AppCivist builds a middleware platform for democratic assembly and collective action that lets users (and especially social activists) make their own applications, called Assemblies, with modular components. The components support a wide range of civic engagement practices such as proposal making, deliberation, versioning, voting, alerting, networking, and mapping. When assembled, they help people engage issues and places in their city.
From a software engineering perspective, AppCivist employs architectural principles like service-orientation, coupled with the latest advances in distributed computing, to create relevant base building blocks and allow the reuse of existing components, applications and services. AppCivist is being developed as part of a collaboration between the Social Apps Lab at UC Berkeley and the Inria MiMove team.
Phones, whether “smart” or otherwise, are a fascinating tool to engage citizens in the governance of the city. In that spirit, CITRIS (the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) has established the Social Apps Lab to develop research on the potential of mobile devices and game-play to generate an active, critical, and direct engagement of citizens in social issues and to use data generated during game-play in the analysis of those issues. AppCivist specifically studies social apps oriented toward smart cities, further targetting experiment in both the Paris and the San Francisco region. While many types of apps may be envisioned considering the breadth of smart cities, AppCivist more specifically focuses on Apps oriented toward activism. It is further the intent of the project to devise a development methodology and associated software tools and middleware platform so that social activists can easily build custom applications, possibly re-using relevant third party services supporting civic engagement practices.