Where’s the beef?

And by beef I clearly mean civic interaction.

I’m in the beginning of a phd, which means swimming in theory and concepts. This can get pretty removed from actual practice, but has led to one surprising question: despite all the field’s rhetoric on responsive government, e-participation and conversational governance, there are very few examples of digital interaction between people and their governments. What’s up with that?

After all, this was one of the earliest ICT unicorns:

Technology possesses no inherent capacities to organise social power. But the qualitatively distinctive feature of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) is their interactive capacity: one which […] changes the relationship of communication in an unprecedented way that could radically impinge upon the process of governing/informing and being governed/informed/uninformed. (Coleman, 1999, 17)

I think we’ve continued to assume that this happens, and sometimes we still think of it as a game changer. We expect that when governments release information or when people produce information, sometimes it has positive consequences. We expect that sometimes this leads to some kind of interaction. But I’m not finding that to be the case in any kind of structured way. And I’ve done some careful digging. Continue reading “Where’s the beef?”