research links w25 – 17

Findings

From the duh desk: 
A white paper from Cornell Law reviews e-government and rulemaking processes in the US, to find that an institutional “culture of risk adverseness” is much more obstructive to e-participation than is a lack of technological solutions.

What difference does it make?:
An article in Telecommunications Policy documents how mobiles have dramatically reshaped the political communication ecology in Ghana and deepened civic engagement, without affecting “the fundamental structures of political power and the levers of control.” Things look slightly better in a series of research briefs on open data and OGP processes produced by @ITforChange and @AllVoicesCount. The briefs describe incremental progress in all three countries, with significant reservations. Despite increasingly progressive open data practice and policy in the Philippines, for example, “the benefits to individual democratic citizenship are far more conclusive than the benefits to democracy as a whole.” Similarly, the increasingly participatory and inclusive nature of Uruguay’s OGP action plans are described as “gradually modifying” governance processes, through increased interaction and deliberation (though the research brief provides neither a narrative nor a theory to explain how this might be happening). Most optimistically, the brief on inclusive municipal technologies in Spain describes not only specific instances of “engaged and transformative citizenship,” but a proliferation of knowledge sharing and participatory strategies across the country. Here too however, details are light.

In other news, sorry, democracy does not cause innovationContinue reading “research links w25 – 17”

research links w 21-17

Findings

E-government projects are more successful when formal decision-making processes include stakeholders and actively manage risk, according to a survey of  Swedish national government agencies and municipalities (N=550). Meanwhile, @timdavies is coauthor on a paper in Science & Technology Studies that tracks how data standards influence bureaucratic processes for opening government data. The paper warns that standards can in some ways obstruct actual engagement with users, and puts a useful focus on people in institutions just trying to get things done.

Mixed findings on social media effects this week. Chinese participants in political discourse on Weibo experience that discourse as deliberative, despite the interactions being “mostly non-dialogical and non-creative in nature, and characterised by homophily and polarisation.” (New study, n= 417). In the US, social media played a definitive role in determining how the Tea Party negotiated it’s identity and relationship with the Republican party in the course of Trump’s rise to power. Not in the least, it allowed for quick differentiation of activist perceptions on appropriate degrees of openness, which seem to correspond with political objectives and conceptions of political efficacy. This is described by a new paper in Social Media + Society (not to be confused with New Media and Society, I recently made that mistake > facepalm), which offers a fascinating case, without clearly actionable findings.

Continue reading “research links w 21-17”

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”

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”