2013-11-23/29 World Forum for Democracy: Semantic Polling Lab

From 23-29 November 2013 the Council of Europe will hold the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg. The week long series of events is focused on the theme Re-Wiring Democracy: Connecting Institutions and Citizens in a Digital Age. There are events for the public as well as expert groups and high profile testimonies.

The Council have generously agreed to hold a lab on Semantic Polling, a concept developed at the New Political Communication Unit that refers to the gathering and analysis of social media data to understand public opinion. The NCPU's Ben O'Loughlin will act as discussant and provide a critical response to experiments runs by a set of companies and parliamentarians working in this area:


Ms Tanja AITAMURTO, Finland, Visiting Researcher at the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University

Tanja Aitamurto is a visiting researcher at the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford. She examines how collective intelligence, whether harnessed by crowdsourcing, co-creation or open innovation, impacts processes in journalism, public policy making and design. Related to her studies, she advises the Government and the Parliament of Finland about Open Government practices. Based on her previous research findings, she runs a pioneering experiment to crowdsource a law in Finland with the Ministry of Environment and the Committee for the Future.


Mr Paul GUYOT, France, Co-founder and CEO of Semiocast

Paul Guyot founded Semiocast, a market, social and opinion research start-up leveraging public social media conversations, in 2009. He holds a Ph.D. in Artifical Intelligence from Pierre & Marie Curie University.


Mr Mikael JUNGNER, Finland, Member of Parliament

Mikael Jungner is a member of the Finnish Parliament and former Secretary General of the Finnish Socialdemocratic Party. He is the former CEO of a Finnish Broadcasting Company and former Political Secretary to the Finnish Prime Minister. Mikael Jungner is a lawyer by training. His main interests are in social media and start up's.


Mr Joonas PEKKANEN, Finland, Founder of Open Ministry

Joonas Pekkanen is the founder of Open Ministry, an NGO that aims to crowdsource legislation. Pekkanen has studied Finance and Law. He worked for 10 years as a co-founder in several internet and mobile startups prior to his pro-democratic endeavours. Pekkanen is a member of the Open Government Partnership committee in Finland and on the board of Open Knowledge Finland.


Ben has conducted a range of research in this field with Nick Anstead investigating how companies (including Semiocast), pollsters and journalists make sense of online polling. They found this was a largely unregulated area in which claims about "public opinion" based on social media monitoring research hit the news with very little scrutiny of the methods or meaning of the data or claims made about it. However, these techniques do allow fine grained analysis of shifts in public sentiment that can be used as incredibly large, real-time focus groups.

We are grateful to Roberto Fasino at the Council of Europe for his help with the event.