The Gartner Hype Cycle of Catalan Independence

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Ever since the unexpected results of the Parliamentary elections in November last year, there has been a decided change in the atmosphere around Catalan independence. Even though it was obvious that some Madrid exultations that the sovereignty question was over in November were clearly premature, it is also undeniable that the euphoria felt in Catalonia during the previous two months was dealt a severe blow, and which to date has only just begun to recover.

Indeed, I note a stubborn pessimism and anxiousness in newspaper articles, and on both Facebook and Twitter. "We're in a hurry," say many, in the words of former ERC president, Heribert Barrera. "Has the process stalled? Should we just declare our independence unilaterally?" ask others. At a recent presentation of What's up with Catalonia? in New York, a woman stood up, explained she was born in 1933, and had persevered through the Franco era, and that she was determined to live long enough to see Catalan independence. But she said it with tears in her eyes.

I'm a technology writer, so perhaps it's not unusual that the remarkable series of events of the last few years, from the Constitutional Court ruling in 2010 to the constitution of a Parliamentary Referendum Committee last week has reminded me of a certain rhythm in the technology world: the Gartner Hype Cycle.

The Gartner Hype Cycle graphs the visibility and adoption of a technology over time, as the technology matures, and shows how a new technology quickly jumps to center stage in the press as people get excited or hyped up about it, and then almost disappears from view as the wild expectations bump up against reality and frustration sets in. Remember, for example, the hype around the internet in the late 90's and then the crash of 2001. However, lessened visibility and reduced pressure from investors can allow for a quieter and much more sane development which eventually culminates in a stronger, and often world-changing technological advance. So,, Inktomi, and Geocities are long gone and almost forgotten, but the internet is here to stay.

For me, Catalan independence hit the peak of inflated expectations on September 11th, 2012, about 8pm local time. There were 1.5 million people in the street, behind a single placard that read "Catalonia: New State in Europe". From all reports, the atmosphere was peaceful, democratic, and joyful. At that point, they were on top of the world and felt like they could do anything. In the next few days, President Mas addressed the organizers and demonstrators and made it clear that he had heard their message. He unabashedly brought the message to Madrid, and when Spain's Prime Minister Rajoy dismissed Mas' call for a new financing agreement, Mas called for anticipated elections in order to translate the message of the marchers into votes at the polls in favor of a Parliament that would hold a referendum on Catalonia having 'its own state'. Catalans were flying high.

The fall downward was precipitous. Conflicting statements from Unió leader, Josep Antoni Duran, the Spanish police's inexplicable unsigned, unsubstantiated, and now orphaned reports of presidential corruption, the unanswered attacks from the PP during the electoral campaign, and yes, Mas' very unfortunate electoral campaign—in which he was portrayed as Moses leading his people to the promised land all on his own—as well as his reluctance to use the very word “independence”, all conspired to make the quest for a Catalan State look a bit like vaporware, to use a technology related term, that is, a product that will never get to market. On November 26, after Mas' party lost 12 seats in the elections, and despite the surge of support for pro-independence ERC, Catalans found themselves at the bottom of the trough of disillusionment.

Nevertheless, in technology, it is what happens after a technology fades for a time from the public eye when things finally get interesting. Wild expectations bandied about in the press give way to hands-on projects which produce concrete applications in real-world situations. That is exactly what has happened with Catalan independence. While Catalonia has all but vanished from the international press, the Catalan Government and the Catalan Parliament have moved steadily and inexorably forward on the road to independence.

Soon after the elections, CiU and ERC joined forces and agreed on a Legislative Agreement that guaranteed the holding of a referendum on Catalonia's political future and the stability of the Government. In the newly established Government, a Foreign Affairs office was created within the Executive Department.  In January, the Catalan Parliament approved a Declaration of Sovereignty, asserting the right to choose Catalonia's future democratically. In February, the National Transition Advisory Council was constituted. This is a 14-member group of distinguished citizens charged with researching and developing the state structures that will be needed in the Catalan State, among other responsibilities. And just this week, all of the political parties in the Catalan Parliament, except for the anti-Catalanist PP and Ciutadans, voted in favor of creating a Committee on the Right to Decide which will study and prepare a strategy for holding a democratic referendum for independence.

The way I see it, all of these steps are landmarks on the road up the Gartner slope of enlightenment. In technology, these milestones may be less sexy than the overblown hype at the peak of inflated expectations, but they are long-term and lasting and serve as a platform for future developments.

In an interview last week, Catalan Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Roger Albinyana said, "No one in the EU doubts that Catalonia could be a viable state." Certainly, many economists and foreign leaders have already said as much. They are doubtless foreseeing the final part of the curve in which the gains are consolidated and the product becomes part of the mainstream. It is up to Catalans now to stay confident and to recognize this final, more gradual, and quieter ascent to the plateau of productivity for what it is: the imminent and definitive independence of the Catalan State.


by Liz Castro

Bestselling computer book author, specializing in independent web, digital, and print publishing. Liz Castro also runs Catalonia Press, a small publishing house dedicated to books about Catalonia in English. She divides her time between Barcelona, Western Massachusetts, and Twitter (@lizcastro). and

Liz Castro's photo by Lluís Brunet.

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