This is a working draft of the official blog at
  • Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation: an introduction In just three decades, the internet has evolved from an experimental tool for researchers to a pervasive, omnipresent backbone for society and the economy. In my eyes its main strength ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:45 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Scicafe2.0 Handbook of participatory methodologies By the Scicafe2.0 consortium Some paradigms of on-line crowd-sourcing participatory methodologies are proposed, based on the analysis of online platforms. Case studies are presented in order to ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:48 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Engage2020 By Franco BagnoliSome news from the EU project, Society and Engagement – An e-Anthology is now published ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:48 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Open science and innovation: of the people, by the people, for the people by Franco BagnoliThe 30th of Setember, the Whitehouse (USA) launched a forum titledOpen science and innovation: of the people, by the people, for the people https://www.whitehouse ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:50 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Science and citizen participation. Involving citizens in scientific projects. The democracy is based on the idea that strategic options should be discussed collectively and that the resulting decisions taken should have broad support. The traditional method, which is to ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:24 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Are we independent thinkers? Cognitive dissonance and its effect in virtual groups by Altini Andrea, Biagioni Debora, Canosa Carlotta, Cassina Giulia, Duradoni Mirko, Fisico Alice   Introduction The ways humans beings behaves, thinks, and makes decisions isn’t always a rational way. Kurt ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:52 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Science cafés as participatory tools By Franco Bagnoli Hi. My name is Franco Bagnoli and I am a rather esoteric physicists working in the University of Florence (Italy). With my colleagues in the SciCafe2.0 ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:21 by Franco Bagnoli
  • An investigation on the social and cognitive consequences of virtual communication By Mirko Donadoni and Andrea Guazzini   Introduction Humans are social animals. Most of our actions are determined by the neighbouring environment, or, better, by what we perceive as our neighbouring ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:22 by Franco Bagnoli
  • Welcome to SciCafe 2.0 Blog– The European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing SciCafe2.0 will deploy different methodologies for participative engagement and crowd sourcing by way of experiments to evaluate approaches to widening and deepening the involvement of citizens in responding to ...
    Posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:51 by Franco Bagnoli
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Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation: an introduction

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:35 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:45 ]

In just three decades, the internet has evolved from an experimental tool for researchers to a pervasive, omnipresent backbone for society and the economy. In my eyes its main strength, and unprecedented characteristic, is hyperconnectivity, which is the ability to network people, ideas and data across boundaries of any nature: geographical, cultural, disciplinary, linguistic, social, economic.

All of the most innovative ideas, from Skype to Wikipedia, from online cartography to app stores, had a very quick, viral spreading. Their impact was as much game-changing as it was unpredicted just a few months earlier.

Indeed, hyperconnectivity opens up a new field where successful ideas have nothing in common but their unpredictable, bottom-up nature and the ability of exploiting network effects at any level. Trying to understand where the next big game changer can emerge, in 2012 we launched a research initiative called Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation (CAPS). The objective was to explore new solutions at the confluence of social networks, knowledge networks and networks of things. It was a broad concept and was very far from the traditional approach to research funding, which normally requires well focussed technological horizons. And its implementation was made possible only thanks to the foresight of Robert Madelin, the Director General of DG CONNECT.

Nowadays, the need to reinforce societal resilience and sustainability is becoming more and more pressing. We are therefore launching a new call in this area, in order to stimulate new, bottom-up and grassroots solutions based on new forms of collaboration enabled by the internet.
I like to think that a book sprint is a very good example of how people can collaborate in innovative ways for the common good, for sharing knowledge especially with newcomers to fast growing fields such as CAPS. In other words, a way of 'walking the talk' in the broad area of social innovation, for which I warmly thank all the colleagues who co-authored this publication in a few intense days of work.

I trust that you will find this book as refreshing, concise and stimulating as I did, and I encourage you to contribute to further revisions not only by writing but also by doing, in the framework of the many new initiatives that are being launched in these days.

Fabrizio Sestini, Scientific Officer, European Commission’s DG CONNECT

See the attached document

Scicafe2.0 Handbook of participatory methodologies

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:32 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:48 ]

By the Scicafe2.0 consortium

Some paradigms of on-line crowd-sourcing participatory methodologies are proposed, based on the analysis of online platforms. Case studies are presented in order to discuss the concrete application of the paradigms. System-of-systems scale dynamic requirements prioritisation and Impact assessment of Participative Tools and Models is addressed and recommendations included for the future implementation of on-line participatory activities. The handbook is set forth as a living document to allow its continuous evolution online.

See the attached document


posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:29 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:48 ]

By Franco Bagnoli

Some news from the EU project

Science, Society and Engagement – An e-Anthology is now published

Action catalogue – an online method tool that lets you find the exact method you are searching for

Open science and innovation: of the people, by the people, for the people

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:26 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:50 ]

by Franco Bagnoli

The 30th of Setember, the Whitehouse (USA) launched a forum titled

Open science and innovation: of the people, by the people, for the people
The forum was intended to tell the various experiences in the field of cooperation between citizens and scientists in various research projects and to present the American platform "Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit" developed thanks to the action plan of the Obama administration.
The program included, after a brief introduction, some sections with intervention spot (about 5 minutes) divided into macro areas (oceans/water, agriculture, democracy etc.) with a chance to ask a few questions.
Quiting a few examples among the many projects presented.
The first "SciStarter" is a platform that brings together all projects OPENSCIENCE to which you can participate, divided by subject areas or over time (Giono, night, office, car ect). (
The second, which received many positive comments on Twitter is "Smartfinn": a fin for surfing that monitors and collects data on the oceans chemical ( ).
Finally, "CoCorahs", A collaborative community for monitoring rain, hail and snow, based on volunteers that measure and report data on precipitation (
A few sentences that have been appreciated and retweetted:
"Citizen science makes the impossible possible," Alex Dehgan.
A scientist observes reports carefully and honestly. "Sylvia Earle
Alex Degan kicks off the panel on oceans & coasts: "We can not solve the problems of our planet with traditional science alone.

Science and citizen participation. Involving citizens in scientific projects.

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:24 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:24 ]

The democracy is based on the idea that strategic options should be discussed collectively and that the resulting decisions taken should have broad support. The traditional method, which is to elect representatives and let them take the decision, has shown to have some drawbacks and limits. Deputies are chosen for reasons that have little to do with their skills, and the decision-making process is often influenced by economic and political reasons that do not correspond to the will of the people. This is why often the instruments of direct democracy, such as referenda, are invoked, or methods of pressure (opinion campaigns) are undertaken. These tools are and could be greatly enhanced by Internet.

But it is rarely easy to take a decision on technical questions. Energy choices (nuclear or not?), food decisions (GMO), medical topics (assisted reproduction, genetic screening), social issues (migration) are just a few examples of issues that inflame or have inflamed the public debate. Unfortunately these issues are often treated following more an emotional rather than a scientific approach by the various mass media. Just think of the anti-GMO campaign that rarely touches technical topics.

The risk that we deal with in these cases is that of letting decisions be taken with criteria that are far from science, or delegated to "technicians" (the famous "experts"), or, even worse, taken according to emotional pressure.

Surely, we need an informed, i.e. a knowledge-based approach  in order to form a correct opinion. But often this transfer of knowledge takes place with the philosophy of the "empty vessel". Citizens are seen as people with a handicap (the lack of knowledge) that must be overcome, and the instrument to do this is similar to the transfer of liquids: television, radio, newspapers, and conferences. All channels that are essentially one-way and  "pour" knowledge into citizens.

The Science Cafés

The Science Cafés were in part born to address this need. A Science Café is a kind of anti-conference: there are experts and the public, but we try to ensure that the debate is driven by the public, rather than by experts. For this purpose, we try to organize the event in a place where the citizens, rather than experts, feel "at home". So, when possible, the event is not organized in a conference room but rather a pub, a coffee or even a market. Even the physical layout of the spectators must encourage participation, so one have to bring experts and the public on the same level, encourage discussion by seating people at cocktail tables, and maybe offer them some drinks. This formula is obviously not unique: there are so many similar experiments as "science in the market" or "a pint of science."

In particular, our experience as a Science Café Florence-Prato( 10 years of activity, more than 120 events) allowed us to explore various "modalities" of participatory communication. For example, we found that depending on the theme one has to use different "scenarios". When citizens already know a topic, one can immediately start with the debate, in the  "pure" spirit of Science Cafés, and we usually use two experts with different profiles to cover most aspects of the theme. But when instead the theme, still known, requires a technical introduction, it is preferable to have a single speaker, who is granted more time, a mixture of a conference and a Science Café. Obviously, also in this case, ample time is left for debates.

We also worked (in collaboration with the CDSC - Interdepartmental Centre for the Study of Complex Dynamics of the University of Florence,, with our sister association FormaScienza Rome,, with Milan Science Café,, and with the University of Bari), to create a network of Italian Science Cafés:

A similar experience at European level was part of a European project, SciCafe(, within which we also experimented with Internet support to the Science Café.

The idea is that the organization a Science Café is a daunting task, and even when the audience responds enthusiastically, we only touch at most one hundred people. In addition, rural areas, or remote villages have difficulty in participating in this kind of meeting, and also in organizing them on site because for them it is much more difficult to have the experts. Therefore, for many years, we are video-recording events, publishing them on YouTube, and in recent years we streamed the debates, with the opportunity for the public to directly participate in the debate. This tool has been perfected within another European project, SciCafe2.0 (

Finally, in five years we conducted a radio transmission (RadioMoka) on a local radio station of Florence (Novaradio, Despite the radio is a rather old and one-way media, it still remains the least invasive one and the one most apt to integration with the Internet.

Citizen Science

One can go further. Citizens may be called to directly participate in the scientific activities and also in some way to drive them. The easiest way is to let them act as evaluators. Many projects that receive public support (both national and European) often use some of the funds for the "dissemination" of their results, but this happens again one-way: informative articles, gadgets, advertising material. It would be much more productive if they spend some of their time and energy to meet the public, explain what they are doing and receive opinions, suggestions and participation. This obviously needs a network connection between projects and public, a task that could be carried out also by the Science Cafés, in particular by using the networks linking the different realities.

More and more often we talk about smart-cities and collective awareness. These are usually tools of investigation or actions that have a social impact often imply social connection mediated by Internet. But even in this case the citizens are often viewed as "targets," or as a "substrate", and rarely as proponents. The move from "smart cities" to "smart citizens", i.e., involving citizens in data acquisition and in the processing of collective intelligence, could trigger a real epocal change.

However, this implies that the proponents have to be prepared to adjust their action depending on the stimuli received.

Here too, the Science Cafés could play a role as a link between the projects and the population. To do this, citizens should be involved from the earliest stages of design, so that the projects will acquire a truly participatory character. But even the simple invitation to people to evaluate the project - when it can still be modified and adapted, has an important participatory significance.

In some cases, projects provide a direct involvement of the population, for example for measurements using low-cost sensors, or by providing personal information may help to solve collective problems, such as traffic problems, emergency management, to establish the virtuous competitions on energy saving and waste management, and so on. The weak point of these projects is typically that of the recruitment of citizens, in part because it is unlikely that these projects have access to efficient communication channels, and also because such projects are often felt "distant", their purpose is not understood, or not adapted to the collective needs. Again, participatory tool like Science Cafés could be extremely useful.

Science Shops

Finally, projects and public research institutions could, in the spirit of "science shop", be designed to “serve” the citizens, investigating in a scientific way topics suggested "by the base", for example in terms of pollution, welfare, safety. Again, we need collective tools to stimulate, refine and manage these proposals. The Science Cafés may have a useful role as a mediator between research organizations and citizenship.

The cognitive roots of participation

One may wonder why citizens should be willing to participate in such projects, which often involve a personal commitment and that do not typically offer direct revenue. The theme is obviously very broad and we cannot address it here in detail, but it definitely has to do with the emergence of cooperation, with the role of the reputation and the mechanism of formation of group opinions.

The basic idea is that humans have a certain tendency to cooperation, depending on the type of context. This is a problem that has been studied both by psychologists, social scientists and by biologists. Summarizing a famous essay (which is also contested) [], humans can cooperate (as indeed do many animals) because of their relationship kinship, because they expect a direct or indirect reciprocity, because of the structure of social relationships (in particular the role of reputation), or because, indirectly, the group consisting of co-operators have an advantage over those that include both co-operators and profiteers.

Obviously these factors (except the first) are present in all cases where we observe collective elaboration, participation and cooperation, and we must keep them in mind when it comes to designing with a social cooperative. This is why it is so important to treat the appearance of the group and encourage the active participation of the people, recognizing the personal contributions.

Another important question is how to participate. Our communication skills and participatory engagement have developed in contexts very different from the current ones, especially very different from the Internet. We are used to talking to three to four partners (a discussion group), to work in small groups of 7-12 people, and we feel intimidated by larger groups, we feel like "crowd". In addition, our cognitive skills usually include a group of personal contacts of the order of 150 people (Dunbar's number's_number).

Finally, studies on communication modalities show that during the assimilation of information, such as when we watch TV or even assist a conference, we are unable to actively process the incoming material, because we cannot pause the information flow to discuss it with some colleagues

These elements should be taken into account in the design phase of a communication tool, such as the Science Café and its extension on the web. For example, the arrangement of people in a science café should encourage the formation of discussion groups, placing the people around the tables, and one should encourage the collective processing by providing breaks (where maybe one can order a beer). How to “port” these concepts on the web, is one of the topics addressed by the project SciCafe2.0.

Let’s discuss it together

To focus on this set of proposals, we would like to use the same Science Café instrument, and therefore we would like to organize an open meeting on the occasion of the festival of science in Genoa, where all the people who may be involved are invited: associations of science popularization, research organizations, researchers and citizens. To ensure the maximum participation, the event will be streamed, and various methods of distant participation will be used.

Are we independent thinkers? Cognitive dissonance and its effect in virtual groups

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:20 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:52 ]

by Altini Andrea, Biagioni Debora, Canosa Carlotta, Cassina Giulia, Duradoni Mirko, Fisico Alice



The ways humans beings behaves, thinks, and makes decisions isn’t always a rational way. Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory construct (1943) affirms that those aspects may be influenced by cognitive heuristics, which comes from both individual’s characteristics and external environment. According to social heuristics hypothesis, the social environment influences those process through the internalization of social norms in the form of automatic behavioural dispositions. (Peysakhovich et al., 2013; Peysakhovich et al., 2014). The emergence of the Information Communication Technologies has created a new field of interactions for humans beings. The Social identity model of deindividuation effects affirms that the anonymousness given to people by some ICT, strengthen people’s affiliation to social norms (Postmes, 1998). Thanks to SIDE’s researchers evidences, it will be interesting understanding how people behave in a virtual contest.

Reference Model/Theory

The theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) considers dissonance as a psychological state of tension that individuals are motivated to minimize. Such phenomenon takes place when an individual entertains ideas or behaviours that are psychologically inconsistent.
More specifically it can consist in a logical incompatibility, related to past behaviours and cultural norms. Already the classical studies of Sherif (1932) underline the influence of social norms on human behaviours. Such norms, which represent the expectations of a social group in relation to its members, provide the parameters to which individuals can link their interpretation of the world, and against which they shape their behaviours and notions.
Social norms in fact allow individuals to behave effectively, to build and maintain relations, and to manage their self-image (Cialdini & Trost 1998). Based on this evidence it can be stated that actions or perceptions that are inconsistent with social norms produce a dissonance, especially when they are internalized and become part of the individual consciousness. The discomfort produced by this inconsistency is reduced, as assumed by Festinger’s theory, by modifying the weakest element in the dissonance.

Hypotheses and Aims

We assume that in the unfrustated game condition the participants will not experience dissonance, because interacting with other individuals in that circumstance does not conflict with social norms. On the other hand, in the frustrated game condition, participants will experience dissonance between their behaviour and social norms, according to these two aspects, they act and evaluate their actions. Therefore, more they will interact in the frustrated condition, more they will rework the psychic structure against the weaker element, in this case, the opinion.

Hypothesis: In the frustrated game condition there is a statistically significant linear relationship between activities in the public radar (contact) and activities in the private radar (opinion).


Data Analysis and Results

The variable activity in the public radar has been transformed using the natural logarithm due to the inadequacy of the values of skewness and kurtosis. Instead the activity in the private radar presented values of skewness and kurtosis adequate. Both variables were continuous and on an appropriate scale of measure, thus we proceeded to the analysis of the Bravais-Pearson’s correlation coefficient.

   Activity in private radar
   Frustrated condition  Unfrustrated condition
Activity in public radar  0.40*  0.30
*p < .05

In the frustrated game condition exists a statistically significant linear relationship (r = .40; p <.05) between the activity in the public radar (M = 1.88; SD = 1.82) and the activity in the private radar (M = 6.88; SD = 6.72). When the activity in the public radar increases also the activity in the private radar raises. In the unfrustrated game there is no statistically significant linear relationship (r = .30; ns) between the activity in the public radar (M = 2.61; SD = 3.66) and the private radar’s activity (M = 7.41; SD = 6:14).


Discussion and future perspectives

The correlation between the activity in the public radar and the activity in the private radar emerges only in the frustrated game condition. We can assume that only in this condition the contacts occurred through approaches in public radar affected the perception or the declaration of closeness of opinion of the participant. This result can be attributed to the effect of the instruction. In the unfrustrated condition the participants are free to get in contact with other individuals solely on the basis of their own desire of self-expression. In the frustrated game condition the same action to get in contact with other participants can also be attributed to the received instruction. We suppose that the subjects, unable to rationalize their behaviour, try to re-establish a cognitive consonance changing the weakest element in order to restore their sense of self-esteem, in this case the perception of others’ opinion, through the movement in the private radar. This action is visible only to the one who made the movement and from nobody else, so we can assume that this action could act as a reflection of the rearrangement of the psychic structure. People, despite the anonymity offered by ICT, regulates themselves in their action on the basis of introjected social norms. Useful for future research will be to determine which ergonomic features of ICT, as well as the real-life contexts, make it possible to exploit this phenomenon of self-regulation and when this can lead to self-justification of amoral or dishonest behaviour.


Cialdini, R. B., Trost, M. R. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity and compliance. In: Gilbert,   D. T., Fiske, S. T., Lindzey, G. (a cura di), The handbook of social psychology (pp. 151-192). New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Standford, Ca: Standford Univeristy Press.

Guazzini, A., Bagnoli, F. Carletti, T., Vilone, D., Lauro Grotto, R.(2012). Cognitive network structure: an experimental study. Advanced in complex science(ACS), 15, 6, 12500.

Lewin, K. (1943). Psychological ecology. In: Field theory in social science, D. Cartwright (Ed). London: Social Science Paperbacks.

Peysakhovich, A. & Rand, D. G. (2013). Habits of virtue: creating norms of cooperation and defection in the laboratory. Available on: .

Peysakhovich, A., Rand, D. G., Kraft-Todd, G.T., Newman, G., Wurzbacher, O., Nowak, M.A., Greene, J.D. (2014). Social heuristics shape intuitive cooperation. Nature communications, 5, 1-12.

Postmes,T., Spears, R., Lea, M. (1998). Breaching or building social boundaries? SIDE-effects of computer-mediated communication. Communication research, 25, 689-715.
Sherif, M. (1935). A study of some social factors in perception: Chapter 2. Archives of Psychology, 187, 17-22.

Science cafés as participatory tools

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:11 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:21 ]

By Franco Bagnoli

Hi. My name is Franco Bagnoli and I am a rather esoteric physicists working in the University of Florence (Italy). With my colleagues in the SciCafe2.0 project we are interested in a lot of (apparently) different subjects

A science café is a conference in Alice’s wonderland, i.e., upside down. Instead of listening experts who sit behind a desk, we ask experts that sit, like us, at a table and discuss with them. Science café aims at bringing science back into the society.

A video illustrating the motivation behind a science café can be find here. See also the scicafewebbook.

Science cafés are nowadays well known, even if their true essence is a bit blurry. Indeed, there are many different variations: with one, two or more experts, with or without slides, with different time allowed to presentations, with streaming, recording, podcasts…. But in any case I think that true essence of a science cafe is that it is driven by the public: it is the public the real engine that extracts knowledge from the experts.

By playing with the double meaning of the Italian word “caffé” (a place — caffé — and a substance — coffee) we can illustrate the working of a science café using the Italian machine for making coffee: the moka.



All the different flavours of science cafés have in common the word “science”. What does it refers to? Mainly, it is the argument of the discussion: the Higgs boson, or the AIDS pandemia, or the latest biological applications… I would propose a shift of this meaning. The term “science” should refer to the method — the scientific method — and to the environment — the scientific environment. The very essence of the scientific method is that of not allowing anyone to impose his/her opinion by his/her role, but only because he/her is convincing. And the scientific environment is a peer one, in which anybody is allowed to talk or pose questions.

Why this shift? Because I think that the concept of science cafes can be adopted also for non- scientific moments, and become a method for synthesizing collective knowledge. Many democratic institutions or movements face the problem of taking decisions. In general, there are always some leaders, or some designed spokesmen that has the duty of resuming the deliberations and decide what to do, but it is generally quite difficult to let good ideas emerge and refine in a large assembly. This has probably to do with our attitude as human beings (and thus with our history): we feel more at home in small groups, say of 12 person maximum, and we feel intimidated by a crowd. Moreover, we are more apt to speak in very small groups, of about 4-5 people [1,2]. Based on this, there are techniques, like the word cafes (nothing to do with science cafes), in which a relatively small number of people are scattered in conversation groups with frequent exchanges among them. But it is of course very difficult to apply this technique to a large group, especially if the decision to be taken needs some technical or scientific information (i.e., an interaction with experts).

In general, in this case one resorts to a conference, followed by questions. But the whole arrangement of a conference is polarizing: experts are allowed to lead the conversation, people do not feel at home, and question time is usually limited. Moreover, individual’s response depends a lot by the environment: isolated individuals can be easily influenced by a crowd, while an acquaintance group may resist better to this pressure [2].

I think that the experience of science cafes should be considered in this cases. Science cafes are small events, in which people sit near friends (and exchange impression with them), and feel empowered by the environment. Indeed, we have to analyse more in details how and when science cafes really work. For instance: are people after a science cafe more tolerant with respect to other ideas? Do they remember the argument discussed better and longer than in a conference? It is possible to reach a consensus? We have to investigate carefully on this topic.

Clearly, on this ground one has to extend the method of science cafes in order to allow a larger public, i.e., one has to think big. This implies using broadcasting tools, and I consider mainly web-based streaming and podcasting, since they allow also feedback from the public. In Florence [4] and Rome [5], we usually stream our debates on YouTube, and then make a better-quality video available. People can interact through the YouTube textual chat system, but I would like to develop a more capable interface. In my opinion, this interface should allow distant people to feel at home (or at pub) even if using a tablet, a computer or a cellular phone. Thinking to the human numbers that I presented above, I think that the interface should include the streaming, a channel for making questions, but also a way of chatting and commenting in private with friends. I would like to see virtual coffee tables in which conversations can start, and questions distilled before being presented. These coffee tables can be chat rooms or other interacting systems like twitter or Facebook. Other tools that are available using the web technology are feedbacks (concerning the topic, the organization and the experts), and instant polls (if needed by the task). These tools could be easily used also by people in the physical audience, if needed. As a rough example of technological-enhanced event, I recently co- organized conferences with many (about 200) attendees [6], and lots of questions. I asked people to send questions by short text messages (SMS). In this way the questions were sufficiently concise (even though people are quite happy to exceed the 140 characters of a single SMS), but at least the moderator was able to group and resume them. In this way, we were able to comment more than 25 questions in a relatively short time (one hour). Moreover, the public liked a lot this systems, as they could send questions and comments on the fly, while the expert was still speaking.

Concluding, I am not proposing at all to replace traditional science cafes, but rather to adopt its method for gathering collective intelligence from relatively large assemblies using a human-based scientific approach.

Franco Bagnoli


[1] Christopher Allen, The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes

[2] Sheila Margolis, What is the optimal group size for decision- making?, making/

[3] Wikipedia, Crowd manipulation, [4] Caffè-scienza Firenze. Web site:; youtube channel:

[5] FormaScienza Roma. Web site; youtube channel

[6] Incontri con la città,

An investigation on the social and cognitive consequences of virtual communication

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:04 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:22 ]

By Mirko Donadoni and Andrea Guazzini



Humans are social animals. Most of our actions are determined by the neighbouring environment, or, better, by what we perceive as our neighbouring environment. So, we act differently if we are aware of being observed with respect to the feeling of loneliness, and clearly this depends on our perception of others. In particular, we are subject to almost unconscious reactions to eyes: it is sufficient a photograph or synthetic eyes on a computer screen to alter one’s behaviour. On the other hand, we tend not to intimately appreciate the possibility of being spied by a camera ocular, even if the “recording” light is on.

We are concerned not only by the possibility of being viewed directly, but also by the possibility that other people can access our documents, especially if they are embarrassing or not socially acceptable. This jealousy for personal items tends to diminish with time.

On the other hand, we are quite curious of knowing personal details of neighbouring individuals, and like to share/comment/discuss them with friends (gossips).

The respect of social norms is clearly affected by the possibility that some misconduct can be directly or indirectly observed. For instance, a fine is much more effective if the infraction is made public.

A final point concerns how our cognitive engagement depends on the group size. It is well known that we switch to different “modalities” if we are involved in a pair discussion, a chat group of 3-5 people, a small group of 5-12 members, or a crowd of more people. We are also able to dominate hierarchic relationship, say a pair discussion while interacting with a small group surrounded by a crowd.

In the virtual world, most of the “automatic” signals that we are accustomed to in real life do not work. We are literally unaware of how many people can view or access to what we feel like “personal” pieces of information on the web. People tend to share personal information on social networks, without considering how much time they can persist and how easily they can be found.

Humans need to understand their social world, as pointed out by scholars of social cognition.

However it is not obvious that in a virtual environment the processes that regulate the actions and the perception of reality are the same as the real world. The processes by which one acquires information, its interpretation and storage, as well as the cognitive performances of the subject are influenced by the environment. To confirm this, researchers from the Social Identity model of de-individuation have shown that despite the condition of anonymity offered by ICT, people tend to rely even more on social norms than the real world.

In order to investigate these topics, we are planning a long-term set of studies, both theoretically and experimentally. In particular, we are going to describe a set of experiments carried out in the fall 2014 by students of the course “applications in social, work and organizations psychology”.

The purpose of the following studies is to investigate how, in a context of virtual interaction and in a short amount of time, the social dynamics become established and which mechanisms are involved.

Procedures, Methods and Sample Description

The 34 participants of the experiment were recruited through voluntary census.

Participants had at their disposal a console with two text windows, one to communicate with others in the experiment in public and another to do it in private. There were also two “radar” interfaces within which were placed the symbols representing the subjects. The first, public and visible from other subjects, allowed the participants to move only their own symbol in order to facilitate communication in the public chat. Indeed, messages were darker the closer was the sender to receiver in the public radar, and vice versa they tended to fade when the sender was farther from the receiver. The second, private and invisible to others, allowed them to move other participants’ symbols, bringing them closer or moving them away from their own symbol fixed at the centre, indicating in this manner the perception of closeness of opinion with others.

In this way it was offered to the participants an equivalent of the non-verbal communications similar to change place so to be closer to a given person (the public radar), and a mnemonic aid for the representation of others’ identities and their perceived social proximity (the private radar).



Guazzini, A., Vilone, D., Bagnoli, F., Carletti, T., & Grotto, R. L. (2012). Cognitive network structure: an experimental study. Advances in Complex Systems15(06), 1250084.


In a preliminary stage, the participants were asked to provide anonymously a shortlist of topics perceived as polarizing. Among these were chosen two topics: use of technology (iPhone, iPad) with children (A); adoptions to homosexual couples (B). Participants were then randomly assigned to the four conditions listed below.


1- A – B [F – NF]

2 – B – A [F – NF]

3 – A – B [NF – F]

4 – B – A [NF – F]


In the frustrated game condition (F), lasting 11 minutes, the subjects had to face with others about one of the two polarizing topics, but at the same time they received the instruction to get the greater betweenness to win. In the unfrustrated game condition (NF), of the same duration, participants were directed to discuss freely on the proposed topic.


It is expected that the use of the text windows and radar interfaces could be different in the two conditions. If in the unfrustrated condition subjects can interact, and then use chats and radars, in the most spontaneous manner, in the frustrated condition the use of these will be influenced by a strategic component. For example in order to win, getting the greater betweenness, participants could modulate their way of communicating and relating to others, more than in the unfrustrated condition. It is also expected that the greater openness, strategic or implied that it is, may also affect the perceptions of the other participants and therefore the activity on radars.

The experiments took place in the computer room of the Psychology Faculty of the University of Florence (Italy).

At the end of the session the five factor adjective short test (5-fast) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were administered and data about the socio-demographic variables were collected.

Participants in the experiment obtained a STAI test score between 11 and 29 (M = 17.68; SD = 4.8). Regarding the measure of personality traits the sample had the following ratings: Neuroticism (M = 13:22; SD = 3.78), Surgency (M = 15:22; SD = 2.88), Agreebleness (M = 15:55; SD = 3.69), Closeness (M = 9.84; SD = 3.61), Conscientiousness (M = 13:45; SD = 4.83).

Welcome to SciCafe 2.0 Blog– The European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing

posted 9 Nov 2015, 22:02 by Franco Bagnoli   [ updated 9 Nov 2015, 22:51 ]

SciCafe2.0 will deploy different methodologies for participative engagement and crowd sourcing by way of experiments to evaluate approaches to widening and deepening the involvement of citizens in responding to social issues and in particular to co-evolve solutions to pressing societal challenges of our time.

This will promote the sharing of the resulting insights as to the best situated models for participative engagement and leadership so as to mobilise collective intelligence. It will interactively encourage both off-line and on-line methodologies, connecting the virtual and physical space of discourse and cooperation.

Accordingly one of the fundamental aspects of our study is how cooperation develops in the cyberspace, i.e., in Internet. Actually, Internet may have a lot of different meanings attached. In the ’90 it was the information highway: people used Internet mainly for searching for things. Over the next decade Internet was used essentially for shopping and delivering of contents. Nowadays it is all of this, but mainly a communication channel. And when I speak of Internet, I do not only mean the web, but also all kind of interchanges that maybe happen through cellular phones.

One of the most interesting phenomena that have occurred in relatively recent years is the appearance of collaborative flows over the Internet. . Most of the added value of many services is represented by the common effort of users. Let us just consider Google, which is a private enterprise. Its main service is the search engine, which is based on the “page rank” algorithm, which approximately computes the importance of a page counting the number (and quality) of links that are pointing to it. The idea is that links on a web page are generally hand-coded by humans, and that it is done after having evaluated the quality of the target page. Therefore, Google is mining the collective intelligence that humans have deposited into web links.

Similarly, there are many web applications and apps whose value is given by the participation of many users. Facebook is just a macroscopic example of it: people are using this bluish site only because many other users do the same.

The Internet communication channel has indeed expanded our possibilities. It is now possible to interact with a given community regardless of the physical distances, and with different degrees of engagement. And since the communities are the motor of social advancement, we can expect (and are already experiencing) big transformations promoted by interconnected citizens.

Indeed, the digital agenda for Europe supports the use of Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation (CAPS), i.e., “how to use networks to connect citizens and ideas for social innovation, leveraging on collective intelligence and action to address sustainability challenges”.

Despite the technological advancements, we are still primates who only recently (in evolutionary terms) abandoned the savannah. Our brain is still the Neolithic one, and we simply cannot pretend to become all Vulcans. This is to say that we have to investigate carefully how our social, cognitive and psychological capabilities can cope with the Internet possibilities. This applies in particular to the phenomenon of collaboration: most of the CAPS initiatives rely on a collaborative participation of users, but they mostly face the problem of being a smart solution for a given problem, without participants.

Probably, the most important collaborative task we have to face is how to take collective decisions. In the present technological era, we are often asked to decide on topics which require understanding of some scientific or technical knowledge. We often rely on experts for support, but we do not want to let them decide for us, but neither pursues any decision taking based on non-scientific prejudice. Therefore, the theme of collective intelligence includes the active participation of users, how to “extract” knowledge from experts without being abused, and in general science and technological education. The understanding of the possibilities and limitations of Internet for what concerns such participative methodologies is of paramount importance and is a key aspect of the vision and mission of the SciCafe Consortium and the European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing (

Accordingly one of the “social technologies” for the participative engagement that we are currently promoting is based on the Science Café experience. The Café Scientifique (a synonym) is a grassroots public science initiative that is typically organised in a café or a pub. More on this in a following post.

To sum up, here is a tentative list of topics that will be explored by the SciCafe Consortium members in the future:

  • CAPS and collaboration
  • Crowd-Sourcing
  • Participative techniques
  • Science cafés
  • Collective intelligence
  • The evolutionary roots of human behaviour
  • Cognitive basis of cooperation
  • Incentives, reputation and trust
  • Education
  • Resilience and risk perception in multiplex networks
  • Normative ethno-methodologically-guided requirements elicitation and ranking
  • Normative ethno-methodologically-guided requirements evaluation and Impact Assessment
  • Resolving Ambiguity in Socio-Contextual Problem Situations
  • Community Resilience
  • Sentiment Analysis
  • Constructivist-Constructionist Experimentoria: inviting, provoking, involving, doing, reflecting resolving and becoming
  • Crowd-Funding
  • The Social Materiality of Science
  • The interplay of the socio-psycho-cognitive constructs and contexts in co-creativity

and more.

Needless to say, we encourage your participation.

The SciCafe2.0 Consortium and The European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing

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