dimension of large scale conversations. Figure 1 shows some conversations between people (highlighted on the left) that only interact on the “education” and “learning” keywords (shown on the right). Highlighted individuals that are not connected to any highlighted edges are users who do write contributions that are related to those keywords, but are not part to specialized interactions on those keywords.

Once a group of specialists is identified, the next step is to look for the keywords that co-occur on the edges connecting them. An example of this is Figure 2, that shows the keywords co-occurring on the edges of the conversations involving our specialist group on education and learning. The size of the edge on the right part of the figure indicated that keyword’s contribution to entanglement, i.e. to making that group of keywords a cohesive one. Unsurprisingly, “education” and “learning” are among the most important ones. More interestingly, there is another keyword that seems to be deeply entangled with these two: it is “open”. We can interpret this as follows: specialized interaction on education and learning is deeply entangled with the notion of “open”. The education specialists in this community think that openness is important when talking about education.

Figure 2. Discovering more keywords entangled with the original two in the specialized conversation. Figure 2. Discovering more keywords entangled with the original two in the specialized conversation.

This method is clearly scalable. It can be used to identify “surprising” patterns of entanglement, which can then be further investigated by qualitative research.

Scope for improvement

The main problem with our method was that is is quite sensitive to the coding by keyword. Assigning the keywords was done by way of a quick hack based on occurrency count. This method should work much better with proper ethnographic coding. Note that folksonomies (unstructured tagging) typically won’t work, as it will introduce a lot of noise in the system (for example, with no stemming you get a lot of false (“degenerate”) specialist.)


FET-ART Final Event – ICT & Art Connect so far: elements to orient the future

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 0 Date: 11 Apr 2014
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ICT & Art Connect sets out to bring together artists and technologists to explore new ways of working. Collaborative acts of co-creation, together with an open and multidisciplinary discussion will foster the blending of Art and Technology. The coordination action FET-ART has played a crucial role in helping advance this initiative by a set of activities that allowed practitioners in technology and the Arts to meet, collaborate and discuss the future of such collaborations.

The event will close the activities of the FET-ART project and present its major achievements and policy recommendations. Launched in June 2013, FET-ART, in a few months, succeeded in organising several consultation and matchmaking events across Europe, and in supporting 18 residencies developing pilot projects centred on co-creation and citizen engagement in ICT. The projects developed through the residency programme will be presented in a show and tell exhibition curated by Black Cube Collective (BCC).

  • Date: 11-12th May 2014
  • Venue: Brussels, FoAM / Charlemagne Building

Download the event agenda

Masters of Networks 2: what we will do

Author: Alberto Cottica Tags: , , Comments: 3 Date: 02 Apr 2014
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Masters of Networks is essentially a hackathon. There will be no talks except a very short introduction by me. While hackathons typically organize themselves given good wi-fi and enough caffeine, we thought we would give it a modicum of structure. It works like this:

There will be two teams. Each is manned by at least one policy maker with a burning question; one network scientist; one developer who can hack around code on the fly; and – ideally, one statistician to secure whatever statistical analysis we might need to do. Each is equipped with one or more datasets. Here are the core teams:

Team 1 – Algorithmic detection of specialization in online conversations

  • What we do: we prototype a method for detecting emergent groups of “citizen specialists” in online consultations; people that bootstrap each other into a sort of informal high-level working group.
  • This is relevant because: emergent specialization is likely to increase the firepower of the citizens collective intelligence in online consultation. And the better open online consultations work, the less dependent we are on closed-doors consultation with lobbyists and entrenched incumbents.
  • Asking the question: Alberto Cottica
  • Drawing the network: Benjamin Renoust
  • Writing the code: Luca Mearelli
  • Crunching the numbers: Raffaele Miniaci
  • Dataset: the Edgeryders online conversation

Team 2 – Patterns in research funding in Italy

  • What we do: we look for brokerage and dominant positions in entities receiving research funding from the Italian ministry of education.
  • This is relevant because:  the ministry strives for a strictly merit-based allocation of funding, and is interested in detecting any patterns in funding that might carry information in this sense.
  • Asking the question: Fabrizio Cobis and collaborators
  • Drawing the network: Guy Melançon
  • Writing the code: Matteo Fortini
  • Crunching the numbers: Raffaele Miniaci
  • Dataset: the PON-REC open datasets.

How it works

You show up at 10.00. On Wednesday 9th, I (Alberto) will give a warmup presentation on what it means for policy makers to think in networks. Then we tackle the questions, and try to get to some answers by using network science and code. We add coffee as appropriate. It’s that simple. Maps and more practical info here.

What if I am not allocated to any team?

We build teams just to save time. Pick the one you like best and get your hands dirty. There is plenty of room for everyone.

Do you guys have a hashtag?

Sure! #MoN2

Sounds awesome! Can I come?

We still have one or two places. Contact alberto [at] cottica [dot] net

Accelerating Amsterdam’s Assets

Author: Insite Staff Tags: There is no tags Comments: 0 Date: 02 Apr 2014
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This is a plea for Amsterdam to expand the concept of innovation, to include the generative, ‘problem-solving’ capacity of the urban society (also known as ‘social innovation’). Amsterdam has a chance to become leading in this field: it has the perfect ecosystem for bottom-up innovation and grassroots initiatives. Its size, its population and its liberal roots form the perfect breeding ground for social innovation. In order to fully utilize this potential, the soil needs some fertilisation – Amsterdam needs to promote and stimulate social innovation. Not by a heavy top-down structure, but by carefully nudging the creative and activist power within society into a fruitful direction. Here is where the local government has its role to play – not by determining the direction, but by facilitating this bottom-up process. This requires a) that the innovative potential within society will be recognised as an important asset in the innovation field and will be integrated in the current innovation policies and strategies; b) the creation of a well-developed infrastructure for social innovators; and c) physical, intellectual and budgetary space for new experiments.

Although the potential is there, the current state of innovation is rather humbling, compared to our national and European umfeld1. Amsterdam’s current ranking on the international innovation benchmarks is not what you would expect, taking the city’s conditions and history into account. In hardly any of the generally accepted innovation parameters does Amsterdam reach a top 10 or even a top 20 position. The city is not keeping pace with its neighbours in terms of numbers of patents and R&D expenditure, to name a few. This document does not pretend to give the answer to this observation – but what it does seek to do, is provide guidance in harnessing the city’s wealth of ideas and generative power, to create room for new patterns of innovation.

This document contains three parts. The first, Amsterdam’s promising potential, zeroes in on the innovative capacity of the city and its historical roots. Next, The growing field of social innovation, further investigates the concept of social innovation, and its presence in Europe and in the Netherlands. The third and concluding chapter sets out guidelines and possible measures for the future. These three chapters are not the result of an elaborate process of research and debate – instead they are meant to be a starting point for discussion within the municipality and outside. This will hopefully lead to a renewed dialogue on Amsterdam’s innovation agenda, to the development of new policies which support social innovation, to creating the necessary infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, room for new, promising experiments.

Download the report (.pdf)