• I know you read our paper, obviously, so you know something about us.

  • (laughter)

  • Usually, to start with the interview, we introduce ourselves and the research project.

  • For the benefit of people reading the transcript, also.

  • (laughter)

  • Excellent, yes. Basically, we know how it’s going to start with the interview and where it’s going to end, but what’s in the middle is up to us.

  • Let me at least start with some research. For the benefit of the transcript, we are Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell. We’re both professors at Indiana University in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. We’re both researchers in human-computer interaction, or HCI, and design. That’s the quick introduction.

  • I think we both typically identify as design researchers. We are maybe a little bit less on the technical side and more on the "having a good idea" side. That’s at least how we think about it. I think it’s relevant -- this will come up -- that both of us are from the humanities.

  • We both have our PhDs in comparative literature. It’s a little bit of a transition from comparative literature into computing, but that’s what happened. Most of our research, we have a critical or humanistic take on HCI.

  • One of our commitments from being from comparative literature is actually telling what our commitments are, actually saying what we believe.

  • The position, yeah.

  • Position, and that kind of thing. Exactly. There are two things that have driven this research. One has been a commitment to gender and gender issues. Shaowen, in particular, is very well-known for her work on feminism and feminist HCI.

  • The other thing very much coming from Shaowen is a commitment to Taiwan, because Shaowen is originally from Taiwan. You can...

  • I was born and raised here. I went to Zhongcheng, then Tunghai, and then I went to The States for graduate studies, and I met you in this. [laughs]

  • That’s right. Maybe 5 or 10 years after you went to the US, you started to miss Taiwan.

  • Yes, I felt like I’d like to use a word, liminal because it’s not the...

  • 閾境, that’s the word.

  • I’m not really US. I’m not American, also not Chinese. The past couple of years, I’ve been trying to say that I had to do the research. I visited home every year to see my family. It will be really good if I can do something for Taiwan.

  • We got a NSF grant, the National Science Foundation grant, looking at IT innovation, open innovation, especially in terms of making, DIY. We’re arguing that this is not just a hobbyist pursuit, but also has strong economic implications, and we want to document how making is actually conceptualized and practiced in Asia.

  • That grant looked at, like a comparative study, what making actually contribute to economic growth in Taiwan, China, and also America, the West, and not your typical Silicon Valley narratives.

  • That’s the official story anyway that we used to get grant funding.

  • That’s what we read in the paper. [laughs]

  • There’s often a subtext, which is, "Why are people really doing this" and, "What are people’s real values," and, "What is the really interesting stuff that’s happening?" It’s skipping ahead a little bit, but one of the things that we discovered in this research was that there were, of course, people who buy this vision of making, democratizing technology, democratizing innovation, driving start-ups.

  • There’s a whole story there in a narrative that’s been spread around the world.

  • Like open access in your field. [laughs]

  • Of course, to a certain extent, that’s true. We want that to happen, and we support that. We’ve also discovered there’s a lot of people who are pursuing making, DIY, or other kinds of technological projects for reasons that they’re passionate about, but may not have to do with the economy. For example, preservation of Budaishi would be one example, at least.

  • It’s cultural heritage.

  • Yeah, cultural heritage. One of the things we’ve seen we’ll come back to later is it seems like a lot of people are talking about Taiwan identity, both as a people, as a country, or even those that sit in Taipei.

  • There’s a researcher that really defined Taiwan’s identity as liminality, Stéphane Corcuff. I stayed in his place in France during my liminal month — when I was appointed digital minister, but not quite digital minister, I was abroad.

  • We’ll check him out.

  • That’s two years ago. He published quite a few books defining Taiwan’s identity around the concept of liminality.

  • I thought you might be interested.

  • Yeah. I’m going to come backwards, then I’ll come back to that, just to get everything on the record. The research that we started, the initial grant, was before this current one. When was that, 2009 or 2010?

  • It was on creativity support. That’s one of the big topics in our field, how might technologies support people being creative. Initially, one of the things that we were looking at was network-enabled creativity.

  • Like amateur creativity, in the sense that it’s not like the professional going to design school, architecture school to be creative, but everyday people, regular folks.

  • Part of this was arising out of the early days of YouTube, Second Life, and some of these things where there’s a lot of excitement about participant-generated or community-generated content and that kind of thing. That was the start of that grant.

  • One of the things that we were looking at then was World of Warcraft animations. Then, we realized that was also very much driven...

  • ...by men. It was mostly college-aged guys. Gender was an important topic to us, so then we started to look at etsy.com. Do you know the site Etsy? It’s a craft website in the US.

  • That’s E-T-S-Y. Most of them are women.

  • It’s a predominantly female site. A lot of people are showing leadership.

  • It’s like Pinkoi. [laughs]

  • Yeah. Yes, it’s definitely like that. It’s a Taiwanese craft site. People make craft and sell.

  • We’re looking at leadership in a more predominantly female, but also still large network, distributed, keeping it in a curated content setting. Because of the Taiwan angle, we started to look at craft. We went to Caotun and the National Craft...

  • There’s another word in there, but I can’t remember what it is, National Craft, something, Research Institute in Caotun. We interviewed several master crafters. This is back in 2011, I think.

  • We want to show where this is coming from, what some of the issues are, and the ways in which we’ve tried to blend things that we care about, like gender, Taiwan, criticality, with things that our government’s willing to pay us to do, [laughs] innovation, democratization of technology, start-ups, and those kind of things. Our research, in a way, has blended these two topics.

  • One thing to add before we start the interview is to say two things. Especially in human-computer interaction, I think a lot of their theory and concepts about creativity, innovation, or collaboration, they use cases or this kind of empirical work that’s predominantly male or definitely Western.

  • In our work, we didn’t do it deliberately, but over time, looking back, we seem to have at least this kind of you can say commitment, and you can also say that this is a common strand of our research.

  • We tried to not resist, but definitely challenge this kind of predominantly Western and masculine notion of what creativity or IT innovation actually means by using cases, for example, in Taiwan or Etsy to challenge that. I think that continue to our current work.

  • One of the threads that we encountered here -- I’ll get back to that -- we started to hear a lot about the pursuit of democracy in Taiwan and the role of technology and technology tools for that. Of course, the Sunflower Movement was very impactful on her in particular.

  • It’s a large demo.

  • I can say, as her husband...

  • (laughter)

  • ...not necessarily as a research colleague, that that had a huge impact on her. She started talking about Taiwan a lot more and in different ways and asking deep questions of herself and her own identity that I hadn’t heard prior to that. I think that was really a turning point.

  • One thing that I feel as a researcher is any time somebody’s really touched in their soul, whether or not you can explain or defend it, it’s important, so you should try to pursue and understand it. A lot of the work that we’ve done since then has been in that space. That’s what led us to looking at g0v and Peggy and you and others.

  • We might want to close the door...

  • Not to make this a closed-door meeting, but just for the recording quality. [laughs]

  • We can open a window.

  • That’s basically the introduction.

  • (laughter)

  • We have, I think, a two-part agenda. One is we want to ask a bunch of questions about your perspectives and your experiences. Mostly this is to create a basis of shared understanding. The second part’s a little bit more intellectual. We want to share a little bit some of our thinking and get your reaction to that. That’s basically the idea.

  • One of the things we wanted to start with and I have to say -- I’m going to share my positionality -- one of the things as an American that I feel, that really inspires me about what I’ve seen in Taiwan, is I feel very hopeless. I feel like I live in a gerrymandered...Do you know what that means?

  • We live in a district that has been crafted in order to make sure that our vote doesn’t matter. They make very funny-shaped districts, and then they get all the liberal populations, and they break them up and spread them out, so they have the least impact.

  • Even though it’s a college town.

  • We live in a very liberal area, but we have always had conservative representation, and it will never change because it’s crafted in order to make sure that our voices is not heard. As an American, I personally have felt there’s nothing I can do. Trump loses the vote, and he’s still the president.

  • We have overwhelming elections that say that people want more Democrats, and still, you have a Republican...One of the things that excited me about Taiwan and some of your work and some of what I want to see is I feel like you’re creating new ways for people to be represented and to have a voice. Personally, that excites me.

  • Some of what we’ve seen, and that’s what I’d like to talk about, is with join.gov or -- I don’t how to say it. Is it polis?

  • And Logbot. I actually don’t understand what that is, but maybe you could tell us quickly what Logbot is. [laughs]

  • Logbot is a bot that logs the conversation on g0v. We’re inclusive in the sense that the Logbot recognizes conversations from Slack, which is marked by an S, which is then translated into English and Japanese automagically through machine translation to the English and Japanese channels.

  • It also recognizes conversations from Telegram. By default, it recognize conversation from IRC. It is basically a effusion of three popular communication technologies that the civic hackers here use, making sure that each individual utterance have its own URL, so to speak. You can talk about one particular utterance, within context, as a social object. That’s the main design in brief.

  • Those color-coded just means that it’s from different sources.

  • The circular S means it’s from Slack. If it’s from Telegram, it will be a circular T. Without the circle, it means it’s from IRC.

  • You don’t author here? You actually author in Slack and somewhere else?

  • Slack, Telegram, and IRC.

  • This is just representation?

  • This makes what feels like a closed room a very public space. It publicizes the conversation. Then it becomes easily discoverable, and people can have any conversation around one particular conversation.

  • It also reminds the people that, in a Slack channel alone, it’s 4,000 people or something. This is really a public place. It’s not a small chat room anymore. If you have a room with 4,000 people, it’s not a room. [laughs] It’s agora or something. That’s Logbot.

  • Sorry, I’m just trying to take notes. This is going to sleep every 30 seconds, so it’s great.

  • Could you talk a little bit about the digital ecology that these are all part of? I think you already started to do that. You were saying, with Slack, it might feel like it’s a room, but actually, it’s more of an agora. You’re trying to link it through Logbot to other things, to open it up. Do you see it as an ecology, or are we imposing that word?

  • We had a human geographer...

  • ...working with us for quite a bit.

  • Phil, and there was another person from Madrid and also Taiwanese. She did a comparison...

  • I think Yu-Shan is also a human geographer.

  • She used ethnographic...

  • ...approaches, i.e. hanging out.

  • (laughter)

  • (laughter)

  • She did a lot of hanging out with us and compared the human geography of the online and offline spaces in Taiwan, comparing it to the Madrid, which has a very carefully curated post-15M ecology that turns the Occupy technical tools into governance tools, like the council system and so on. She already published or maybe just delivered the first...

  • Yeah, she did a presentation in Madrid a few weeks back.

  • That compares the Madrid...

  • Can I maybe follow up with you to get a copy?

  • Of course. That’s high-quality research, and it’s impossible to summarize, [laughs] so I will not summarize.

  • Tseng Yu-Shan. From my point of view, it’s actually really easy. I will just highlight the physical, the temporal, and the digital impressions on me personally. This is my actual office. We could have met there. I don’t why Shuyang brought you here...

  • (laughter)

  • That’s this relatively more boring place.

  • It was just two years ago we were here.

  • (laughter)

  • This is actually my office in the Social Innovation Lab in the Taiwan Air Force base. It used to be the Taiwan Air Force Base.

  • The space itself is co-designed by more than 100 social innovators, each one bringing a different contribution. The soccer field here is contributed by the Down syndrome people, working with the Children Are Us Foundation.

  • It turns out that while we may perceive the world in a more textual or numeric modality, they have a specific intuition based on geometric modality. Again, that’s serious research that I will not go into summarize.

  • It starts as visual therapy or art therapy stuff, but then social designers running our therapy classes discovered that the output of the class is actually art. It’s very appealing and very attractive and immediately puts people in a different worldview that makes creativity flow much, much more easily, which is why we have a lot of...

  • Would you mind I take a picture.

  • Of course....public art contributed by people with trisomy 22 or something like that, and into the design of the space. The space itself won a Good Designer Award in Japan. With that backdrop, it makes us very easily with new experiments that’s taking place, literally every week, in the Social Innovation Lab.

  • For example, we had two-city-mobility hackathons with those creatures that are self-driving tricycles from MIT Media Lab. They call themselves the persuasive electric vehicles or PEVs. They’re very slow, has the same right of road as pedestrians, doesn’t harm anyone if it runs into buildings, and it’s open source, open hardware, and open data.

  • The people from local college can very easily adapt the flow of these creatures to make it feel more symbiotic instead of parasitic, and more community-owned, instead of colonizing. It’s a attempt of getting people into a state of curiosity and co-creation when it comes to self-driving vehicles.

  • Taiwan has a law now that permits open experiments for one year for any modality of hybrid land, sea, and air self-driving vehicles. In such a safe space, people can co-create with much more confidence around the new norm. Otherwise, people think people from MIT decide the social parameters, which is exactly the wrong thing to do when it comes to autonomous technology.

  • If we station this in the ARTC, which is a testing ground, then it’s very far away from any people’s livelihood.

  • Even if we invite focus group or whatever, it will feel strained. Against a backdrop of the people’s creations and the real flow from the Jianguo Flower Market into the Contemporary Culture Lab, into the Social Innovation Lab, it makes much more sense because it has a natural interaction with the people in the city.

  • The parameters, whatever people came up with, is much more like to feel owned by the community through open source and maker culture rather than being imposed by designers of autonomous apparatus. I think that’s the physical space. The vTaiwan meet-ups, as well as...Actually, there’s many other meet-ups, the Our Ladies.

  • (laughter)

  • There’s many groups that now uses this ground as their regular meeting space. We also had the universal basic income group...

  • ...in Taiwan and the Social Impact Investment Board, the SIIB people. There’s many people who consider this their base or their home. At any given time, you can see 5 or even 10 activities happening around the TAF Lab.

  • It’s free for everybody to use the space on the ground floor. As long as you can identify any of the sustainable development goals that you are working on, you get to use this venue for free for your events. Naturally, we get a lot of people focusing on the social progress side.

  • The maker culture you outlined, they would say, "But we’re also working on the SDG 9 and SDG 12," which is industrialization, innovation, and infrastructure, as well as a responsible production-consuming cycle, that is to say to blur the line between producers and consumers, and have a full accountability of the externalities of the action of production and things like that.

  • That is the physical space that we intentionally curate to make this culture possible. Of course, there’s a older place that is slightly farther away in Academia Sinica in Nangang. The Humanities and Social Sciences building, as well as the Institute for Information is widely considered by the g0v community as home or as space.

  • That physical space is also an important part of the ecology. First of all, it’s a regular meeting. Every two months, there’s going to be a large gathering of hundreds of people. Every two years, there’s a large summit in the HSS building with a thousand people.

  • There’s one there tomorrow.

  • There’s one tomorrow?

  • There’s one hackathon tomorrow, so you might want to...

  • You also have a g0v summit.

  • That’s in the building of Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica.

  • Oh, that’s 人社院.

  • It’s all in the Academia Sinica.

  • I signed up but I couldn’t make it back. That was in October.

  • Right. Academia Sinica is a very special design because it doesn’t report to the cabinet. It belongs directly to the president’s office. In a sense, it is above all the different values represented by different ministries and can generally be trusted as a Lagrange point between the social sector and the public sector.

  • Because it’s not, specifically speaking, reporting to the premier, it offers a kind of gong xin li, a public legitimacy. When, for example, the Academia Sinica work with citizen scientists with air pollution and air quality detectors, the AirBox network, this citizen science is entirely citizen science. Network is absorbed, processed, and designed by researchers in the Academia Sinica.

  • If, for example, the Ministry of Economy or Ministry of the Environment were to do this thing, then it will be seen as more pro-public sector and less of the social sector. When Academia Sinica researchers did this, they’re widely considered as in the social sector, even though they’re technically paid by taxpayer money.

  • I think the physical location of Academia Sinica, and to a lesser degree our Social Innovation Lab, is very important because it shows that it doesn’t belong to any municipality. It doesn’t belong to any particular department or ministry, and it is kind of liminal space for all the different sustainable goals to meet. That’s the physical part. I hope I’m making sense.

  • That makes sense. Could I ask a question?

  • I looked at a lot of efforts to create innovation hubs where you put lots of people together and it’s supposed to be vibrant and exciting. I learned a word a couple of years ago, 蚊子館. A lot of them are set up, but then nobody actually shows up.

  • Mosquito exhibition.

  • (laughter)

  • In your opinion, what makes one work? What makes this one successful compared to one that are 蚊子館?

  • Shuyang, in your opinion, what does Social Innovation Lab did right? I think the resident chef and kitchen...

  • (laughter)

  • ...and buffet really is the thing.

  • That’s a good answer.

  • We have a really good programmer...

  • ...turned into a molecular cuisine chef, 史達魯. I call him the spirit of the SIL because whatever social entrepreneur’s agricultural product is, he can turn it into delicious food. If you attend a conference, maybe a month afterward, you’ll forget everything just one point or two points.

  • If the food is excellent, then you remember the food and is willing to come back again next month for the same meeting. It’s just human nature.

  • Resident chef was the number one wish when we did the co-creation workshops. We hold five co-creation workshops for this space. The number one ask is a open kitchen, cafe, and a resident chef, so we do have a resident chef. He calls himself 地縛靈... How do we translate this? Space-bound spirit.

  • He’s always there.

  • (laughter)

  • A spirit trapped in a particular physical space...

  • He’s always everywhere. He’s always going about all the rooms and offers the food.

  • When we hold, for example, the vTaiwan meet-ups every Wednesday, 7:00 PM, sometimes people order food or peace offering food. 史達魯 sometimes just randomly shows up and say, "Here’s some delicious stuff. Would you like some?" That creates a huge rapport because it’s really very good food.

  • (laughter)

  • I think a number two ask is for it to open until 11:00 PM every day. It opens from 7:00 to 11:00, like a convenience store used to be, which is 24 hours now. [laughs]

  • The 7:00-11:00 temporal design also creates a lot of synergy because most activities end around 8:00 or 9:00. In any other publicly-funded maker space, it usually closes around that time, so people have to find a nearby bar or whatever together.

  • If we have five activities or four activities in the same evening, people just naturally go to different places. Because it opens until 11:00 and because there’s a natural place to gather with excellent food and drinks, people just hang out after the events and get to know people who are ostensibly about very different things, rather like environmental protection and universal basic income. Then they discover natural synergies. I think just having it open until 11:00 is also a thing.

  • The third contribution is that I’m there every Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. It’s my office hour, and anyone can come and talk to me, provided they agree to publish the transcript, so I’m easily discoverable. I live 10 minutes walk from this space, so I randomly drop by during weekends as well.

  • Our collaboration meetings are there also, on Fridays, twice a month. Our regional innovation tours are also there every other Tuesday or so. I think it’s one per month now, but it used to be twice per month.

  • I tour around Taiwan going to indigenous places, rural places, remote islands, and talk to people while the 12 ministries are in the Social Innovation Lab seeing whatever I see. I’m more like a investigative reporter. I talk with local people, but instead of just handing their cases as A4 paper copies, they actually, in their natural habitat, talk about their local challenges and worries.

  • Instead of the ministries passing A4 copies to one other, all the relevant people are in the same room, so they immediately start brainstorming.

  • Is that open to the public?

  • This whole transcript is published, and you can, of course, attend...

  • I can sit there and just watch him?

  • Our touring schedule is on the great Internet I think.

  • "The great Internet."

  • (laughter)

  • The great beyond. If you go to se.pdis.tw, it shows the touring schedule. They took a page from Paris city government by using all uppercase word. You can’t really see whether it’s spelling G-O-V or G-zero-V, and therefore, open for interpretation.

  • When I attended Open Government Partnership in Paris two years ago, they made a point of spelling G-O-V, but italicized the O. If people from other jurisdiction want to challenge, they could say, "It’s gov zero."

  • (laughter)

  • It’s interesting wordplay, literally. [laughs] As you can see, all the upcoming ones are published there. In each and every one, we publish the entire transcript two weeks afterwards. You can see very clearly, like in Taoyuan through the remote, which cases are being asked and what our answers are.

  • For example, the 勞動合作社, the labor co-ops, are one of the main topics in the Taoyuan line. We track our process so they get timely updates when the Minister of Interior and Labor now figures out how to do public procurement with co-ops that doesn’t actually apply the Labor Act, but need to be held on the same standards when it come to insurance.

  • Previously, they were very disadvantaged because many procuring agency only know about companies and not co-ops. Now, we have a template for people to work with. There’s many structural problems that are very quickly resolved in this way because all the ministries are in the same room enjoying drinks and working in a geometry created by people with Down syndrome.

  • They now become much more creative exactly because of that. That’s the three thing. I don’t know what Shuyang thinks about the atmosphere.

  • It’s known as a place, like the third point is very interesting. I always talk about food, time, and space, but the third point is for you to say. The fact that you’re there, people know, "This place is where I could bump into Audrey Tang."

  • It’s nice to be so close to a digital minister. Open office hour is very crucial because they know they can book the hour from Audrey, for an hour, just asking lots of questions.

  • Sometimes you are working on something related to social enterprise or social innovation. People always try to, if they have problem in their business, in their project, or in their NGO, relate their project to some kind of SDG goals from the UN.

  • There’s a point they will try to figure out if they’re actually making an impact in the world, and they can ask lots of questions to Audrey at the same time to get some feedback.

  • They don’t have to make an appointment. The morning hours, before noon, is for walking in.

  • When people just randomly think about something, they randomly walks in.

  • (laughter)

  • I think this whole tenet is very important. A appointment, of course, guarantees 40 minutes of dedicated attention.

  • Really? Sodagreen is coming?

  • Yeah, Sodagreen is coming.

  • That’s the schedule, but if you think of something randomly, here you see you can just randomly drop by. That’s the design.

  • That’s how it is for us, too.

  • As professors, people have an idea, they just walk in, "Do you have five minutes?" An hour later, they leave.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s exactly right. We try to make it 40 minutes, but yes. Wednesday, people come to me. Tuesday, I visit people. Friday, 5,000 people get to summon us. That’s the design.

  • That is very cool because the collaboration meetings is gathering people working in the government and also we discuss on the certain issues and the social...

  • It looks something like this.

  • Something like this case, for example.

  • These meetings also take place in the Air Force Innovation?

  • Now it does. It used to be that we’re using the Ministry of Finance meeting space. After the Social Innovation Lab gets constructed and it has really good WiFi mesh network and food now, we then migrated to the SI Lab.

  • I think we should visit.

  • Yeah, we haven’t been to the...

  • Shuyang can certainly show you around, and Sheau-Tyng can also show you around.

  • Great. That would be awesome.

  • I think the digital space, again, is as useful as possible archival of whatever took place in the physical places. It could be Academia Sinica. It could be the g0v meet-ups. It could be the Social Innovation Lab sessions. It could be the cocreation workshops.

  • The g0v people has a habit of going to...like MG Lee is a cultural anthropologist, which also means she hangs out a lot with people. When she presented her observation about the g0v community, g0v people attended her panel or presentation and started taking all the notes of whatever people was asking...

  • (laughter)

  • ...thereby, digitizing the traditional academic space. G0v people does have a tendency [laughs] of turning anything that’s a physical meeting into digital counterparts or digital twinning. Maybe you can say something about creating twins. Once it’s digital, then it becomes a social object, as I talked about in the Logbot.

  • Then, people who are not in the room, not even caring, suddenly Google something and discover that. Then more serendipity and connections forms spontaneously between one physical meeting and the other.

  • I think the predictable schedule is very important because then when people make the connection, they can say, "I’ll go to the next meet-up. I’ll go the next hackathon. I’ll go to the next whatever gathering. I’ll go to the next regional tour."

  • I’m sorry. I’m writing as fast as I can.

  • [laughs] To go back a few minutes, what you’ve done, you talk about the physical, the digital, and temporal. All of my notes are in physical and digital. Did you talk about the temporal?

  • (laughter)

  • The temporal one is the weekly office hour...

  • ...the bi-weekly collaboration meetings, the monthly regional tours and visits. It’s actually twice a month, but one with all the ministries in the SI world, and one more with a focused hangout. I’ll keep using that word.

  • The vTaiwan meet-up every Wednesday dinner, the hackathons that are bi-monthly, and the summit that are biannual. There’s many other temporal ones in other g0v projects. I’m just talking about the ones that I’m personally in.

  • What was the biannual? The biannual meet-up you said?

  • The biannual summit. It’s summit.g0v.tw.

  • Got it. The innovation hub works as...I see. It all fits, and that’s what makes it work, these regular, temporal things. You have the discoverability, so you have the serendipitous discovery that, because of the regular, temporal, it becomes possible for people to meet up in the space. That all makes sense. I’ve got it.

  • (laughter)

  • Let me find out what we’re supposed to be talking about. One thing that we’ve talked about is contrasting g0v with something like Anonymous in the US, because they seemed to be really different.

  • There’s nothing in common. [laughs]

  • When I go to Anonymous, this shadowy organization, engages in often illegal behavior, it clearly has an adversarial stance. When people think about a hacker collective or a political hacking, from an American standpoint, Anonymous would immediately be the paradigm example, and g0v clearly is nothing at all like that.

  • Except we’re also international. I guess that’s the only commonality. If you go to g0v.it, you see g0v Italy in g0v.it. [laughs]

  • For example, this is a visualization of the Italian budget, which is the inaugural g0v Taiwan project. It’s paying [laughs] this kind of respect for the evolution. They did actually a lot more than the inaugural g0v project. There’s a lot more visualization and design that went into it.

  • The great thing here is this is not trademarked and it’s free of copyright, so g0v.it, as far as I know, they’re inspired and they appropriated the technology as appropriate technology. They didn’t have to ask for a license, membership, or anything. It’s a meme, and they just copied the meme to there. I think g0v Canada is also in the works and New York, many other places.

  • What I’m saying is that, in this regard, it’s like Anonymous in the sense that people can claim to be Anonymous just by doing anonymous things. People can claim to be g0v just by doing g0v things, but I think the payload is going to be different.

  • That helps. One of the questions is it seems to be a very different configuration of hacking, industry leadership, and of governance than what we have in the US. We have big conglomerates like Intel or something like that.

  • First of all, you think they probably have a secret, shadowy relationship with the US government that we don’t even know about or understand. Because they’re multinational, they also are almost like countries on their own.

  • Exactly. One of the things that struck me about the Sunflower Movement, and I think this is what we’re trying to get at, it seemed like there were a lot of industry leaders and activists who used g0v maybe as a vehicle for change, but then, like yourself or like Peggy, actually ended up working in government...

  • With the government.

  • ...which is inconceivable. If we think about the Intel or the Anonymous, that pathway just doesn’t make any sense. I was curious to understand, get a little perspective on...

  • I think the government, in its current form in Taiwan, is also like a start-up. The first presidential elections is 1996. It’s not a very established democracy. We’re all just figuring out how to do this thing. Maybe a comparison can be made with Madrid. I think it’s why Yu-Shan chose Madrid.

  • They had a dictatorship. They had their transitional justice issues, and they also saying, "Our generation is the generation that can actually do democracy, and so we can figure out things together rather than just deferring to the old traditions because the old tradition is dictatorship. Nobody want to go back there."

  • To a lesser degree, people compared us to Estonia, which is, I think, a more stretching comparison. The only similarity is maybe Estonia was founded after the Internet. They didn’t have as much legacy. They have even fewer legacy of working with paperwork, literally, so they could design things with Internet in mind.

  • The other similarity is that it’s next to an interesting relationship power, which is why Estonia figures out all the different ways to use distributed ledgers to back up all the data in its digital embassies. In the off chance that Estonian people have to massively relocate, they can rediscover their identities based on whatever data they store in South Korea or something.

  • That is comparable to Taiwan, even though kind of a stretch. These are useful points to consider because the democratic institutions itself haven’t lived long enough to form the kind of shadowy relationship with Intel.

  • (laughter)

  • That sounded very pessimistic.

  • It is true because it’s a culture thing. When young people feel that we’re really the first generation that can do democracy, it also comes with responsibility of designing something that’s useful.

  • On the other hand, if people in older Republican or Democratic traditions understand from school that it’s been like this for 100 years, 200 years, of course, there’s a, "Oh, that’s how things are." From the onset, it’s a different perspective. One is of liminality, "We need to grow up together." One is of maturity, "Things has always been like this," or, "We invented it hundreds of years ago."

  • I always say working with the government, not working for the government. What’s it for? It’s to figure out. It also enables, I would say, the social entrepreneurs in Taiwan. For example, I will use some of the examples that you may have heard of.

  • My mom was a co-founder in the Homemaker’s Union Environmental Foundation. It starts as a homemakers’ advocacy group for environmental rights, but then the homemakers figure out quite quickly that they need a purchasing power if they are going to negotiate with the agricultural workers on the way that they treat the land.

  • They formed a co-op afterwards, and it’s been around for 20 years now. They have enormous purchasing power and can actually negotiate directly with the municipal agricultural agencies and so on to set the terms of renewable and sustainable farming.

  • This is almost like government’s work, but they had a head start because they started after the lifting of the martial law pretty much immediately, but before the first presidential election. They had a decade to gain legitimacy before the president gets legitimacy.

  • The Children Are Us Foundation has similar story, even though they are strictly non-profit. I think more than half of their income sources are self-funded, like by selling bakery goods and things like that. Again, they’re sustainable, economically, and so can argue in a much more peer-to-peer fashion with the government’s imperatives.

  • Tzu-Chi is also a good example. It starts as a charity, but now it runs hospitals, disaster relief, and even a new...

  • I think it’s a university originally.

  • They also run its own university and medical center and training program.

  • It also has a completely, 100-percent-holding technology innovation company, which is very hip. Its brand name is DA.AI. [laughs] What it does is that they work with cutting-edge material science to turn the recycled plastics into clothing first, and then it can be recycled again into sunglasses, blankets, and whatever.

  • It’s really cutting-edge research. They’re profitable, but 100 percent of their profit goes back to the Tzu-Chi mission. What I’m saying is that they’re also semi-sovereign in a sense, and they had a head start of a decade to do gain legitimacy.

  • That also makes it possible for them to say, "We’re in the social sector. We’re working with profit, but not for profit. We’re working with the government, but not for the government." This is a popular stance, and not at all strange for our generation of people.

  • I was going to shift a little bit.

  • Maybe not. One thing we’ve heard, that there’s a very large number of engineers in Taiwan. A lot of the people who are in leadership positions often have engineering background. This is a more intellectual question that we have. We’re wondering to what extent do engineering epistemologies wind up shaping how governance is affected in Taiwan?

  • It is true that, especially in the Nationalist Party, there is a strong engineering view. I would say that Democratic Progressive Party is less led by engineers, but the KMT, definitely, there’s a strong emphasis on engineering point of view.

  • Could you elaborate on what?

  • I have a certain idea of what I think that means, but I’m curious what you think it means. Then we can compare notes. [laughs]

  • For example, Premier Mao Chi-kuo, when I first started working with the cabinet, that was around the time when Premier Mao Chi-kuo was made premier, the year of the Occupy. The previous premier -- student of Hannah Arendt, not at all engineer,

  • Jiang Yi-huah, resigned because of the Occupy and the election afterwards. His deputy, Mao Chi-kuo, became the premier.

  • His deputy premier, Simon Chang, Chang San-cheng, also director of engineering, Google Taiwan, about data center. That’s super computing. That’s his field, the physical support of supercomputer centers. Mao Chi-kuo is, of course, specializing in traffic and civil engineering, and so on.

  • When we hear about the kind of national direction of open data, of crowd-sourcing and so on, it was described in a very engineering point of view.

  • If you go back to the national strategies about open data, crowd-sourcing, and things like that, it definitely talks about data as something like almost building block of a fairer democracy, a fairer society, and things like that. Yeah, that’s a very engineering point of view. I would definitely concur with that.

  • Premier Lin Chuan and Premier Lai Ching-te, who are the other premiers that I’ve worked with, is less engineering. If you look at their speeches and so on, there’s much more emphasis on sustainability, around well-being, around the sustainable goals, around things like that.

  • While the engineering, of course, is still part of the so-called Industrial Innovation Plan, the focus is more on how do we redistribute the innovation fairly and democratically and how do we work with people in the most vulnerable positions to make sure it’s most inclusive growth.

  • The engineering is still there in the growth part, I guess, in inclusive growth, where you hear a lot more about inclusivity and inclusive growth, or a lot more about sustainability and sustainable development.

  • Whereas the previous cabinet under Simon Chang definitely talked more about the engineering for development part in sustainable development.

  • You’re talking about governance projects that are focused on engineering.

  • Or with an engineering mindset...

  • Yeah. Part of what we’re thinking about with an engineering mindset is even the idea that one would approach governance using metaphors of open source and open data. As an American, we don’t, obviously, because our democracy is hundreds of years old. That wouldn’t make sense.

  • When I was in elementary school being taught about "What is democracy?" nobody would talk about open data or something like this in the 1970s in my elementary school.

  • That’s right. The term "Open Source" only appeared in 1997.

  • Which is actually right after the presidential election, [laughs] so for us, it’s kind of bound together cognitively.

  • That’s what I’m trying to...even some of the metaphors you use. Earlier, you described yourself. I think you used the phrase "easily discoverable." You talk about yourself like you’re a piece of data on a network because you hold office hours in a building.

  • Yeah, discoverability.

  • To me, that’s an engineering metaphor to talk about that.

  • Part of what we’re interested in are the ways that those metaphors are shaping how things get done or how things are approached. In other words, not just about engineering projects, but even thinking about democracy in the language of engineering.

  • On the other hand, there’s engineering and there’s engineering. My main work is in computer science, specifically computational linguistics and computer languages, like computer network and application of agent theory in computer networks.

  • In my more academic contributions, all these are things that are made out of thin air. There’s no real, physical...It’s not like the supercomputer centers that Simon Chang worked in, which is made of concrete and is very concrete. [laughs]

  • The algorithms that I helped discover, I wouldn’t say it’s engineering really. It’s always there. It’s mathematical. We just stumble across those simple structures. It’s a more mathematical view of engineering. It’s a more philosophical view.

  • When you’re creating a computer language, what you’re really doing is not engineering. What you’re doing is basically reconciling worldviews and finding metaphors. It’s almost like a poet’s work to make sure that people understand.

  • No matter which metaphor they use to approach the world, we make sure the metaphors are compatible. When I use the word discoverable, I don’t necessarily mean it in a tangible, engineering way.

  • More in a network of information kind of way. I would concur that the network metaphor does inform a lot of the political and governance discourse here. I think that’s because when we had this democracy institutions, the World Wide Web is already there, and then hyperlinks is on everybody’s mind, and it become the dominant metaphor of a link-based relationship in governance.

  • It just feels natural because definitely people see the World Wide Web and its democratic potentials as resembling the kind of semi-sovereign social entrepreneurship that was happening around the time of the ’90s. The old, bad dictatorship was like silos that were pre-World Wide Web days.

  • There’s also this implicit cognitive metaphor of the closed networks, the well-guarded, in the sense of one being a metaphor for the military law days, and the more free, hyperlinked world as a metaphor of the post-martial law days. That’s also, I think, in popular imagination.

  • This is great. This is what we’ve intuited, but it’s nice to hear you say it, actually flash it out with some examples. When I think about open source, the way I’ve been taught to understand it, I think about it as an organizational strategy for IT development.

  • That’s what we decided to market it, the free software movement.

  • But it seems to be doing the work of shaping how governance gets done here in Taiwan.

  • Open source is a deliberate marketing strategy for people working on software freedom and other freedoms. Not necessarily everybody agree, but back in ’97, it’s a deliberate marketing campaign from people who self-describe as hackers to infiltrate the marketing department of large corporations, such as Netscape, to turn them to the light side of the force.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s very successful. Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation remains one of the most profitable social enterprises anywhere in the world. They say that they’re a social enterprise right on the front page, just like that. Everything that Mozilla Corporation earns is donated back to the mission of the Mozilla Foundation, so it’s with-profit and not at all for-profit.

  • I would say the marketing campaign has worked so much so that Microsoft, which is now also GitHub, IBM, which is now also Red Hat, all dive into the campaign and have to be kept honest by the ethos of the early free software movement.

  • Just by saying open source, we distance a little bit from the fundamental freedom rhetoric, like human right rhetoric. If you start from the human right rhetoric, it feels something like this. [laughs] It’s large corporations decimating human right and human right fighters fighting for human right.

  • Open source was a marketing approach to say, "No, we can all contribute to the commons and you can build the commons in whichever way you want to build the commons." It’s a marketing campaign. As you said, it lured the IT industry into the commons, but commons was always there.

  • The defining characteristics, the operational rules of the commons, is not at all set by the IT semi-sovereign entities.

  • I don’t even know what time it is.

  • That’s fine. We have plenty of time.

  • You’ve been talking about this in international terms, like open source, movement marketing, and these multinationals. We’re turning back to Taiwan. I would like to talk a little bit about Taiwanese identity. We already did earlier. You mentioned the liminality work. We’ve seen -- what is it? -- City Yeast.

  • That was one of the groups that talked a lot about the identity of Taipei. This is something that has come up many times.

  • Even though we didn’t really prompt.

  • Even when we don’t ask, people start talking about it. Even when we just look at data online, people are talking about it. It seems to be something that’s on people’s minds. I can guess that some of it has to do with Taiwan’s history, relationship to China, the move to democracy from dictatorship.

  • There’s all these very good reasons why. Obviously, culture and creative industries and creative economy would tie into these same sort of issues. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about how you see it.

  • The way I see it is very different. [laughs] When I think of Taiwan, I think of four million years ago when the plate tectonics...If you have been to Taroko Gorge, you know what I’m talking about. The two plates first start to clash, and Taiwan starts to raise, literally, from the plates.

  • Even now, Taiwan raises, the geo-mountain raises five centimeters every year because of the earthquakes of the two plates. For me, that’s the identity of Taiwan. It’s very much defined by geology in the sense that we have constant earthquakes. People learn to work with the fact that the fault lines are a matter of everyday life.

  • There’s a lot of pressure, literally, [laughs] from the two plates, but it also caused Taiwan to raise towards the stars five centimeters every year. It’s very consistent, and it’s like that for four million years before the first human beings came.

  • I think about biodiversity. The marine area around here, we have 10 percent of the world’s marine species, which is a huge amount of biodiversity. The altitude of various climates also enables a large land-based biodiversity, which are already there before human beings started culture here.

  • Think about the Austronesian cultures, of which there’s 16 nations now in Taiwan. That’s why we’re honoring the elders and the spirits of their way of working with nature as part of the truth and reconciliation process, but more broadly, as a way for us to feel connected.

  • When I visited Wellington in the beginning of my liminal months -- that’s when the announcement that I’m going to be the digital minister was announced -- I was talking with people with Maori heritage in New Zealand. I learned a lot from their way of working on sustainability without even the word sustainability.

  • They make their river a legal person, so the river can sit on the board of a company and sue for damage if they damage the river. It’s a very Maori point of view. If a legal fiction can be a multinational company, certainly the river can be a legal non-fiction [laughs] that can assert personhood.

  • They attribute this worldview back to Taiwan. They pay pilgrimage and visit Taiwan. We have a separate diplomatic relationship between the Maori people and the indigenous nations here. They say that their languages, their culture, and whatever originates from Taitung or some nations which they visit.

  • Even after I become digital minister, they still visit and did a Maori dance thing in front of the Executive Yuan to show their spiritual linkage. I also visited Christ Church and Auckland and had very similar discussions.

  • It’s all the way to New Zealand, and also to Madagascar, I think. That starts 4,000 years ago. It’s described a little bit in the Disney animated film "Moana." That’s also Taiwan. For me, that’s the beginning of Taiwan’s dispersion of culture or relating to nature that starts 4,000 years ago.

  • Of course, there’s many other layers afterwards. There’s the Dutch people, Spanish people, and the Koxinga forces, aka the Pirate Party.

  • (laughter)

  • All those cultural strata are Taiwan. When I think of Taiwan, I think all of this biosphere, geological, and things like that, and we’re still raising five centimeters every day. I think it’s very important to keep this in mind. If we’re not prepared for earthquakes, typhoons, or whatever, then people who find these as natural disasters that are unbearable just move away. They always do.

  • People who remain, by default, have to face those challenges from nature together instead of saying we engineer something to conquer earthquakes, which is possible, [laughs] we’ll just live with them. The 防震結構, the quake-proof structure applies not just physically to earthquakes and typhoons, but also for the ideological clashes and everything. I take this as metaphor.

  • I’m not following. You are talking about earthquakes.

  • There’s people who identify themselves with the indigenous nations and see the ethnic Han or Dutch and Spanish as colonizers. There’s people who identify with these people and see the Qing Dynasty as the colonizers. There’s people in Taiwan who identify with the Qing people and see the Japanese as the colonizers. [laughs]

  • There’s people who identify with the Japanese people and see the Nationalist Party as the colonizers. There’s people who identify with the KMT retreat and see the later influences as, well, not really colonizers, but influences by foreign powers. There’s people who identify with those foreign powers. [laughs] There’s many different strata.

  • That’s not connected to earthquakes, though.

  • It causes ideological earthquakes all the time.

  • Oh, I see. OK. I now follow you.

  • (laughter)

  • I was making notes. I’m like, "Wait, ideology...What about fault lines?"

  • There are fault lines. You can draw them on a memetic map...

  • I didn’t realize that Taiwan was still rising, so that’s interesting to know. I did study some geology in college. I can look that up. Now I’m curious about the fault lines, but I’ll look it up online. [laughs]

  • I skipped over this earlier but one question we did want to ask about was that it seems like a lot of the tools that are being developed and are being used are often being used by young people or a younger generation.

  • We’re just wondering what the implications for democracy are, like for parents, for example, who I don’t think will ever use any of these tools.

  • There’s a concerted effort in g0v to work with people who are of a older generation. CoFact is a primary one. Before people start attributing gender bias, we’ll [laughs] stress that it’s not specifically talking about mothers...

  • (laughter)

  • ...but it’s also talking about children, [laughs] and then also talking about siblings...

  • (laughter)

  • ...and so on. It’s a random family member [laughs] every time you refresh.

  • (laughter)

  • You attend to this, which is why...

  • I do attend to it, but this is literally prompted by the fact that some g0v contributor discovered that for their parents and grandparents, Internet and Line are synonyms. They don’t know that there is an Internet beyond their instant message system.

  • When they spread a rumor and their children say, "But you can just Google it. It’s literally their first Google hit that tells you that it’s not the case you described" that they’re like, "What’s Google?"

  • It’s not that the elders don’t use digital technologies. We have solid numbers to prove that they do. [laughs] It’s just their modality is different. There’s concerted g0v efforts to bring the Internet to the elderly people.

  • Through the CoFact Bot is a prime example because then the elderly people or their children can just add the bot as a friend on the LINE communication system. Whenever you hear in your family LINE group that if you eat something and something, something will happen you to, [laughs] you can just forward. It’s the most popular boomer kind.

  • You can just forward, like flag S spam, but just forward it to the bot and the bot will review it to the public Internet. People can crowdsource the fact-finding, and then the bot will get back to the elders saying, "We checked, and it’s not quite like that." It’s catering to the elderly specifically.

  • Now we have all the trending rumors at the moment on the LINE system, like you can use a piece of pie to save someone from cardiac arrest. [laughs] This bill is untrue. It surfaces what used to be just the dark Internet rumors into the public Web, much like what Spamhaus did with junk mail.

  • Do you know snopes.com?

  • No, the Taiwan Fact Check Center, which is not a g0v project, but they do work with people in g0v, is more like Snopes. They apply more journalistic standards. CoFacts is like crowd-sourcing. They surface what’s on end-to-end encrypted channels into the public Web.

  • Once they’re on public Web, the Taiwan Fact Check Center can then work on it. Then they’re like Snopes. They clearly say, "This is the rumor. It’s false, and this is exactly the journalistic approach we did." That’s the TFC.

  • The Taiwan fact-checker would probably be a little bit slower and more authoritative, a little more Agile.

  • It’s the second line in the baton passing. The elderly people spread rumors. Their family members send it to CoFact. Once there’s more than two reports of this same rumor, it appears on the public database. The TFC people may be looking at something that’s really popular and start investigating, and then they can publish a report saying that’s really not true.

  • Are the rumors...I can’t read this, sorry. The kind of rumors, are they fake news like we have in the US or are these more like fake health?

  • We don’t use the F-word here, as a policy.

  • Cool. I want to hear about that.

  • Both of my parents are journalist, and I think the F-word is not very helpful. Many journalists see the word and see it as an affront to their profession. It seemed to be talking about journalistic output that is incorrect. It’s sometimes being used in that sense.

  • For people in, for example, online media, they sometimes use this same word to describe things that are not journalistic output, but adopt the pretense of a journalistic output, which has nothing overlap with the journalistic output that are not true, right? They are described by the same words.

  • The same two words, conflated, yeah.

  • When I talk with the Taipei city mayor Ko Wen-je, a year ago, he thinks these two are not fake news. He thinks a journalistic output that is true, but the editor puts a misleading title on it, editorial sensationalism.

  • He thinks that’s fake news because it’s faking the journalistic output’s impact on the society to make people view it in a biased frame of mind. I think that’s legitimate also, but then it means that word is used in Taiwan a year ago to describe three non-overlapping things, which makes it impossible to have a rational discourse.

  • Now, we use the term disinformation when it’s intentional, untrue, and causes harm. If it’s not intentional, then maybe it’s just misinformation. That’s the word we use now, so you see disinformation, or 假訊息.

  • We don’t say fake news, or 假新聞 anymore. It’s not taboo, it’s just we try to discourage people from using that word.

  • I think you’re right. I think it is conflated in the US as well, so I understand. Now, I can ask my question in a better way. Is it for disinformation or misinformation?

  • The TFC works mostly with disinformation, like they think there is an intention to cause widespread misunderstanding. The CoFact works with everything, misinformation, personal opinion, which they classify as personal opinion, and things like that. The CoFact is much broader and it’s about misinformation in general.

  • OK, got a picture of that. That’s good.

  • Should move on to the second one in the interest of time, I think.

  • We’ve plenty of time actually. My next visit is 1:00 PM. We might want to get lunch sometime, though.

  • Yeah. We’ll try to respect your time. That’s good.

  • One of the things that we have been reading about in the past few years for different reasons has been queer theory. We’ve just been trying to look at different things through that lens to see what we can see.

  • This is a very early thought. This might be half-baked. It seems to us that there’s a way that...I’m hesitating, only because I’ve learned a lot in this conversation that’s making me rethink the question itself. I apologize if this comes out a little bit awkwardly.

  • It seemed to me before we met [laughs] that a way that government worked in Taiwan was similar to the US, in the sense that you elect representatives, and the representatives stand for different political ideologies or different stances.

  • The representatives are the ones who do a lot of the legislating, making decisions, and that kind of thing. The citizens have an indirect relationship that happens through formal processes.

  • That’s there. That’s right, but in parallel, the more participatory, the more direct form of democracy was there at the beginning also.

  • It’s also at the beginning?

  • It’s not like we have representative for a hundred years, and then participatory, direct. It’s like, they all started in pretty much the same year.

  • Maybe that’s what I would like to understand a little bit better. It seems, again, growing up in the US, as an American, being told that democracy is A, B, and C, I have a very strong mental model of voting and legislation.

  • Direct participation of the sense that we can go out and protest, have petitions, and all this kind of stuff, but it’s actually very hard to effect change. It might also be part of the size of the US versus Taiwan might also be an effect.

  • I think it’s more fair to compare Taiwan to, say, New York City, the Bay Area, or something like that.

  • That might make sense. Could you talk about the early participatory and direct?

  • The keyword to Google, if you want, is 社造 or 社區總體營造, community capacity building. It has a very long history.

  • Currently, it’s being upgraded or rebranded as regional revitalization, 地方創生. That’s the new moniker we’re going to use, starting next year, which puts the birthrate and also economic growth into the 社造 mix, which was not always about birthrate or social entrepreneurship in the first place.

  • 建構社區生命共同體 is, though. How do we even translate that? The community-bound by a common destiny, that’s the closest translation I can get.

  • The community of a common destiny was where the participatory forms of governance came about. It came about in terms of the community development associations or 社區發展協會. It comes about in participatory governance of setting the relationships between the social, economic and public sectors within one community.

  • The discourse using participatory governance approaches starts, I think, in 1994, which is, importantly, two years before the first presidential election. It’s on everybody’s mind, including community colleges, community co-ops, community assemblies, citizens’ council, I guess. I use these English words, but they don’t mean what they mean in the US. [laughs]

  • It’s on everybody’s mind, even before we cast our first presidential direct vote.

  • Is it correct to say, then, that the platforms like Pol.is and the initiatives that you’re having on open government, open data, join.gov -- you don’t see them as disruptive, you see them as very much continuous with this tradition that goes back?

  • To go back to the earlier question that I asked about elderly people, that also would be a mechanism to involve them, because it actually is contiguous with...

  • Exactly. It’s those elderly people who are social workers and social activists who established this participatory governance system in the first place. We’re very much still connected. The person in charge of the National Development Council’s open data strategy and so on is Professor Tseng Shu-Cheng.

  • If you look him up, he is actually one of the key leaders in the community-building effort in the ’90s, and also has a long history of working with the co-ops and the art intervention for regional vitalization in Tainan and so on. Used to be deputy mayor of Tainan under mayor Lai Ching-te.

  • When we talk about open data and open-source and whatever, he totally gets it because he did it in a physical way, non-digital way, way before. It’s all part of a holistic strategy.

  • I didn’t understand this aspect. That helps. Is the relationship, then, between the formal governance and the more direct and participatory -- is that seen as complementary? Is it seen as all part of a single system? Are they in checks and balances? There’s that kind of relationship?

  • The word I use is we’re complementing but not reinforcing.

  • Can you elaborate on that?

  • There’s a Buckminster Fuller quote.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s not the Buckminster Fuller quote. The Fuller quote is about not fighting with old systems. It’s about, quote, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete," which is a very Fuller thing to say.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s what I mean by complementing, but not at all reinforcing.

  • Have you read Christopher Alexander? Do you know who that is?

  • People keep telling me to read him but not yet. [laughs]

  • He has a concept that you might like called a structure-preserving transformation. He looks in nature and at things that grow. Even when something develops or transforms into something else, its initial structure is still there. It’s just now it’s more elaborate and more rich.

  • He talks about the preservation of life or design in the same way that good design are those that take primitive forms and that transform them but that primitive structure is still there.

  • I think what I’m hearing you describe the current generation of technology tools for direct and participatory democracy. What I’m hearing is it’s a structure preserving transformation, because what happens before is still part of it, and hasn’t been disrupted, broken, shattered, replaced, or made obsolete, but has just been informed into it.

  • That’s right. In my training, which is mathematics and category theory, I always describe this as a natural transformation, which is transforming one functor to another, while representing the internal structure. That is to say, the composition of morphisms of the categories involved.

  • That is a very precise mathematical definition, but that’s what I have in mind, when I think about digital transformation, is the natural transformation.

  • I think this is very much what Alexander is talking about.

  • Is there the query no longer?

  • Makes sense, but at least we should talk about what originally you were thinking, at least very crudely. That’s where my mind went.

  • I think we were seeing things in terms of the dynamic relations, and specifically trying to counter a notion of binarisms. Rather, to see things in a more fluid and dynamic way. I’m not sure that it’s wrong, but I feel like I, at least, need to go back and just do some homework on this.

  • I had a very long conversation with Paul Preciado, and Shu Lea Cheang, around this very topic just recently. I have the entire video recording and transcript, and also the annotations, the scribbles, which I will send to you. We talk about specifically this, about democracy in transition.

  • The transition, you’re specifically referring to, from the military and from a dictatorship...

  • To democratic, from a more singular view, to a pluralistic worldview.

  • Just a young democracy?

  • Yeah, that’s right.

  • I just need to read more, and think more about this. I don’t want to say anything stupid.

  • That’s what I feel like every day.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s why it’s fun to be a researcher. Just really quick, we’re almost out of time, but one thing that came to mind while we were working on the interview. Do you know Kristen Nygaard, a Norwegian? He’s one of the co-inventors of object-oriented programming.

  • Yeah, it rings the bell, yes.

  • Also, with Scandinavian participatory design.

  • There was another analogue of somebody who was combining a computer science epistemology with very Scandinavian notions of what is democracy. Just another example of blurring those two lines. I think that’s something that we’re really interested in.

  • What is his name again?

  • It’s N-Y-G-A-A-R-D. The first name is K-R-I-S-T-E-N.

  • Yeah, that’s him. In Scandinavia, they say he co-invented object-oriented programming. If you look at American Wikipedia, it was only invented in the US.

  • Similar, but yes. I know. It happens.

  • We did it all by ourselves. [laughs] In Scandinavia, it was a collaborative effort. It’s really interesting to see the ways that governments, ideology, and then the stories that we tell about computing all tie together. I think that’s one of the things that we’re trying to cover.

  • I never really understood the heroics narrative.

  • Of course, that’s definitely heroic...

  • When people talk about Sunflower, I’m one petal in the Sunflower Movement, and things like that. That’s a natural metaphor for me to use. All the heroics, I don’t really understand.

  • Well, the US context is tied to American notions of individualism, romanticism, and those kind of things. I think maybe here, it’s a different ideological apparatus.

  • It’s very different.

  • Do you have...I think we’ve covered? You have your very last. This is about you.

  • I think, yeah. This might not immediately come to mind or make sense. We would love to get involved any way possible, and have more longer-term, and more sustained engagement, beyond just coming in.

  • I would love to, obviously, when we come visit your office and elsewhere in the Air Force Innovation Base, continue having these conversations. Today, is it impossible if we can do anything to help? Besides writing papers.

  • Of course. Shuyang has been our international collaboration liaison for two years now and will continue to work in that role. Just get in touch with Shuyang.

  • If it’s more about academic research we actually work with a lot researchers. The Hanging Out ethnographic studies, at least with Fiorella, and with Yushan, that was really close and long-term hangout. We welcome you and your students.

  • Maybe to turn it into more proactive terms, what role do you think, as western academic researchers, we might have in helping to...? For our part, we can get funding talking about things like innovation, but our heart is not with innovation. I think we’re really interested in the deeper issues that we’ve been talking about.

  • About the relation between democracy and technology, and not, there’s a simplistic American narrative about that. I think there’s a much more difficult narrative that you’re living in a day-to-day way. I think a lot of our questions is, is there a role for us?

  • Not just to meet with you, take notes, and that kind of thing, but is there a role for our research actually to help further the kind of work that you’re doing? I think that’s the question.

  • We use the term social innovation now in Taiwan, broadly defined as any innovation that involves people toward common sustainable goals. That’s the working definition we have.

  • We do have a lot of people in the academic circles trying to figure out how to grow social innovation in a way that is not strictly limited to the traditional corporate social responsibility point of view, which I’m sure you are familiar with. Just developing these thoughts is useful. I do read your papers.

  • (laughter)

  • Just getting in touch with the circles here that works on social innovation theory. They also have many popular blogs and so on talking in a more layperson’s terms and trying to make it more understandable...

  • Accessible by the general public. One group we’re working closely with is the Social Enterprise Insights group, the SE Insights. Another one is NPOst. NPOst did quite a few work with the American counterparts of people working on similar things in a also very-difficult way because of the, as you said, the political imagination. [laughs]

  • For example, here, the CIO of CARE International, Dar Vanderbeck, the NPOst people invited her and I -- conversation of the possible points of both academic but also governance relationships. They distilled this into something that the local people can feel as important.

  • Not abstract sustainable goals as it is a UN thing, but rather an everyday thing. They tried to explain important new concepts like deep canvassing and things like that in a local social frame, which is more like popular science work than academic work, but again, that is also important.

  • I would also encourage you to just get in touch, or just give the SE Insights and En Post and other related blogs a cursory view and maybe it’s possible to bridge some of your learnings with the local popular science scene. I think that’s also important to have the academics seen as a somewhat accessible, almost like office hours online...

  • (laughter)

  • ...that you can just explain things in a very engaging way with people. That’s also important.

  • If you think about something feel free to call us, because we have a colleague at Mozilla. Anyway, he mentioned that you guys are working on some kind of...I suppose a language.

  • Yeah, we’re working with Common Voice.

  • Yes. Yes, that’s the thing. He mentioned it to us right before we...

  • It’s very important to Taiwan, because of the National Language Act that we’re going to pass. Basically, anyone can say, "In my school, I want to learn about astronomy, but in Sakizaya," or maybe in Taiwanese Hakka... The education system needs to deliver.

  • There’s exactly single digit amount of people that can teach a certain field in a certain indigenous language, which is why machine translation is very, very important. Also, we don’t want people to fit their accent to be recognized by Siri, which will decimate, actually, the natural pluralistic view.

  • We’re also working with not-for-profit entities, like the AILabs, Taiwan, to develop a local speech recognition and synthesis mechanisms -- mostly recognition now with AILabs -- that reflects Taiwan’s natural language, accent, and whatever distribution, without forcing people to speak in perfect standard Mandarin. Common Voices is, of course, a large part of it.

  • That’s good to know. That act, you said it hasn’t been passed?

  • Yeah, but it’s scheduled to be passed, I think, real soon now, The National Languages Act.

  • That’s been debated for a long time. All right?

  • Yeah. I think I will send you a follow-up message. Maybe we can schedule some time to visit.

  • I’ve sent you all the links we touched, maybe 30 percent of the links we touched. Do you want me to take a picture of you?

  • If Shaowen has a bit of time, I would encourage you to take a visit to the Social Innovation Lab.

  • Yes, that’s what I will obviously...

  • She’s a keyholder, right?

  • Oh, you have the key, huh?

  • Well, I don’t have a key anymore.

  • You don’t have the RFID key?

  • They changed the phrases.

  • They changed the NFC key? Too bad.

  • They canceled my card.

  • Oh, really? I can give you my card. [laughs]

  • Yeah. I’ll send it to you right away.

  • I have a list of things I have to follow up on with you. Especially getting the thing you talked about, the conversation you have on the 27th of November?

  • It’s actually all on our web page. If you go to pdis.tw and choose track, or just go to track.pdis.tw, that’s easier. You can see that conversation with Paul B. Preciado, and you’ll see YouTube transcript box.

  • Did you write down your...

  • The website is track.pdis.tw. When you go there, which is also where we’ll be publishing this transcript. When you go there, just look for a conversation with Paul Preciado, and then you can get the YouTube transcript, and the documents.

  • Also maybe interesting is an interview with Jaromil, who works in dyne.org, which is a popular maker collective, in Amsterdam, I believe. He now runs the so-called Algorithmic Sovereignty Observatory. We talk about the way I view politics as a politician, and how that has some link with the Icelandic pirate party leader, Brigitta, I think? Right?

  • About poem-based politics, and also the way that I think about algorithm and code-based normativity. The Jaromil one may be worth reviewing. It’s very short. It’s literally just a few minutes. The Paul B. Preciado one is much longer.

  • Really quickly, what was the mathematical term that’s like a structure-preserving...

  • Natural transformation. It’s like the first discovery that justifies the field of category theory.

  • We have a colleague who’s a designer, but also has a background in math. I will have to ask him if structure-preserving transformation and natural transformation are indeed the same idea. I will probably have a four-hour answer to that, but that’s OK.

  • That’s fine. You just start drawing squares with arrows. [laughs] OK, cool.

  • Thank you so much, really, we really appreciate this.

  • The comic books. [laughs]