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Last week I was invited in Leuven for a brainstorm together with 6 other participants. We were asked about our favourite meeting places, both virtually and in the ‘real’ world, and about our intrest in politics. The brainstorm is one of the first facts within the so-called VEP project (Virtual European Parliament). In Belgium, research groups like memori and also the research lab i-City, participate in this project, which wants to involve young EU citizens in the decision making process of the European Parliament. The research is going on simultaneously in several countries of Europe. Here some more information from the official website:

  • The VEP project aims as a trial project at integrating young EU citizens from 3 different regions (Lulea, Barcelona, Flanders) in the decision making process of the European Parliament. As a trial project the Virtual EP activities will run parallel with the actual agenda of the European Parliament. The young EU citizens will be able to: access relevant information via the VEP portal, share thoughts with the other participants, collaboratively write reports on specific topics and will be asked to give their opinion via mobile voting and surveying.

I always like brainstorms because it makes you reflect on ‘normal’ things in life you normally don’t really think about. So apart from learning a lot from the others on eg European politics (I could actually mention only one Belgian member in the European Parlimanent, shame on me), I learnt a lot about myself. Like: why do I like a place? I realised that it depends on my mood, my expectations,…So one day, I can like a place a lot, and the other day, I don’t (anymore). But a good place -for me- is always WARM, hmmm, nicely warm. I hate cold places…

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The citizen reporters of HasseltLokaal were asked a while ago to be test users of the research project i-City in Hasselt. Therefore, they received a PDA together with ten other groups and 500 individual test users.  On the PDA they can consult a so-called mobile services platform i-City has created. Firms and organisations can put new projects or applications on the mobile platform and the test users are then asked to experiment with it. Afterwards, they fill out evaluations forms or are invited for debates about their experiences.

To be honest, I don’t use the i-City platform that much, above all because there aren’t that many (working) hotspots in the city centre of Hasselt.  But sometimes, I have tested quite some interesting applications. Recently, I have been asked to give in my favourite book topics (for the curious ones: German books and works on psychology). Everytime the library in Hasselt receives new books on those topics I get a message and can make a reservation. So when I’m in town, I can immediately go to the library to get the brand new book 🙂

On the 4th of December, the citizen reporters will gather to talk about their PDA experiences. They will also get a presentation of a brand new ‘City Services Platform’. You can find the information about it on the website of i-City, but for the moment the article is only available in Dutch. I wonder what the citizen reporters will have to say about the platform. I can tell that they have been using the platform a lot more than I did. Especially because HasseltLokaal is available on it and like that they can show off with their great articles and pictures everywhere they are 😉

Anyway, it’s quite something for the citizen reporters to have those PDA’s. As volunteers, they are not paid for the many efforts they put in HasseltLokaal.  And as a matter of fact, everybody wins: i-City because they can experiment thanks to the test users, the organisation behind the citizen reporters because they have a way to reward the efforts of the citizen journalists and the reporters themselves since they are the proud owner of a PDA. Yes sir.

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My project HasseltLokaal has finally left the ‘research-stage’. Last week was decided to bring it into an operational environment. This means that from today on, the content manager of HBvL.be is responsible for the content and the community on HasseltLokaal. Feels great to have delivered a good project, I must say, and it gives the research department here the space and time to start new projects, some of them based on HasseltLokaal. 

However, I’m a bit worried. I wonder whether the people of the internet desk are aware how important and above all how fragile a community is. That you have to hug and pamper your people, especially since they provide content on a voluntary basis. I cross my fingers that everything turns out well 🙂 I keep you up to date.

Meanwhile, we have framed more than 2.000 people with the HasseltLokaal campaign. Guess I’m a happy person.

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