Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

Research Links (w21-23/16)


jeez, long one. shouldn’t wait three weeks to put these up.

Papers / Findings

    • A lab experiment suggests that including participation mechanisms (particularly commenting) in design of regulatory schemes (agri-environmental in this case) can increase compliance (though this effect is short lived, and the authors suggest more participatory mechanisms might yield longer gains in compliance).
    • anti-discrimination algorithm: paper suggesting an algorithmic method for using big crime data to predict the results of “stop and frisk” tactics, and use them to combat police discrimination and corruption
    • Digital Advocacy: Study of Israeli NGOs and politicians provides evidence for a more nuanced understanding of digital advocacy (it’s not the tools that change the game, but individual NGOs’ relationships to digital tools directly impact thier advocacy impact).
    • US FOI: n analysis of FOIA implementation under Bush and Obama, finds that national security exemptions were less common that civil society protest might indicate, under both administrations. Methodologically, interesting discussion of “the transparency paradox” (you can’t measure transparency without it’s counterpart: secrecy, which you can’t measure, because it’s secret) and a detailed assessment methodology worthy of replication.
    • Gender
      • Paper reviewing three waves of the Arab Barometer suggests that access to internet impacts femail perceptions of female political leadership
    • Social Media& government
      • 2 Italian case studies are used to propose as social media methodology for policy makers to evaluate policy options throughout the policy cycle, while a US study finds that government only retweets other government.
      • Korean study finds that mobile app use is associated with buying stuff, not with politics, while a longitudinal study in the US suggests that people who look for political information online also vote more, and a study of the recent vote in Brazil on participatory budgeting shows that an online voting mechanisms increased voting participation (respondents self reported post facto).
      • A Tunisian research team suggests a framework for governments to scrape social media data for creating “user profiles” for policy development.
    • Government transformation
      • An analysis of open data policy diffusion in Australia finds that early adoption correlates with high levels of opennes and effective policy entrepreneurs.
      • Quant analysis of a Taiwanese survey suggests that the incentives for #opengov are as one might expect, except that “perceived effort and perceived benefits are found to be insignificant” in deciding whether to open government data, which recalls other findings that local govt’s consistently ignore or underestimate the cost of open gov and civic tech.
      • Analysis of case studies from municipal gov in California and Nevada suggests that the entrepreneurial role of government CIOs is incredibly important for “digital era governance”


Methodological weeds:

  • Japanese survey data suggests distinguishing indicators for political efficacy and online political efficacy, and correlates the latter with internet use
  • European researchers get multi-dimensional on evaluation methods for open data portals, proposing a quality evaluation and ranking framework for open data portals that accounts for preferences of different user groups. Highly technical.
  • Paper suggests a method for using public and administrative data (ie census data) to improve the precision of RCTs



  • White paper from Brunel Univ, London argues that technology’s lack of transformative impact on governance is due to governments prioritizing tools as ends in themselves, and suggests a new framework for approaching e-gov/civic tech from a policy perspective. Favorite quote: “Before the Internet no one would have set out to transform government and public administration by redesigning forms and guidance pamphlets.
  • New paper on First Monday argues that digital technologies evolved to have a moderating effect on activism, due among other things to the de facto regulatory functions of sites like Facebook and online communities.
  • A new report from Rewire shows how pro-life activists are using “geofencing” (a GPS-enabled strategy for tracking cell phones) to surveil and harrass women accessing family planning services. A useful reminder about value neutrality of tech and advox strategies.


Palette cleanser

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Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech