Open Society Technologies

April 12, 2018

Open society technologies

In the XXI Century societies are becoming more open – balancing between choices of top-to down and bottom up, individual and collective, passive responsibility and proactive entrepreneurship, exercising tolerance, inclusion and democracy.

Politico-legal dimension of open society tries to channel persons’ political agency and spreading power, moving the public from responsive to proactive behaviours and political activism. For example, Public Administrations – both in the national and in the local levels – are promoting citizen participation at community activities and civic initiative.

The open society would keep no secrets from itself in the public sense, as all are trusted with the knowledge of all. This brings us to the open data and personal data privacy issues – data and trust have became the commody of open societies. The eight most frequently stated public service values are: impartiality, legality, integrity, transparency, efficiency, equality, responsibility and justice.

Surveillance of people in the digital society is becoming an issue, especially that it was often established without public debate. Many new media technologies serve both as a tool for organizing public commons and as a tool for surveilling private lives. For example in China social credit’ system is applied that analyses internet shopping and social media use in order to blacklist ‘lazy’ or wasteful citizens and allow those who behave well to borrow money.

While exercising open politico-legal dimension of open society at technology level, the dilemmas of social justice have to be solved at algorithm levels run by technologies – for example how we can divide the public goods with social algorithms. The studies of Lee and Baykal ( 2017) indicate that even algorithms mathematically proven to be “fair” may not achieve “fair” social division from human perspectives, and furher studies in algorithmic transparency and accountability are needed among public. For algorithmic mediation to be fair, algorithms and their interfaces should account for social and altruistic behaviors that may be difficult to define in mathematical terms.

Governments can solve wiked dilemmas dividing social goods and bads (such as where to open a factory or mine) using algorithms, that locate stakeholders in a problem on a social network and calculate their benefits so that nonrival, heterogeneous benets for each other will be established (see Elliott & Golub, 2017).

Second rapidly increasing governing technology is nudging people. For example (Sunstein et al., 2017) found that people around the globe generally approve nudges for governmental information campaigns, mandatory information disclosure imposed by governments. For nudges about default rules disapproval is higher. Majorities disapprove subliminal advertising and mandatory choice. New governing behaviours are also related to digital nativeness of people – younger people are more likely than older people to approve of more intrusive interventions (such as manipulative messages and default rules). However, political attitudes were found to have only a modest effect on approval rates of nudges.

Socio-economic dimension of open society prompts for thinner state at service level and reducing state intervention, making individuals less dependent upon the state, mobilizing them and building on their responsive social entrepreneurship by increasing community self-help. There is need to give back to the public sector” the our collective potential for governing and valuing our own resources – as it was maintained in the tribal times for commons goods. Governing socio-economic dimension of open society requires managing the services ecosystem – providing public goods (education, parks, roads, public safety, sanitation, utilities, legal systems and national defense provided by sovereign governments); estabishing fair access to the commons/common goods – the shared resources which people manage by negotiating their own rules through social or customary traditions, norms and practices; empowering the social goods provided by social entrepreneurship; and critically examining end making use of the open goods accessible through business activities. At technology level we are talking about open service ecosystems where citizens can get services seemlessly from state as well as other providers. The discoverability, connectedness of such services are critical in order to be cost-effective and avoid overlaps but simultaneously being inclusive at service level, and not overlooking the needs of different small groups’ needs. For example, Estonia has set a target for providing country as a service.

Citizens and small and medium companies are increasingly willing to participate as they became conscious of their key impact in the public life. Citizen Science as a new research inclusive way for channelling social activism is to be scaled up in open societies, we need technologies and ways of letting the people to make say of what innovations we should fund in the society, and what is the impact of radical socio-technical changes to their life at global and local level.

Political freedoms and human rights are claimed to be the foundation of an open society. The socio-cultural dimension of open society exercises tolerance and democracy in interaction between the public sector activities and individual people’s voluntary activities and their self-development, responsible consumption and environmental responsibility, establishing cohesion and inclusion. Technology plays a key role to enable this citizen participation and exercising social justice, such as inclusiveness at data level used in future intelligent decision support systems and how we open the data for people. People in open society must have technologically enhanced ways of taking the critical frame of mind in the face of communal group think, and staying in the Filter Bubble.  


As a collaborative effort we are launching at Fall 2018 the new master programme Open Society Technologies (taught in English) in Tallin University. The programme will bring together the expertise from eGovernance, Human Computer Interaction, Social Innovation and Digital Technologies to open up the black box of how to develop an Open Digital Society. Our mission with Open Society Technologies curriculum is developing new professionals like open society system architects, analyst, software developers or development managers, gardeners of cyber-physical systems in open society, choice architects, community technologist, digital policy advisors in society, social entrepreneurs  etc. able of maintaining the dimensions of open society.

Further reading:

Principles and values of good governance. http://ec.europa.eu/esf/BlobServlet?docId=13956&langId=en

Building Public Trust: Ethics Measures in OECD Countries (2000) http://www.oecd.org/mena/governance/35527481.pdf

REAL BLACK MIRROR (2018). https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5730910/china-social-credit-rating-blacklists-citizens/ 

Sheperd, S. (2015). Surveillance of digital life and the use of sousveillance as a response https://medium.com/@sam.shepherd/surveillance-of-digital-life-and-the-use-of-sousveillance-as-a-response-7b306cfdb6e8

Lee, M. Baykal, S. (2017). Algorithmic Mediation in Group Decisions:Fairness Perceptions of Algorithmically Mediated vs.Discussion-Based Social Division https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mklee/materials/Publication/2017-CSCW-AlgorithmicMediation_Fairness.pdf

Elliot, M Golub, B. (2017) Network approach to public goods. http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~bgolub/papers/jmp.pdf

Fetherson et al. (2017). The Persuasive Nudge Power https://www.bcg.com/publications/2017/people-organization-operations-persuasive-power-digital-nudge.aspx

Sunstein C.S et al. (2017). Behavioral Insights All Over the World? Public Attitudes Toward Nudging in a Multi-Country Study https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2921217

Government by nudge http://bigthink.com/Mind-Matters/government-by-nudge-is-a-global-phenomenon

The nation that thrieved by nudging its people http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180220-the-nation-that-thrived-by-nudging-its-population

Milard, J., Carpenter, G. (2014) Digital technology in social innovation. TEPSIE is a research project. http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/content/original/Book%20covers/Local%20PDFs/124%20TEPSIE%20synopsis%20digital%20technology%20in%20SI.pdf

Maiolini et al., (2016). Digital Technologies for Social Innovation: An Empirical Recognition on the New Enablers https://scielo.conicyt.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0718-27242016000400004

Kotka, T. (2016). Country as a service. https://e-estonia.com/country-as-a-service-estonias-new-model/

EGOVIS 2016. Book Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective  https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-44159-7

EGIVIS 2017. Book Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783642151712

Digital democracy https://www.nesta.org.uk/report/digital-democracy-the-tools-transforming-political-engagement/


Artificial intelligence for social good https://cra.org/ccc/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/04/AI-for-Social-Good-Workshop-Report.pdf


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