So I’ve been away for a whopping 8 weeks, bouncing between holidays, summer schools, consultancies and moving the fam to DC. Somehow the internet refused to stop while I was gone. So as I get back into the swing of things, here is an abbreviated summary of the summer’s findings in civic tech research, plus a couple of choice weeds and reflections.
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”
Papers & Findings
The world is ending. The 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index finds links between corruption and inequality, and notes falling scores for countries around the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index is titled Revenge of the “deplorables”, and notes a worsening of the worldwide “democratic recession” in 2016.
Civic techs. What are the most important characteristics for civic apps? Low threshold for use, built in feedback, and visible change and engagement across users. This according to a paper presented at a recent Cambridge conference. Meanwhile, research on Twitter use in the 2016 Ugandan elections finds that the social media platform “provides minority groups important access to public space otherwise denied on traditional media platforms,” and a Yale study suggests that city use of citizen reporting platforms correlate with lower levels of crime, potentially due to increased social cohesion, though the authors are careful not to assert a causal relationship. Continue reading “research links w 4/17”