This paper looks at how two Swedish government agencies (police and social insurance) use social media to build legitimacy, highlighting the importance of institutionally integrating communication strategies, and how this can create tensions with highly interactive approaches to citizen engagement. An AidData report emphasizes the broader benefits of government engagement, noting that the best way to increase civic participation in government monitoring is government responsiveness, according to field experiments conducted in Uganda, where responsiveness clearly outperformed encouragement from community and media figures. Analysis of U.S. national online panel data (n=1,201), on the other hand, finds strong correlations between expressive uses of tech, online storytelling networks and civic participation both online and offline, and finds community storytelling “to be a catalyst for building a vibrant civic communities.” Ahmed Tohamy’s analysis of Youth Activism and Social Networks in Egypt highlights the importance of moving between online and offline contexts. Continue reading “research links w 27 – 17”
Whoa, week 26, half way through 2017. That went quick.
There are serious transparency and participation shortcomings in international transparency review mechanisms (like the UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism and the OECD Working Group on Bribery, according to a new report from Transparency International. And a report on global internet censorship from @BKCHarvard finds “evidence of filtering in 26 countries across four broad content themes: political, social, topics related to conflict and security, and Internet tools (a term that includes censorship circumvention tools as well as social media platforms).” Continue reading “research links w 26”
Papers & Findings
Using the internet leads to civic engagement. Sometimes. Kind of. This according to structural equation analysis of US college survey data (n=2000), which finds “both positive and negative effects” of internet use on engagement patterns (students who share political opinions online tend to have less political conversations offline) but also identifies “feedback loops” between online and offline engagement activities (the effects of offline activity on online activity being slightly stronger than the other way around), and online info-gathering as having particular predictive power for engagement, both online and off.
Crowdsourcers, microtaskers and distributed team wranglers, choose your platforms wisely. Online groups do not display “collective intelligence.” This based on a replication of the 2010 study that demonstrated collective intelligence among groups, but using online groups. The likely explanation is that collective intelligence relies on social sensitivity of group members rather than individual intelligence, and that social sensitivity in turn relies on social cues absent in the type of online group-work tested in this study.
Open data enthusiasts and civic techies are good at exploiting norms around #open for mobilization, but “open data intermediaries lack a shared culture and political understandings necessary for broader and more impactful action,” with “exceedingly fragmented” perspectives on what data can and should do. This from work with focus groups in a mid-sized US city. Continue reading “research links w 6-17”
OR: How digital media broke civic engagement.
Civic engagement and political participation are a common dependent variable in studies that explore the political impact of digital media and the internet. They refer to the ways in which, or degrees to which, people engage and participate in civic issues and politics. But I’ve found the use of the terms to be confusing, simultaneously diffuse and overlapping. So I did a quick review of the literature to figure out what was what. Here’s what I found. Continue reading “What’s civic engagement, what’s political participation, and what’s the difference? (a mini lit review)”
Papers and Findings
A cross-disciplinary team of researchers has developed an NLP method that can predict judgements in the European Court of Human Rights with 79% accuracy, based on an analysis of case documents. AI to replace judges? Perhaps. More comforting is their conclusion that this finding supports the theory of legal realism, “suggesting that judicial decision-making is significantly affected by the stimulus of the facts.”
100 Stories: The Impact of Open Access. That’s the bombastic title of a forthcoming paper focused on public access to scientific research, aiming to change “how we talk about the impact of open access.” They do indeed present 100 stories, but in short format and not of “impact” per se. The bar for inclusion is unsurprisingly low. An example (in full) from the category of advancing innovation:
“New patents matched against University’s patent portfolio Iowa State University patents have been downloaded over 16,000 times by 275 institutions. 35% of the patent downloads have been from high-profile corporations such as IBM (33), Unilever (11), Dow-Corning (7), Hewlett-Packard (6), and Deere & Co (5).”
Also, it’s rife with depressing word clip art charts.
Continue reading “research links w 43-44”
The institutional language of engagement has been defined by its measurement. Chief engagement officers in corporations are measuring milliseconds on web pages, and clicks on ads, and not relations among people. This is disproportionately influencing the values of democracy and the responsibility of public institutions to protect them.
Too often, when government talks about engagement, it is talking those things that are measurable, but it is providing mandates to employees imbued with ambiguity.
That’s Eric Gordon, writing about how civic engagement is understood and incentivized by city governments in the US. He goes on to argue that institutions of governance need to conceptualize civic engagement as more than market efficiency, and begin thinking towards a “relational approach” to civics in which “public institutions create value systems and metrics that support long-term relationship building in addition to short-term attention.” Continue reading “Civic engagement in practice and in metrics”