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

research links w 38-39, 17


New Media and Society has a special issue coming up on digital activism. It looks like a collection of cases, with little synthetic analysis or commentary. See the intro article in post print here. There’s also a special issue of the Qualitative Research journal focused on how qualitative methods should respond to the onslaught of new social data, including ethnographic methods for on/offline digital activism in oppressive contexts.

@wayan_vota ‏ explores data on how African governments track and surveil social media . On a brighter side, 2-wave panel survey (n=850, 572, 9 mos apart) in Chile suggests that Facebook strengthens collective political efficacy, Twitter strengthens individual efficacy, and Swiss survey data suggests that experiencing negative environmental conditions stimulates environmental activism (but personal predispositions and ideology are more important).

Analysis of Zooniverse data suggests that allowing crowdsourcing volunteers to split up their tasks increases contributions and crowdsourcing sustainability, and this article finds that FOIA in the US is expensive (or it’s not). Analysis reveals $6.3 billion in cabinet-level FOIA costs from 1975-2015, accounting for 0.011% of general departmental budgets.

Comparing countries:

Panel data from 101 developing countries suggests that countries’ income and technology are the most important predictors of government openness. Research from the Centre for Communication Governance suggests that weaker democracies are more likely to have biometric ID systems. Meanwhile, has a collected data on whether countries are fulfilling commitments they made at the International Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016. There’s an online data explorer, only 18% of the coded pledges are complete.


Video activism in Brazilian protest against the FIFA World Cup competition in 2014.

A CSIS report takes a close look at what the “data revolution” means for Laos and Myanmar, and the potential for “leapfrog technologies.” TL;DR: it’s tricky, be thoughtful.


Proceedings from a recent conference on open government and digital literacy has lots of interesting takes on how government cultures are getting in the way, and what needs to be done.

The WEF’s “Digital Policy Playbook 2017 argues that governments to adopt a lean approach to policymaking (read agile and iterative).  “Only such an approach, which borrows its methodology from the world of technology itself, can effectively respond to the fast-moving and multi-stranded nature of the challenges today facing policymakers.”

In other news: Call for Papers: Deconstructing the Zombie: Cultural and Ideological Approaches

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