research links w 11-17

Findings

Voice online:
Twitter advocacy can bypass mainstream media that excludes non-elite voices, according to a study of how #IfTheyGunnedMeDown was used following 2014 police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s good news for digital advocacy innovators, but important to remember that people don’t feel safe online and don’t understand how their personal information gets used, but most aren’t willing to get trained. This according to survey of “Mozilla community members” (n=30,000+) by the Mozilla Foundation.

All the FOIA researchin the US:
Freedom of information in the US has been suffering in recent years from reduced access to information and increased FOIA denials, and a survey of “336 freedom of information experts” suggests that it is only going to get worse. On the other hand, “data pulled from over 30,000 FOIA requests” by @MuckRock suggests that the US govt is much better at responding to FOIA requests than we tend to think. Digging into the details, US FOIA gets used by business actors more than any other group,  single actors dominate requests from most groups (@MuckRock among news groups, @JudicialWatch among NGOs) and Democratic committees dramatically out-FOIA their Republican counterparts (81/7). These and other fascinating insights in @galka_max‘s analysis of 229,000 requests to 85 government agencies.

Continue reading “research links w 11-17”

research links w1-2017 (!)

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).

Continue reading “research links w1-2017 (!)”

research links w 46-47

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”

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?”

Gaps in Human Rights Research, Advocacy and Compliance

How human rights scholars conceal social wrongs.

That’s the title of an Open Democracy article published yesterday, which takes issue with the way that international comparative indices (such as Ciri Human Rights Data Project and Freedom in the World) hide injustice in rich western democracies. Specifically, the authors are angered by the US government’s consistently high ranking, despite systematic disenfranchisement of the African-American electorate. Continue reading “Gaps in Human Rights Research, Advocacy and Compliance”

New Research Guide on Open Data and Accountabiltiy

The GSDRC is a resource centre that synthesises and summarizes research for use in international development programming. It’s a great initiative for making scholarly work relevant and useful in the real world, and last week they released a new topic guide on open data and accountability. I was excited to take a look, as I’ve previously found their guides and responses to research help desk queries to be insightful and useful. This guide builds on work about infomediaries and CSOs holding governments to account, which the GSDRC produced in the last year or so, and provides a strong overview in an easily accessible format for program designers. I felt that it fell short in a few important ways, though, especially by relying on the usual academic suspects, by skipping some of the most important scholarly debates and dynamics for transparency programming, and by not directly addressing the significantly nascent state of research on the topic. Continue reading “New Research Guide on Open Data and Accountabiltiy”