# Taipei Travelogue — DN+CS
> "It matters what ideas we use to think ideas.
> It matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowledges know knowledges. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories." - Donna Haraway
### It matters what experiments we use for experiment.
In September 2017 we, the authors, spent 2 weeks in Taipei and learned first-hand of Taiwan's experiments in open government and large-scale *societal restructuralization*. Communicating the significance of their experiments and the intrepidness of Taiwan is truely an honor and a priviledge.
We would be remiss to not start with thanking the wonderful people we met. So we thank you our new friends, for your successes, your struggles, your hospitality, your generosity, your audacity.
In our travels around Taipei — from the delicacies of food, to the forms of expression, to culture, to principles, to spirit — we encountered a people who cannot by any measure be bracketed under China. It is our sincere hope that at the end of this series of articles — where we will lay open our learnings and thoughts for examination — that you, our reader, will agree with these sentiments.
Our travels to Taiwan began long before our physical excursion there. The lens provided by Liz Barry's wonderful [Civicist article](https://civichall.org/civicist/vtaiwan-democracy-frontier/) strirred our imaginations, and Taiwan featured prominently in our wine fuelled debates on near and far futures at the Shabbath salons ("Shabbatcheries") hosted by Princeton Neuroscientist Joel Finkelstein.
In fact, short months before leaving for Taiwan we started a deliberative democracy project right here in New York City — vNYC (a nod to Taiwan's cyber democracy project, vTaiwan). Serendipitously, vNYC got it's big break when Shu Yang Lin, re:architect at Taiwan's Digitial Ministry, found us on Twitter and introduced us to Liz Barry on g0v Slack, a global, open Slack group for civic tech community, primarily used by Taiwan's grassrot community, g0v.
From there, threads of people and spaces — Progressive HackNight, Patrick Connolly, Personal Democracy Forum, the Reboot: Citizen Engagement event, Civic Hall, Colin Megill, g0v slack, Audrey Tang, TICTeC@Taipei — a web all the way back to Taiwan.
It was time to see Taiwan with our own eyes. The opportunity came knocking in form of Asia's first ever civic technology festival and conference, [Civic Tech Fest]() — a week-long collection of events coordinated by the [Open Culture Foundation]() alongside the WCIT. The main event "TICTeC@Taipei: The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference", co-organized by UK group, [mySociety]().
The journey to Taipei was 22 gruelling hours of airplane food, airline bathrooms, airplane T.V. and airplane (lack of) sleep. The first thing we noticed: the people of Taipei are disciplined — they que up in neat lines for public transportation. Imagine that!
Taipei architecture changes as you move through the city but almost always concrete, dotted with balconies, plants, and air conditioners. Taipei is in general a short city, the buildings are mostly 3 stories tall in old Taipei and not much taller in the new neighborhoods of the city. We are both big fans of red brick New York, but there is something mesmerizing about the lit store panels and sign-covered streets of Taipei. Large, bold signs offering massages — yes! you should get many of those in Taipei; karoke indicated by round swinging festive lights; and 7-elevens filled with all the Muji notebooks and pens you could ever want.
Taipei cannot be talked about without talking of scooters. There are scooters everywhere, both in sight and sound. Scooters packed with parents, packed with kids. The sound of scooters, the buzz and the din, is a constant of Taipei.
Taipei has exhibits many pieces of clever city planning. Scooters have their own box at the traffic light just above the crosswalk to allow riders to hook turn across their wide main streets. Buses have their own dedicated lanes at all hours. Every purchase is an opportunity to win money back in a weekly, lotto system. Your easy card for the metro gets you 20% off all rides and you can often use the balance to pay for cabs and food at participating restaurants.
Public transportation in Taipei doesn't run all night but it's clean, reliable, has coverage and is intuitive even for people who don't speak the language. Trains from the future, we called their underground. Which sadly says less about the Taipei subway system and more about the NYC subway system (dear NYC MTA: the all-night schedule, massive thumbs up; the rest, *sob*).
We can’t say much for Taiwan outside of Taipei. Our two week visit was solely filled with Taipei adventures — one week of excellent conference events, conversations, exploring night markets, alleys, bars and a second week of interviews, the Executive Yuan, facillitation events, boba tea shops, more night markets, bars, and Taipei's alley ways.
The encircling theme that emerged from conference and pre-conference events was that of open government (and the related concept of 'openwashing').
> [name=CS Explain open washing]
Event discussions ranged from coming to common understanding of what open government means, open government practices (in Taiwan and outside), 'openness' evaluation metrics, traking impact, and the importance of accountability. Based on conference learnings, the core elements of open government are transparency, citizen participation and, collaboration between government and civic communities. Each of these elements have to pass a high threshold for their to be true openness and not 'openwashing' [open govt report citation, tictec website].
Armed with newfound knowledge from the conference and our previously defined framework of Cybernetic Viable Systems, we spent a second week delving deep into Taiwan's open government experiments. Our method consisted of learning through direct observation and structured conversations; playing the dual role of participants and observers. Our frame of analysis was both inductive and deductive; using an accumulation of descriptive detail to build toward insights but also evaluating those insights against our pre-formed Viable Systems framework. In our questionings, we were sometimes journalists, sometimes researchers, sometimes design thinkers, sometimes futurists, yet always concerned world citizens looking for new models to make the old poorly working models obsolete.
Our learnings from Taiwan's experiments can be distilled into a few main lessons of importance.
### *The importance of* ambitious re:organization/re:structuralization
> An organization is a system of interrelated social behaviors of a number of participants who have come together to meet a need or to pursue collective goals*’ - *Organizations* by March and Simon.
Under this definition, the term ‘organization’ can include government institutions, businesses, non-profits, universities, schools, volunteer social groups, nation-states, or tribes, to name a few.
The structure of organizations dictate the way we behave within them. Therefore, the futures of these structures are elementally tied to the futures of humanity. We will not belabor, here, the point that our current structures are failing miserably. Instead, we will discuss some of the ambitious re:structuring projects we encountered in Taiwan. We will tell you upfront that our hope is to see structures of radical equality and we think of Taiwan's experiments as important steps in that direction.
#### re:inventing democracy
Taiwan's Sunflower Movement began in March 2014 in response to their government's attempted to pass a trade agreement with China, behind close doors, with no discussion. As protest, members of Taiwan's civil society occupied the country's legislative chamber for close to 1 month, demanding government transperancy and citizen participation in governance. What elevates this event from mass protest to impactful movement is it's successful demonstration of a viable form of deliberative democracy. To quote Liz Barry,
>Overall, the occupation was operating as a new model of democracy at scale by 1) demonstrating scalable listening, empathy-building, and consensus-making on the Cross-Strait Service & Trade Agreement among thousands of people in the street, and 2) broadcasting the events to a nation of remotely participating citizens.*"
The potentiality demonstrated by the Sunflower Movement allowed Taiwan, a country of roughly 24 million, to fully embrace experimentation as it strives to re:define
> [name=cs consistency with section title. either re:define or re:invent]
the very notion of democracy.
In our travels to Taipei we were able to observe two large-scale deliberative democracy experiments, vTaiwan and citizen facilitation training.
Nested within the Executive Yuan, in Taiwan's central government, is the [Public Digital Innovation Space (PDIS)]() established in 2016. PDIS is a government unit which is leaderless by design. PDIS members include current Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang, Shu Yang Lin, Avross Hsiao, Billy Zhe-Wei Lin, Ting-Yu Chang, and Lisa Lin, to name few with whom we spent time. The PDIS team runs Taiwan's deliberation-based legislative process, vTaiwan.
> [name=cs move this to part where we talk about pdis. then we can just talk about vTaiwain and Chia Hua here withouth introducing another concept. ]
There are many reasons why the Executive Yuan has been willing to embrace this process, but the primary reason is that the government lost its credibility when The Sunflower Movement outperformed it at demonstrating democracy. The movement created an opportunity for the formidable former Minister Without Portfolio, Jacklyn Tsai, to collaborate with the civic tech community and develop the vTaiwan deliberation process (for details of the process please see Liz Barry's Civicist article). What stood out to us as brilliant in the vTaiwan approach
> [name=cs not just the vtaiwan process, rather pdis focus]
is it's future focus.
> Audrey lives in the future. She isn't designing for a time for now, she's looking ahead to a different time scale.* - Shu Yang Lin, re:architect PDIS.
vTaiwan is used for crafting country-wide digital legislation, which allows the process to get a large piece of tomorrow's pie today, since soon all parts of our lives will in some form or the other be in the 'digital' sphere; think new media, drones, self-driving cars, inhabiting virtual reality spaces. Working in a nascent space also gives room for deliberation and consensus to get ahead of ideologies and "vaccinate" the population against future echo chambers. An additional (practical) benefit of tackling the digital sphere is that it allows the young vTaiwan methodology to be tested and perfected in an arena relatively clear of polarised ideologies and zero-sum thinking. For instance, consider how many people are willing to take up arms for protecting the rights of unborn fetuses vs. how many people are willing to take up arms for protecting the rights of Uber to operate with minimal regulation.
That said, the digital approach is not without it's drawbacks. The weak point of the vTaiwan process is it's ability (or the lack thereof) to engage citizens at scale since it is easier for the technologically savvy to participate. This may not be so in the future but in the today, this can create participation barriers along lines of age, class, education, and income.
The second deliberative democracy method we studied is the grassroots approach of the wonderfully dynamic Lu Chia Hua, a key contributer to the Sunflower Movement deliberation process. Lu Chia Hua has been working as a face-to-face (f2f) facilitator since the early 2000s. She runs workshops to train members of civil society to be facilitators of deliberation events around specific issues. Her worshops are open to community organizations, NGO workers, and all interested citizens.
We observed a workshop organized by the Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty. In her workshops, potential facillitators first learn about various deliberation methodolgies. They then design a deliberation process to fit the needs of the issue in question and the type of audience they want to engage (e.g. the length of designed deliberation is dependent on the age of the audience and/or event space). At the end of training and process design, facillitors go out into the community and host deliberation meetings. These meetings are purposed as a space for community members to express their feelings, deliberate, and come to a combined resolution around the issue.
Lu Chia Hua believes (rightly so) that no purely bottom-up or top-down appproach will be successful and often government officials take active part in deliberation events. However, if the example we saw is anything to go by, top-down commitment is not always a given — the Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty is still in the process of gathering enough support to push through legislation.
> [name=cs bit confused here]
> [name=Darshana Narayanan talk about the merger... allude to the power of combining the 2 but go into it in a larger systems piece — go to 10:30 in audio]
We view both of these processes, vTaiwan and citizen facilitation training, as necessary and complimentary. The way it stands now, they are independent experiments but there is great power in layering these two processes. One has guaranteed top-down support (vTaiwan) and the other has the means of reaching citizens at scale and diversity in the present. Together, we feel, they can re:intevent democracy in the near and far future.
#### re:thinking communities
> [name=Darshana Narayanan re-write as breaking down heirarchies and adding language to this part and removing the extra bits from language. Also maybe moving some of the 'importance of' headings headings into the paragraph. Bring them into a summary instead]
During the Sunflower Movemnet a group of nobodies called g0v setup live streaming and the infrastructure to broadcast through social media. This allowed the movement to attain visibility and reach scale. g0v is a decentralized hacker community that strongly abides by principles of the open source culture. The community was formed in 2012 by a group of coders to “fork the government". g0v has formed around bi-monthly, all-day hackathons — at present about 40% of attendees come from non-tech backgrounds (government, NGO, media and research), the remaining from tech.
g0v 25th Hackathon closed out TicTec@Taipei. We were excited at the opportunity to particpate and attend a Hackthon firsthand. It was a joyous, collaborative, and productive gathering. We could immedieatly see why people feel committed to attending and contributing to the community.
>[name=cs the importance or re:defining language think it really needs to be its own thing. also language > community. so much is always said about importance of communities]
The gathering is self-organized and decentralized. For example, everybody brings their own supplies and everyone helps to clean up. When you come to g0v you are a nobody. A play on the saying "anybody can do it". Nobody can, nobody will. You must. This is just one example of the many mays in which g0v effectively uses altered language to maintain their non-hierarchical organization model (more on that later). Granted that a perfectly flat structure is near impossibility — structure is usually sustained by an ideological class even in the most non-hierarchical systems — but g0v is the closest to non-hierarchy, at scale, that we have witnessed. As evidence of their success (success measured by standard measures), within a few short years, g0v has built a stable community of a few thousand members, rolled out some very impressive open source tools and processes, completed many influential projects (e.g. vTaiwan came out of a g0v hackathon) and have branched out successful civic infrastructure (e.g. The Open Culture Foundation dedicated to supporting local open communities). The influence of their community lead to the Taiwan central government appointmenting g0v member, Audrey Tang, as Minister Without Portfolio. She is now carrying the g0v principles of self-organization and leader-less operation into government. To borrow from the excellent phrasing of the US-based Momentum Community, they are very much "shifting the terrain under policymakers' feet".
#### re:architecting government from within
In our second week of travels we had the great pleasure of spending many days with the PDIS team. We interviewed them, shared meals with them, watched them at work and contributed to their work. The PDIS unit is a significant experiment in and of itself. How often do we encounter a government division designed to be leader-less and self-organized? This was our first. The operations of PDIS rests on a deep belief that to even begin having successes with participation we need to unlearn and relearn how we view ourselves within organizations; breakdown hierarchies and institutionlized inequalities; become nobodys. They dig, they push, they fill. They work on experiments. Nobody dictates. Nobody follows. PDIS operations are uncompromisingly open, transperant and collaborative (by any standards). They are impressively firm and unwavering in their ethos, compelling others (both within and outside government) to negotiate with their distinctive ethos. PDIS also runs a Participatory Officers Network program, through which they train other public servants to think creatively about process and decentralization, sending them back to "infect" their teams and government divisions. How often do you see a grassroots movement emerge from within the government? Again, a first for us. Not surprisingly, we found that this grassroots style restructuring project has it's critics. Some people we spoke to feel that the cracks created by the efforts of the Sunflower Movement must be widened with more force; that change in government cannot be brought about without top-down pressure. We understand their sentiments but only time will tell, this is the beginning of a unique project of new thought and new experiment. The fruits of such a radical new approach are hard to forsee. We stay optimistic and patient. We will follow the lead of a documentary filmmaker we met in Taiwan. He was commissioned by the Taiwan Ministry of Culture to make a film on the work of PDIS and Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang. He declined, saying he felt it was too soon to make that film.
### *The importance* of a critical inner voice
> [name=Darshana Narayanan cut this bit out and move it into other parts — add to open government and open washing part. move the quote to intro]
We found Taiwan to be very critical of their own achievements. Take the story from above, the government is not given an easy pass just because they have appointed g0v member Audrey Tang to government; Audrey Tang is not given a free pass just because she is a g0v member. They hold each other accountable and this is what makes us most optimistic about their experiments. The Taiwan Open Government Report written by Mei-chun Lee and Po-yu Tseng, published by the Open Culture Foundation, is another example of critical . The report examines the development of open government in Taiwan from 2014 to 2016 and points out potential challenges to open up further discussion.
>In Taiwan, open government is relatively young and is still developing. As part of the democratization movement, open government cannot be achieved with mere slogans or empty promises. Taiwan is in urgent need of legal and organizational reforms, digital skill training for civil servants, and a new, open culture in civil society. This cannot be done by a few advocates. Open government is a duty not solely borne by the government but by every citizen as well. Only when the value of openness truly takes root in people's mind will the mission of the movement be accomplished. - *Open Government Report, Mei-chun Lee and Po-yu Tseng*
This brings us to...
### *The importance of* networks of organizations working from a variety angles, at a variety of pressure points
> [name=Darshana Narayanan maybe move this into a conclusion.]
The Sunflower movement would not have succeeded without the joint action of students, professors, NGO workers, the civic tech community, the media and concerned citizens. That energy has spilled out into experiments in every corner which is the only way real change can happen (a similar energy has swept the U.S. after Donald Trump's election into Presidency).
To give you a flavor of the variety of experiments we witnessed, here is a list —
> [name=cs how can we make this more helpful to readers? can we merge this section with prior section]
* local and central government — the work of Former Minister Without Portfolio Jackyn Tsai, the PDIS unit and activist turned local candidate Po-yu Tseng (she also co-authored the Open Government Report)
* civic community (tech and otherwise) — g0v and Open Culture Foundation
* institutions of learning — the professors and students who spearheaded the Sunflower Movement, academics Mei-chun Lee and Claire Cheng who are writing theses on the workings of the g0v community.
* NGOs — the NGOs who took part in the Sunflower Movement and now host deliberation events around the country.
* committed citizens — Lu Chia Hua who's commitment to deliberative democracy has been instrumental to much of the change Taiwan has seen.
* media — Watchout.
Watchout deserves it's own section. Actually, it's own article, but we will make do with the next section for now.
### *The importance* of free press
(maybe use story telling and narrative. re-phrasing propaganda as story telling)
> [name=Darshana Narayanan mention that watchout people come from g0v]
> [name=cs more than just free press...to me, watchout re:figures/tells stories in new ways...importace of narratives that can reach audiences]
Watchout,a watchdog art/activism media group, has made it their priority to inform citizens of what their government gets up to and to hold government officials accountable. One amongst their long list of activities is entering closed door "public" meetings to livestream the events. In fact, the Sunflower Movement was triggered when they broke the news that the Cross-Strait Service & Trade Agreement was being passed behind closed doors.
The Watchout media group works to empower people to participate in politics. Besides livestreaming legislative processes to make sure of government transparency, they run open data initiatives, build tools to make citizen participation easier, host events for citizens to meet and interact with legislators (their objective here is to change the leader/followers dynamic). They disseminate information in catchy and understandable ways using animated characters, comics and baseball metaphors. In recent years, propaganda has received a bad rap but it is just a tool and they are an example of how propaganda can be used in an effective and sincere manner.
In addition to their list of very impressive accomplishments they are all excellent humans. The Watchout team is a young, warm, motivated group. The group has a strong queer leads and and is full of playful imagination. Their work environment is refreshingly casual and egalitarian; with the exception of Ugly the cat who likes to be master of his space and took great objection to the 2 visitor cats. All of their work is open source; they are fabulously open to sharing and collaborating. In the presence of their passion it is easy to hopeful of a bright future.
### *The importance of* creating spaces for deliberation and action
> [name=cs in words of au, what is important is trust and designing for that. trust is what allows for meaningful deliberation. bring this point out. not so clear. ]
All the spaces we have discussed — the Sunflower Movement, facilitation workshops lead by Lu Chia Hua, g0v, PDIS, vTaiwan and WatchOut — have one thing in common: they have all created spaces for true, honest discussion and more importantly, for taking action based on those discussions. This is an important lesson in these times, when humanity is faced with the challenging prospects of true globalization. Our narratives, umwelts, meaning systems, worlds (whatever you pick to call it) are colliding and we have to find ways to negotiate with those differences. We have to find a way to live with each other, hopefully peacefully. The spaces and processes we encountered in Taiwan provide clues to how we can contend with those differences to reach common understandings and outcomes.
### *The importance of* tech as a tool (not the center)
> [name=Darshana Narayanan move the access and free press part here]
So far, we have completely side-stepped the topic of technology. We have left the discussion for late on purpose. This is because we view technology to be a mere tool with no inherent good or bad. We do not view technology to at the center of our futures.
In the words of Lu Chia Hua:
>Behind every technologist, there is and should be much more than mere technology*
>Behind every technology, there is a set of values informing its pursuit*"
> [name=cs big jump to go from powerful quotes to talkign about wifi. try to flip this section]
> [name=Darshana Narayanan reflect on these quotes... are the tools open source etc. use picture instead of names of tools]
Wifi/Data are plentiful in Taiwan. Approximately $20 USD will get you unlimited data and a local number. US companies definitely deliver 3G speeds on 4G. Most of Taiwan seemed to be 4G yet speedy. At events and offices we attended we discovered many tools to aid partcipation, collaboration and transperancy. pol.is, hackmd.io, sli.do, LIVEhouse.in, discourse.org , appear.in and sandstorm.io, to name the few that come to mind. Taiwan we noticed, has many civic hackers volunteering to work on democracy. Why, we wondered. Apparently, we are not the first to have noticed. The most common answer we received was not a surprsing one to us: 'China keeps us committed to democracy.'
> [name=cs explain the tools a bit]
### *The importance of* new language as a tool for promoting new thinking
> [name=cs new language allows new thinking. allows us to communication. not so keen on promoting new thinking, thinking is already there/happening]
> [name=Darshana Narayanan maybe 'dialogue' intead of new thinking. you can rebuild — cleaner language to work with]
When we think of tools we often restrict ourselves to technological tools but langauage is an important tool to consider. Human linguistic ability consitutes an important part of our symbolic inheritance system, through which we can guide and shape our own future in ways that separates us from other animals.
Language, much like the other structures within which we operate, comes heavy with the weight of history. A word can so laden with history that the precise ingredients entering into it's composition can be very different, depending on the person using the word
(revolution, communist, anarchist, to name a few). Avoiding the use of such laden language is integral to successful deiberation and concensus. The facilitation processes we observed tackle this problem in varying ways. First, we noticed that language was kept as simple and broken-down as possible. Second, at the launch of deliberation special attention is payed to make sure that all terms under discussion are being understood in the same way. Third, and this example comes from the death penalty deliberation, care is taken to use the right phrasing to put peolple into the framework of discussion — for example 'if you were to come up with alternatives to the death penalty what would they be'.
New language can also put people in a new framework of thinking (in the same way that different mediums, e.g. video games, put people in a different frame of thinking). Language can therefore be a powerful instrument for de:structuring and re:structuring our ways of thinking. We saw a very interesting example of such a use of language within the g0v community — in their community you will not find leaders or followers. Instead there are nobodies who dig holes, nobodies who fill holes and nobodies who push other nobodies into action. They have created a shared vocabualry that doesn't bring the baggage of old structures but instead allows them to build and maintained their de-centralized, self-organized system.
### *The importance of* access and free internet
> [name=cs section could underscore the FCC/net neutrality issues in the states. moved out of watchout section. we doj't value that Taiwan does]
The news then spread through a popular online board at the universities and soon young Taiwanese had taken over and barricaded the police out of the main floor of the Legislative Yuan.
### *The importance of* experimentation, iteration and cross-fertilization is of the utmost importance
> [name=Darshana Narayanan move this paragraph to the top]
Our systems of governance are due for a massive overhaul. Society and technology have undergone great change since the industrial age and yet our systems of governance live in that time past. Once appropriate, models of representative democracy appear sadly out of touch with our changed times and even sadder, have ossified into systems of oligarchic power.
Alongside this, the opportunities for experimentation and innovation created by new Web technologies are changing popular expectations and creating opportunities for large-scale participation in governance.
> [name=cs reword. double use of opportunities]
> [name=cs world social forum process is decades old...maybe recent isn't the best qualifier here]
Recent years have seen an emergence of political movements against existing structures of power: the World Social Forum Process, Spain's "15M" protest movement, the Kurdish Project in Nothern Syria, and Occupy Wall Street, to name a few. The changes in Taiwan are not separate from these movements. The threads connect: for example, Occupy Wall Street inspired pol.is, one of the central tools used in the vTaiwan process.
Experiments tend to feed other experiments. The 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution served as inspiration to the Sunflower Movement. The French Revolution spread democracy to much of Europe. We must not be afraid to experiment. Movements stand on the shoulders of the giants before them — the Wild Lily movement, the Wild Strawberry movement, the Sunflower Movement. The last would not have been successful without the first. The next, wherever it may be, can learn much from the experiments we saw in Taiwan.
### It matters what experiments we use to experiment. We must experiment!
Don't know where to fit below parts in, see what you can do please. Also, there are some parts of your travel writing that has not gone in here, if you can fit that in too, that would be great.
### *The importance of* personal commitment and sacrifice
Everywhere we went we saw great personal commitment and
* the sunflower revolution was not without personal sacrifice
* commitment free time at the hackathon and for projects
* people coming back to Taiwan after the sunflower movement
* people not moving out of the country for better paying jobs
* Fi sacrificing person money to run for office
* the (hoprfully) temporary parting of old friends due ideological commitments
### *The importance of* Science Fiction
The articles we are writing
The importance of breaking-down hierarchies and restructuring
The importance of spaces for deliberation, discussion and action
The importance of creative storytelling
The importance of looking at the values behind the technology