CAPONEU - behind the scenes

By: Marko Vuković . This material is a product of the Caponeu project.

A brief story about how was built digital platform is a result of The Cartography of the Political Novel in Europe - CAPONEU project under Horizon programme of the EU. It is an interactive platform dedicated to collect and present findings and materials about political novels.

Slobodna domena Zadruga as a member of the project consortium took the task of planning and building of the digital platform. The activity was coordinated by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb. The platform was built through cooperation of multiple stakeholders. For this to happen a coordination group was formed, consisting of representatives from all project consortium members and open to participation for everyone working in the field. This is at the same time a formal and an informal group which is working through periodic workshops for the purpose of planning the next steps and evaluation of what was done. The process is documented and decisions are generally made by following consent as the fundamental principle of sociocracy. These organisational principles are combined with agile development sprint methodology. The platform is growing in cyclic development sprints which start with ideation, go through prioritisation, prototyping, design, development and end with evaluation, just to begin the next cycle.

Main objective of the platform is to follow the developments on the CAPONEU project and provide the tools to present them to the public. By integrating with the project, the platform is an original reinterpretation and adaptation of the content to the digital platform.

Visual identity

The identity concept is represented by geometric shapes which symbolise different perceptions or societal and political tendencies some of which are democratic and inclusive (round shapes) and some show the signs of emerging authoritharianism (sharp and square shapes). What political novel does is that it sharpens our perception to better spot and resist the signs of an emerging authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies, or that is, the emerging sharp and square shapes. In addition, the identity represented by scattered geometric shapes is also evocative of the ideas of mapping, cartography and getting the political novel’s influence bigger picture which is what CAPONEU is all about.

Data structure

Creative activity such as thinking, talking and writing about political novels, practically defining a new literary genre as the core activity of CAPONEU project, will produce various outputs. This task was taken on by a line of experts in humanities from renowned universities. To meet the needs of this group and to justly represent the results of their work for Slobodna domena as a tech orientated cooperative cooperated closely with other partners and get into the field as much as possible in order to bridge the gap between two worlds - humanities and tech. This is why as the first step of development of the digital platform full attention was given to the structure of data. It was vital to detect as many possible types of data that can describe political novels and put them in correlation. Sort of a technical prediction of what humanist minds will deliver.

The solution to the problem was an obvious one. Create a data space that can be fed with information about novels, people, events, places, materials, references and  organisations. By breaking the data in smaller interconnected objects it became possible to show the information in different formats. As a searchable and browsable lexicon, on the maps and timelines. The initial data model was set up as a concept that was constantly tested during all development sprints. It had to be adjusted in some details. Attributes had to be added, relations developed. But generally speaking, it proved to be appropriate for the task since it remained conceptually unchanged.


CAPONEU Digital Platform is a traditional MVC web application using Ruby, Ruby on Rails and Active Admin for the back end with PostgreSQL as the database. Front end features were built with React and vanilla javascript.

Sprints were organised through Asana. For documentation, voting and polling we used Google Drive and Google Groups. Online workshops were held through Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.