Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech
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The State of Formal Transparency Research, a Civic Tech Iceburg

@allvoicescount is having their final learning event this week, and starting to draw conclusions from some of their research outputs. This seems like a good time to be consistently be reminding ourselves about all the complementary research on the same issues. There’s a tremendous amount of research being produced behind the ivory curtain. Presumably, we don’t have time to read it, or...

Looking for voice in the chatter

First of all, let me say that I like theory. I like convoluted and complex language when it represents careful and complex argumentation and analysis. I actually enjoy reading Deleuze, I think philosophy is fun, and I will almost never dismiss complicated text as mumbo-jumbo. Today is an exception, and Voice or chatter? is an apt title for the recent research report form MAVC. This research...

Governance beyond elections: how considering US political crises helps bridge the gap between disciplines and methodologies

…it is critical that we look beyond the conventional focus on elections, campaign finance reform, and voting rights. There is no question that these are critical areas of concern, and necessary preconditions for meaningful democracy reform. But these areas are also well-studied and understood by many of us in the field. In this report, we hope to highlight some of the other dimensions that...

Designing useful civic tech research at scale: why methods matter

The Hewlett Foundation has asked for help in crowdsourcing research design for citizen reporting on public services. This is great; it’s a fantastic way to design useful research, and shows that Hewlett is maintaining the strong commitment to evidence and rigorous question asking that is so important to this field. The post has already generated some useful discussion, and I’m sure that they are...

The (other) problem with scholarship on digital politics

Update: My review of Analytical Activism is up at Information, Communication & Society (gated). Here’s a free e-print and the preprint. One of the great dangers of the digital moment we currently are liveing through is that the discipline as a whole will succumb to a particularly virulent form of availability bias. It is easy to gather Twitter data. It is harder to navigate the Facebook...

Case by case: what development economics can teach the civic tech and accountability field about building an evidence base

Warning: long post, deep weeds. Last week saw some really interesting thinking in the development economics blogosphere, focused on design questions for external validity (the applicability of case-specific findings to other cases). This is a central question for research on civic tech and accountability programming, which talks a lot about wanting an evidence base, but remains dominated by case...

Democracy in the eye of the beholder

I love it when messy methods get topical, and this might be one of the very few silver linings to come out of Trumpland. December saw the publication of an IPSR special issue on measuring democracy, and then shit got real this week, when Andrew Gelman began a stream of posts criticizing the application of EIP methodology to the recent presidential elections in US states, and especially the...

The long haul towards evidence: information in elections edition

Civil society groups emphasize the need for high quality public information on the performance of politicians. But, does information really make a difference in institutionally weak environments? Does it lead to the rewarding of good performance at the polls or are voting decisions going to be dominated by ethnic ties and clientelistic relations? Enter the Metaketa project’s first phase...

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

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