PubHubs is a community network based on public values.

Public organizations are looking for ways in which they can responsibly use digital media to facilitate communication between and with their members. For now, they often use social media platforms like Facebook, even though they do not support how such platforms deal with privacy and other public values. The goal of PubHubs is to design a new network that allows public organizations and their members to communicate with each other so that they do not have to use the services of commercial social media platforms such as Facebook or X. To that end, PubHubs provides participating organizations with an online environment (“Hub”) for moderated conversation and trusted information exchange combined with tools for digital identity management.

In recent months, the Hogeschool van Amsterdam has held several discussions with stakeholders at PubHubs, Public Spaces and the City of Amsterdam. Those conversations revealed that PubHubs needs research in the areas of interface design and user testing to help take the project to the next phase. How to do justice to conflicting values as privacy and ease of use in the design of the interface, is a central issue for the usability research. The interviews also revealed that municipalities endorse the goal of PubHubs and see opportunities to use PubHubs to realize their ambitions in terms of public value-driven digitization. But at the same time, public organizations are still struggling to imagine what that might look like in practice. The second part of this research project will focus on use cases. Our goal is to develop several use cases in a series of ‘demonstrators’ that envision how PubHubs can be successfully deployed in practice. To this end, we will involve several public institutions like for instance the City of Amsterdam.

PubHubs is an initiative of professors José van Dijck (Utrecht University) and Bart Jacobs (Radboud University), in collaboration with the organization Public Spaces.