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

Roundup: fact checking works, radio boosts participation, but generally, government innovation is failing.



Good News, Bad News:
Fact checking websites lead to less lies. This according to analysis of statements in US presidential campaign speeches (n=434). Specifically, “a fact-checker deeming a statement false false causes a 9.5 percentage points reduction in the probability that the candidate repeats the claim.” There’s also more evidence that e-government decreases corruption in this year-on-year analysis of UN’s e-government development index Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (2003-2016). All this is encouraging. On the other hand, government efforts to improve appear to be failing around the world, according to a McKinsey survey of 3,000 public officials across 18 countries, which found that “80 percent of government efforts to transform performance don’t fully meet their objectives”

Facilitating civic voice:
Analysis of FM propagation data in rural Uganda and results from the @afrobarometer survey suggests that access to radio significantly increases political participation, likely driven by increased political knowledge, but does not itself improve “efficacy, interest in politics, attitudinal extremism, or perceptions about distributional politics or violence.” Meanwhile, a Danish randomized field trial suggests that co-production increases (some types of) civic voice. Specifically, involving underrepresented ethnic minorities in the co-production of education policy “increased their propensity to voice their preferences to politicians through citizen surveys but not their tendency to vote.” Swedish and Canadian surveys suggest that natural resource management gets more public support when it’s seen to be participatory. The relationship is mediated, though, “by people’s perceptions of the interests present in the decision-making process, their normative beliefs concerning which actors should be allowed to participate in the decision-making process, and certain individual-level and contextual-level factors.”

Case by case:
Digital ethnographic content analysis and network analysis of #Ferguson tweets give a nice narrative about how norms and traditions for objective journalism get fudged when it makes strategic sense. While surveys and action research with 51 refugee-focused organizations shows that easy tools make it easier to incorporate stakeholder feedback into NGO operations. Internal processes and leadership buy-in matter a lot too.

Useful Research

Sunlight Foundation is collecting open data user personas, and wants you to suggest one.

Research from the @engnroom on open government advocacy in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Eurasia has resulted in this Beginner’s Guide to becoming and Open Gov influencer.

Lastly, Code for America has a useful write up of their experiences with user research to improve online application forms for government services, most of which turns on simplifying language. See, it can be done.

Case studies

Oh look, work on the comparative success of e-government initiatives in Ecuadorian municipalities, national open data portals in in six Middle East countries, and processes of community-building, civil Society, and civic activism in Taiwan

Community & Curation

The Tech for Social Justice Field Scan launched last week.  Led by Research Action Design and the Open Technology Institute, and based on participatory action research (109 interviews, 11 focus groups, analysis of project, program and administrative  databases), the report maps a rich ecosystem for social tech work, finding over 40,000 active orgs in the US. The report is at pains to note that the field is not as diverse as it should be, and that people feel funders control how their work is framed. The report also maps a number of commons factors for success (community-led design most prominently) and failure (silver bullet, parachuting and “shiny” approaches), and closes with five recommendations. You can read the executive summary now, or sign up for an alert when the full report is ready. I’ll also put this on my list for a full review as soon as I can.

In other news:

New Books

“Organization after Social Media explores a range of social settings from arts and design, cultural politics, visual culture and creative industries, disorientated education and the crisis of pedagogy to media theory and activism. Lovink and Rossiter devise strategies of commitment to help claw ourselves out of the toxic morass of platform suffocation.” The PDF is available for free download.

Resources and Data

Blueprints for Change is an open library of advocacy how-to’s put together by campaign innovators in order to help progressive organizers and groups up their game more quickly.

@Aegist has put together a catalogue of all projects working to solve Misinformation and Disinformation.

The 2018 YouGov Digital News Report is out. Social media is down, subscriptions and fake news are up. Lots more details on the website.

In the Methodological Weeds

Patrick Ball from @hrdag on merging and finding duplicates in massive and messy data sets on human rights.

Miscellanea and Absurdum

A new paper from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict studies 308 popular uprisings up to 2013 and found that “nonviolent uprisings are almost three times less likely than violent rebellions to encounter mass killings.

There’s a new IDB report comparing the impacts of Government Delivery Units in Latin America and the Carribean between 2007 and 2018.

I want to buy a California ghost town.

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