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.

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Review – Popular Democracy: the Participation Paradox

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Though you wouldn’t know it from the title, Popular Democracy is about participatory budgeting, full stop. It’s a fantastic little book (213 pgs) that’s both accessible and illustrative, leveraging an ethnographic account of several participatory budgeting case studies to argue for the potential power of participatory mechanisms more broadly. It’s a casually written book that’s a pleasure to read, both because the authors serve up juicy details on the “secret histories” of their case studies (though they deny it’s their intention, 137), and because the theoretical claims that those cases support are provocative.

The book is divided up into six chapters. The first two set the frame for the book historically and theoretically, describing the international rise and dissemination of PB as a policy meme. Chapters three through five present ethnographies of individual case studies, and the closing chapter draws some grand conclusions.

Continue reading “Review – Popular Democracy: the Participation Paradox”

research links w8-17

Findings

#participationwashing? Participatory mechanisms promise to empower the marginalized, and can provide the illusion of power, but an ethnographic study on development processes in Boston shows how participation can simply reinforce existing power dynamics: “residents appear empowered, while officials retain ultimate decision-making authority.” Worse than that, a (peer reviewed but unpublished?) article on Vietnam demonstrates how  e-government is not e-democracy, and authoritarian states can digitize just as well as anyone else, while G20 countries are  breaking promises to release anti-corruption data, according to a report from the Web Foundation, which notes the quality of what they do release isn’t that great either.

So how to make government more responsive? Put the mayor on Twitter says  a social network analysis of citizen-state social media interaction in Seoul, Korea. Meanwhile, a new research report from MAVC supports the common assumption that crowdsourced information is inherently political, due in no small part to the behavior and interaction of crowdsourcing infomediaries, which is itself messy, while a survey of 57 Swiss legislators suggests that making lawmakers argue on the basis actual performance evidence changes the way they budget, but also increases polarization. Continue reading “research links w8-17”

research links w 3/17

Papers & Findings

What makes multi stakeholder initiatives for transparency effective? In the case of EITI, it seems to be treating civil society  as equal partners and ensuring that they bring relevant technical skills to the table. This according to doctoral research that also outlines common “pathways to proactive transparency reform.” Would be great to see research testing these findings in other MSI contexts, cough, the OGP.

Data on the 2012 online consultation for the Egyptian constitution suggests that demonstrably popular articles are less likely to be changed, but that ex ante agreement on constitutional design among elites is just as important as popular consensus on substance for successful citizen feedback initiatives.

A new handbook on political trust looks amazing and timely, but is prohibitively expensive, and this new book on participatory democracy compares participatory hype to increasingly reported feelings of disconnection from politics, finding that ” participatory instruments have become more focused on the formation of public opinion and are far less attentive to, or able to influence, actual reform.” Continue reading “research links w 3/17”

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 (!)”