Dr. Yu Sun: Data activism and environmental civic tech in China

In her presentation Dr. Yun Sun talks about Data activism and environmental civic tech in China – connecting public opinion with formal decisions in the deliberative system for environmental governance.

Data activism enabled by civic tech offers new opportunities for citizens to have a say in collective decision-making, which is the core of deliberative democracy. Moreover, it mostly works as a “constructive alternative” (Coleman, 2017, p.22) to radical denial of the entire system, aiming to make the decision-making process more democratic, within the existing norms. Therefore, encouraging civic tech innovations may be a good way to facilitate the translation of public opinion into the process of decision-making by those who are powerful, thus enabling the connection between the public space and the empowered space in the deliberative system.

The workshop will discuss how data activists’ practices around an environmental civic tech initiative are growing to become a form of data activism in China which enables the transmission of public voice into the formal decision-making process within the empowered space. The talk will center on civic technologists’ data activities around developing and using Bluemap, a mobile app aimed to facilitate public participation in environmental politics. Bluemap app was a big data initiative established by a Chinese ENGO to make environmental data accessible to the public and facilitate public participation in environmental protection. Specifically, three cases will be displayed, which represent three types of data activism and different mechanisms of transmitting public concerns into the empowered space in different issue domains.

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