Years ago I read a beautiful book, written by Steven Johnson, titled “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software”

I found it very insightful, with some ideas of what are now common modern day concepts (such as crowdsourcing or collective intelligence) being explained in a clear and documented way. The main concept was the following, taken from Wikipedia:

Emergence refers to the ability of low-level components of a system or community to self-organize into a higher-level system of sophistication and awareness. Johnson notes that this self-reorganizing stems from the bottom up rather than directed by an external control factor. Johnson gives examples of feedback, self-organization and adaptive learning.

Sometimes, when thinking of how Italy is managing the overall Open Government process, I’m convinced that we are a good example of a chaotic emergence system (yes, I know, I’m optimistic). There are some good signals, but only a few.

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In my last blog post I described Wikitalia as an association inspired by Code For America and MySociety. We are working to develop Wikitalia in several ways. Currently, we’re focused on building capacity in local public administrations to adopt open data and open government practices.

It’s not so simple, but we are trying to find a sustainable business model to survive. It’s one of our goals for this year, and it isn’t the only one. We are working to simplify the association and to focus more on projects and less on process. We Italians love bureaucracy, don’t we?

I’ve heard that “less is more” and I believe it’s a truth that we often forget. As you can see from our projects, several of them are connected directly to the idea of a “wiki-town” or something similar.
The idea belongs to Alberto Cottica, who wrote a book titled “Wikicrazia“. Based on this idea, we are developing a model to manage how Wikitalia itself works in every single city, in a more scalable way. We use direct experiences as sources for the model. After our work with the municipality of Florence in 2012, we are now focused on Matera.

Open Matera: Supporting Open Data projects at the municipal level

One of the projects I’m working on now is Open Matera: if you don’t know Matera, it is a beautiful town in the south of Italy. If you have ever seen “The Passion of the Christ“, directed by Mel Gibson, it was filmed on location in Matera (here is an article with more information about the town).

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Recently the municipality of Bologna has released an app to visualize Open Data datasets related to the council’s real estate property which is unused.

In the map, people may consult three kinds of properties: unused buildings (i.e. those that dont satisfy legal requirements are impracticable or are not large enough for public use), commercial buildings (with position and description) or buildings of value (with expected council’s interventions). The viewers can also suggest their own ideas for the possible usage of these buildings directly to the municipality, using this email address:

Data used is available on, the official Bologna Data portal. (three datasets are involved, one is on impracticable unused buildings, one on unused buildings to value and another one on unused commercial buildings).

It’s an important effort to make people more self-conscious about their own place and their own city. But there is a risk: there is a lot of fragmentation of efforts and initiatives. We, as Italians, already know it: it’s a typical Italian issue.

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Foto dell'autore

Matteo Brunati

Sono un appassionato di tutto quello che ha relazione con la Rete, specie quando al confine tra tecnologia e società. Sto scrivendo un libro sul civic hacking in Italia assieme a Erika Marconato: voglio dare seguito a molte esperienze vissute in questi anni (Open Data, Linked Open Data e Open Government).

Community Manager @ SpazioDati.