accountability technologies

accountability technologies

I am co-curating a symposium on accountability technologies at ars electronica this year. It is a symposium about bottom-up governance, and ways in which technologies can help to influence policy decisions and keep power accountable. We have speakers from the tactical tech collective, transparency international and Sami Ben Gharbia, the blogger who set of the events in Tunisia as the organizer of tunileaks.

A growing part of the general public is concerned that cities are planned and governed in a responsible way. In the contemporary information society, however, the democratic obligation of the citizens to rigorously inform themselves so that they can participate in public affairs has become impossible to fulfill. Rather than submitting to the opinions of self-proclaimed experts, citizens need new ways to make sense of what is going on around them.

Accountability technologies stand for new innovative approaches to bottom-up governance: technologies to monitor those in power and hold them accountable for their actions. Accountability technologies are designed to support coordinated data collection, analysis and communication to achieve social change. The past years saw many examples dedicated to this concern: citizen sensing of traffic noise or congestion, pollution; monitoring of mobility infrastructures and urban energy consumption; whistleblowers revealing corruption and misuse of power.

We are interested in such projects and technologies that have succeeded in making an impact on the reality of the city. We are interested in the motivations, strategies and tactics of the people who create and use these technologies. We are also interested in the role of representation – does it make a difference how information is presented? How can data generated by citizens interface with official structures and put into action?

Curated by Dietmar Offenhuber (MIT Senseable City Lab) and Katja Schechtner (AIT), supported by the Austrian Institute of Technology & Architekturforum Oberösterreich

PS: a nice summary of the symposium here

Image-credits: image (also the cover of the upcoming book) is based on the visualization created by the Guttenplag initiative (, thanks go especially to User8