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.
The University of Vienna has a new report on far-right attacks on the press, a concept they sketch to include legal action, abuse of power and online abuse. The report describes a delicate relationship between the rise of far-right nationalism/populism and declines in the quality of European democracy. Meanwhile @datasociety‘s new report on Media Manipulation only describes the tactics and platforms that “far-right groups” are using to manipulate media, but the social and economic factors that make traditional media vulnerable.
A survey of Chinese localities suggests that “technology competence, top management support, perceived benefits, and citizen readiness significantly influence assimilation of social media in local government agencies.” And globally it doesn’t seem to be going well, at least in terms of responsive web design. Global research suggests that government websites still suck on mobiles. Or more carefully put: “The results show that only 0.03% of government websites comes close to adhere to mobile web best practices (MWBP) guidelines with compliant rate greater than 80%.” But every little bit counts. Even when government’s are lackadaisical on social media, having a Facebook page can still spur citizen engagement, at least according to a study of 18 months of communications in La Paz, Mexico. Continue reading “research links w 19 & 20-17”
Qualitative content analysis of 122 US cities suggests three main pathways through which police forces adopt and innovate transparency. Short version: it’s complicated, but policy and mandates matter a lot.
New research from NewsWhip suggests that political news is the trick for news outlets to increase their Facebook engagement, but that partisan sites are outperforming mainstream news outlets on Facebook in the first months of Trump. They argue that new features will only reinforce the Face’s centrality to activism in the future.
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”
Papers and Findings
A field experiment among county governments in the US last April showed that municipal governments are more likely to fulfill public records requests if they know that their peers already have, suggesting profound implications for peer conformity and norm diffusion in responsive government. A recent commentary in Public Administration Review builds on these insights, to suggest concrete ways in which open data advocates can capitalize on this dynamic (publicize proactive fulfillment, bolster requests by citing prior fulfillment, request proactive fulfillment through feedback channels, request data on fulfillment when all else fails).
Meanwhile, Austrian researchers surveyed users of a citizen reporting platform for municipal public services (n=2,200, city not named, which is problematic for external validity, they call their study an “experiment”), and argue personal and pro-social motivations as the most important drivers of participation, but find no support for the technology acceptance model or demographic characteristics as drivers of participation (though they do note that “the gender divide is disappearing” (2768), so that’s good to know).
Papers and Findings
A new Brookings report aims to answer the question “Does Open Government Work?” NBD. Not surprisingly, the report doesn’t provide a definitive answer. It does suggest six structural conditions for open government initiatives to achieve their objectives. The framework is nuanced and useful, but it’s not at all clear how the authors came up with it. It would be nice to know more about their “analysis of hundreds of reports, articles, and peer-reviewed academic studies discussing the effectiveness of particular programs.” Presumably they looked at evidence internationally, but there’s no clear distinctions made between different political and cultural contexts…
Meanwhile, an article in the ARPR assesses the implementation of the OGP in the US (OGP didn’t do much to change the way the US does transparency) and Portuguese researchers have proposed a “transparency ontology” to guide the development and implementation of open data initiatives, in order to make them more relevant for citizens. The paper relies on journalists’ role as “information brokers,” which is reflected in their method. They don’t seem to have interviewed any actual citizens.
Globally, the OECD has a new book out summarizing the future of Open Government, while the 2016 UN E-government survey paints a rosy picture. It finds that 90 countries have a portal for open data or services, 148 countries provide at “online transactional services” and “an increasing number of countries are moving towards participatory decision-making.” #devilinthedetails Continue reading “research links w 48-49”
Papers and Findings
Autocracy Online: Freedom on the Net 2016 was released, and shows continued declines in internet freedom around the world, with an increase of app censorship. Meanwhile, a paper in Telecommunications Policy argues that autocracies have “caught up” with democracies in terms of internet penetration since 2013, and an article in press argues that moving from electoral to liberal democracy is a process, and in fact uses data from international comparative indices to argue that internet penetration facilitates more censorship and surveillance than liberal democracy (the methods look dubious). As case in point, a Russian case study shows how online voting can be used to open wash, while disempowering political opposition.
Interaction online: A literature review of research on online participation platforms Continue reading “research links w 46-47”