Newspeak House: East London's den of civic hackers

Newspeak House (AKA NWSPK) is a co-working space (with a few bedrooms!) in East London that houses an eclectic mix of civic hackers: people working to make British (and global) democracy more responsive, more representative, and more transparent.

The Guardian's Zoe Williams profiles the NWSPKers and the organization's founder, Ed Saperia, and gets a flavour of the kinds of stuff being undertaken there. I'm a largely honourary member (it was founded just before I left London but I signed up to support it) and I always read the mailouts from NWSPK with enormous interest.

"Elections are not really mostly what we think about, here," Saperia says. "The thing that's fascinated me, for as long as I can remember, is how humans can successfully interact at scale; in a way that we think is good and meaningful. If you wanted to have a conversation with 10,000 people, how could you do that? Wikipedia is a really good example of thousands of people creating something great, through communicating. Whereas Facebook is quite atomising; everyone sticks to their small groups."

In 2014, he was asked by the Green party for digital help with their membership surge. He had never previously been interested in party politics. "That's when I realised that this whole political ecosystem is not functioning very well." He made a diagram of civil society: one-third education, media, journalism and academia; one-third civil service, local authorities, government, parliament; and one-third unions, activists, party members, campaigners.

"A lot of these people don't know each other. I thought: what this space needs is some community building." These networks in Newspeak are very noticeable – lots of the people have links in the electoral commission, or in the Government Digital Service (GDS), or have only just resigned from the civil service.

Democracy? There's an app for that – the tech upstarts trying to 'hack' British politics
[Zoe Williams/The Guardian]

(via Dan Hon)

(Image: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)