CivicNotes, and the Function of Representation

๐Ÿš€ Summary

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Curriculum Overview

๐ŸŒป Concepts Reviewed

๐Ÿšง Projects

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Social media platforms has enabled many individuals to communicate and advocate for their beliefs. However, these platforms are designed for users to consume content and purchase products and services as vehicles for private economic exploitation rather than liberating platforms for social ecologies. With problems arising from centralized social platforms, a solution towards decentralizing while enabling participatory political activity and direct community action unfolds the possibility of a Sustainable Future.

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Work System Overview

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Process

1๏ธโƒฃ - Planning

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๐Ÿ“ก Insights

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๐Ÿงฉ Exploration Posts

โš™๏ธ Methods Used

๐Ÿ“Š Business Modeling

Exploration Case Study

Exploration Case Studies are summaries of the main idea and work behind constructing an end product and/or service. Using a simple case study format helps to navigate key points addressed prior to development and a goal to reference to. Each case study implies some initial work done, where all materials produced from Explorations henceforth are subject to change based on new materials and feedback that accommodates fresh ideas. Following a case study arrives at an Exploration Brief to further plan development and release of work materials.

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Circles of Sustainability

๐Ÿ”ฎ Topic

โ˜๏ธ Agency and Advocacy

๐Ÿ”ฎ Engagement Circle

Governance Institutions

๐Ÿ”ฎ Production Circle

Quaternary Sector

Social media platforms has enabled many individuals to communicate and advocate for their beliefs. However, these platforms are designed for users to consume content and purchase products and services as vehicles for private economic exploitation rather than liberating platforms for social ecologies. With problems arising from centralized social platforms, a solution towards decentralizing while enabling participatory political activity and direct community action unfolds the possibility of a Sustainable Future.

๐Ÿ”ฉ Var Content

None of us completely understand each other. In practice, the fact that we donโ€™t rarely gets in the way of our living together, working together, or loving one another, and it is often an actual advantage when people, say, come together to solve a common, practical problem. Itโ€™s only when we start imagining that the world is somehow generated by the descriptions we make of it that incommensurability becomes a well-nigh existential dilemma.
-David Graeber, Possibilities (2007)

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How do you want to be represented? This is a question to the late David Graeber and a question well worth exploring the possibilities towards a Sustainable Future. In many ways, this question delves into the existential and projects the current limitations of liberty, infringements of personal freedom, and the use of violence and power used to limit the possibility of a peaceful change. Oppression, monopolization, hegemony, and domination are sewn into the fabric of modern society by the perils of government. Representation in liberal State democracies, which aims are to create degrees of separation from individual liberty, freedom, and power to transform reality, is by no means representation of yourself and a shared social life. It is here the matter of participation and inclusion towards self-determination is suffocated by supra-individual craving and the desire towards collective greed, hatred, and delusion that is produced by a grain of sand in the possibility of human activity.

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But it does not have to be this way. The unseen organization involved in any legitimate and respected organization are principles that provide access to decision-making activity, literacy in civic education through participation, and confidence in the network of activities that effect community and life. At the nexus of transforming governance from the hands of the few to the word of the many involves popular assemblies and public meetings. Technology can improve how we can represent and express ourselves by participating in our communities and future federated organizations.

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Based on a concept mobile application that studied public meeting legislative software, the legistar, and virtual participation features, CivicNotes is an idea of personal representation in a Sustainable community. People as Subjects in transformation of reality embodying the integrity and principles of democracy, civility, and fairness that comes with the exposure of Sunshine. Record keeping that provides accountability for organized activities by reflecting on a social praxis aimed towards liberating communities from the abusive power and control very few are afforded for the welfare and wellbeing of many.

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Here, the core activity of participating in a decision-making process includes the consent of those of whom governed by these activities through direct or virtual engagement. What disables this from happening universally is a series of coercive, nonconsensual, and violent conditioned ambition of the few to maintain power and control over the many. Without versatile options to transform the decision-making process to a popular assembly of practical means of collaboration leads us towards a totalitarian, authoritarian, and fascist forms of power over our lives and communities. This reality is already actualized in many parts of the world, thus the importance of delivering technology that combats the old oppressive way of chaos towards laying the foundation towards the organized and Sustainable ways of the future.

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The Challenge

We live in an era of social media and the possibilities provided by the internet. Unfortunately, these digital platforms preoccupy many and scatters the mind, time, and energy that would otherwise go into healthier consumption choices. Additionally, the attempts by large social platforms to provide some civic features and education are lackluster and demonstrates the limitations these platforms have in delivering a comprehensive user experience of public meetings or civic engagement that delivers change. Public concerns at public meetings are lucky enough to receive coverage, a post, a tweet, or any form of media that generates local engagement, yet, social media shows us that many have an opinion on these matters.

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Herein lies the problem with public meeting software, they are privately made, contractually exclusive, and designed to limit community involvement through the lack of development of social features. Aside from its outdated design and functional clunkiness, technology has come a far way to tap into daily usage through social media and other work-critical dependencies. What goes on in Local meetings, whether that is in the form of Local Government and its current infrastructure, or the pursued horizontal distribution of power, is demonstrated through public records management. Legistars are largely used in the background of legislative management, yet they pave the way forward in its ability to teach others how local affairs are managed.

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Clerking is an administrative practice to ensure that word and actions are codified for the obligations and responsibilities of elected leadership and non-elected participants. Without record keeping, those with malicious intent will further corruption, exploitation, and cronyism to continue enabling racketeering for their own material benefit. Access, literacy, and confidence in public discourse by ways and means of participating in it will liberate individuals and communities to pursue the necessary societal and ecological conditions to avoid climate catastrophe and the tyranny of the cowardly few.

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Public Meeting technology, such as a Social Legistar, can forward the legitimacy of consensual action against the tyranny of capital. With limited access to private technology that coordinates daily life, the challenge is squarely focused on providing a free, open source alternative that is readily supported by those who hold firmly to the principles of legitimacy and respect for democracy and communal politics. Though it is a precise entrance to the world of local politics, a virtual front door to city hall, public meetings are fundamental to any liberation movement and serves the interest of future generations to understand the decisions made in the past that effect their current and potential futures. At this junction, people and their surrounding circumstances can reject harm produced by flawed distributions of hierarchal power in favor of the welfare and wellbeing of their community to thrive in a generative, green society free from the lingering effects of abuse of a tyrannical system by participating in local political affairs.

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A major challenge to any community is learning how to sustain it. Learning about the world and the activities in our communities requires an educated approach that grounds individuals in their political, economic, cultural, and ecological way of being. Civics is broadly taught to reinforce the status quo of representative democracies rather than seeing every individual as a participant of a whole, a new way of performing ones ""civic duty"" is due and largely consists of addressing material inequalities produced under capitalism.

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Arriving and participating at public meetings is only half of the problem, the other half includes what you are going to talk about and how those matters are handled as a group. Indeed, people waste each others time with trivial issues that reflect deeper concerns of individual action, however the optimism of the will of the people can serve to protect the integrity of democratic principles and extend a welcoming hand of solidarity in their struggle.

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Based on current Explorations in Sustainability Education, an initial structure of meeting topics that intersect with social life and community governance provides an interface and form of civic representation. With a preconfigured outline for administrating local communities that is based on a mutually intelligible form of communicating issues covered by Sustainability, users of the Social Legistar can lead local welfare programs autonomous from the death grip of State control.

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Role, Scope, and Constraints

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Lending to the role of the "Designer", this Exploration will cross-examine belief with action in regards to how civics, Sustainability, and the representation of ones self engaged in political struggle. This CivicNotes Exploration is the genesis of my investment into "learning to code" and "become a UX Designer". For what those platitudes are worth, if you go through with it, you're bound to pick up a skillset applicable to the modernity of digital technology. However, the problem-recognition ability is unique to individuals and the way they perceive the world. Designing any digital application is an indication of what sort of philosophy went into the production process.

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Designing a product that is for community governance affects humanity and nature by enabling the actions of individuals and organizations. Political affairs alienate the many from conducting themselves in public, or simply taking the stance of ""apolitical"" while seamlessly engaging in material transactions that are political in nature. Exploring how to overcome alienation to include diverse personal backgrounds is an indirect effect of civic technology and should be closely monitored to prevent further harm, alienation, and fascism.

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Either way, localization and scalability of different forms of governance institutions fit into the categories of technology developed by private enterprises and provide a baseline to emulate from. This allows communities outside of our own the choice to redesign and adapt changes where the consensus is held rather than providing one out-of-the-box solution. The scope can adjust to labor organizations and the corporate antagonist in efforts to unionize from within.

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Education for the matters above will reflect support for user experience of the product and political analysis of the service rendered. With the focus on meeting software and record keeping, adventuring into blockchain solutions, without its fanatic approach to building new tulip currencies, provides a reliable and secure framework to host materials and adjudicate from. Resources provided will demonstrate the design of the Social Legistar and maintain a product that is easy to be shared with others. Furthermore, the interest of hand-counted paper ballots as an analog to the digital experience ought to be developed in tandem to demonstrate the principles in effect when there is no viable digital solution available.

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The Approach

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Grounding ourselves at the municipal form of governance institution, CivicNotes examines current public meeting technologies and how individuals can participate in local legislative activities. Open data provides us the opportunity to counter corruption. Public discourses found in meetings and voting records are a small part of the possibilities of fair, transparent, and consensual governance of a Sustainable community.


Following up on the question of what goes on at local public meetings, the approach was to simply recreate the current experience and design a better app and process that can be taught through the technology. Initially designed with common and practical categories experienced at public meetings in Hollywood, Florida, a functional prototype was developed to emulate the current experience as a foundation to build from. Noticing immediately that virtual engagement features are not designed into municipal legislative software, the opportunity to demonstrate the intended activity becomes apparent.

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A brief overview of the user experience design will clue in the type of activity one would expect from an app developed for decentralized governance. A general question for readers, have you ever gone to a local public meeting before? Observing this question should approximate your engagement in pre-programmed social rituals that end up affecting daily life in ways that you may be unaware of or chosen ignorance to. Recreating a public meeting in a basic consumable digital experience helps to communicate what is happening and what can help overcome the barriers to entry in generating positive change within your life and community.

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Originally, the prototype created was based on the pre-pandemic experience of attending Local Government public meetings, the initial prototype is not reflective of an idealized civic platform that later on will be developed and supported. A quick list of details that were designed and will become fully elaborated in a future UX Job stories post. Navigation for any application will house the flow of major points of interaction and a simple framework of a highly engaged town hall:

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1. Town Hall News Feed for Local Activity
2. Public Meeting calendar for city council and committees
3. Citizen Petitions
4. Public Notices and notifications
5. Standard user profiles and employee profiles

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Features that were added to increase civic engagement:

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- Video recorded citizen comments and replies to public notices and meeting agenda items.
- Functional meeting calendar to RSVP and curated notifications from.
- City council and legal offices directory.
- Agenda Item registry for detailed views of significant public media.
- Petition details that include multimedia features for video, image, and document support.

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As this is an initial prototype, there will be planned changes in place to update the art, topics, and social features that will utilize a design system for later development.

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The Results

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Embedded below is the initial prototype. Note, all individuals portrayed were or current public officials, with exception of myself, and their likeness is used for providing accurate information of their office held. Also, this may be easier to use on a desktop versus mobile, the link to the public prototype is provided in the Meta-Resources below.

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Allowing this introduction to the CivicNotes exploration to digest, it is helpful to publish this prototype in full for others to emulate in the public domain. Later publications will focus on the product engineering elements shared in work variables and related popular education modules focused on representation with or without a technological solution. If you have any feedback on the prototype or this project, please feel free to reach out to me with your questions.

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๐Ÿ—ƒ๏ธ Meta-Resources

๐Ÿ“– Works Cited

The Utopia of Rules (2015), David Graeber

๐Ÿ—ƒ๏ธ Additional Resources

InVision Prototype:ย 
https://invis.io/TDS0EYYGW5C

See through the illusion

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