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 Worse than that, a (peer reviewed but unpublished?)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 7-17

What a week…

Papers & Findings

Political tech: A survey of Swedish NGOs (n=907) suggests that civil society needs lots of human resources to use social media effectively in campaigns, which raises the bar for entry, and strengthens an elite cohort of civil  society organizations. Tech was shown to directly help voters, however, as new research strengthens the claim that information apps for voters increase electoral participation, based on electoral data sets from 12 countries and a randomized field experiment during the 2013 Italian parliamentary elections. An online field experiment with San Fransisco residents (n=140,000) also suggests that people who vote are more likely to engage in other forms of political participation, or at least more likely to open NGO surveys.

Thinking about cities, a study of 65 mid-to-large size US cities suggest that data analytics practices are wide spread, and that leadership attention, capacity and external partners are the primary factors determining whether cities engage with big data. A researcher from International Data Corporation (whoa) compares three prominent models for evaluating the implementation of smart cities, and suggests how city managers should merge them. Continue reading “research links w 7-17”

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 (!)”

research links w 50-52

Papers and Findings

Do global norms and clubs make a difference? A new dissertation assesses implementation of EITI, CSTI and OGP in Guatemala, the Philippines and Tanzania to conclude that multi-stakeholder initiatives can strengthen national proactive transparency, but have little impact on demand-driven accountability. There are interesting insights on open washing and the importance of high level political ownership.

Meanwhile, MySociety’s @RebeccaRumbul assessed civic technology in Mexico, Chile and Argentina (interviews w/ gov and non-gov, n=47), to conclude that the “intended democratising and opening effects of civic technology have in fact caused a chilling effect,” prompting Latin American governments to seek more restrictive control over information. In Brazil, researchers assessed 5 municipalities to see whether strong open data initiatives correlated with strong scores on the digital transparency index–they don’t.

Austrian researchers reviewed the literature on gamification strategies in e-participation platforms globally, concluding that gamification of democracy doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s often rewards-based, a strategy they expect to “decrease the quality of participation.” This conference paper by computer scientists proposes an e-government maturity model, based on a literature review of 25 existing models, and the International Budget Partnership has released a report on how civil society uses fiscal transparency data. Spoiler: they don’t have the data they want.

A number of global reports and releases were published. The DataShift has a new guide on Making Citizen-Generated Data Work, based on a review of 160 projects and interviews with 14 case studies, and which presents some useful classifications and typologies. Creative Commons has released the 2016 Global Open Policy Report, with an overview of open policies four sectors (education, science, data and heritage) in 38 countries. The White House has released a report on the performance of it’s public petition site, We the People, highlighting four cases where e-petitions arguably impacted policy in the platform’s first five years of operation.

Meanwhile, the Governance Data Alliance has released a report entitled “When is Governance Data Good Enough?” based on snap polls with “500 leaders” in 126 countries, and which suggests among other things that credibility and contextualization of governance data is important to governance data users, and that governance data is used primarily for research and analysis. The general impression seems to be that yes, in many countries, the governance data that exists is in fact good enough “to support reform champions, inform policy changes, and improve governance.” A launch event was held on Dec 15.

Flow Journal has a special issue on Media activism politics in/for the age of Trump. International Political Science Review has a special issue on measuring the quality of democracy.

Community and Commentary

GovLab sought Peer Reviewers for open gov case studies on Cambodia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Paraguay and Uganda, but there were only 9 days to sign up (in late Dec) and 2 weeks to review (during the holidays). Hope they found someone. There must be a happy medium between the glacial grind of academic peer review and… this.

A Freedominfo.org post highlights the Access to Information component in the World Bank’s Open Data Readiness Assessment Tool, and suggests how it can be a useful tool for advocates and activists.

The World Bank has released a new guide on crowdsourcing water quality monitoring, with a focus on program design, not measurement, which is nicely summarized here.

Mike Ananny and Kate Crawford’s new article in New Media & Sociaty critiques the “ideal of transparency” as a foundation for accountability, identifying 10 limits of transparency, and suggest alternative approaches for pursuing algorithmic accountability.

The LSE blog re-posted a piece describing novel metrics for research social media influence, and distinguishing between aspects of “influence”, such as amplification, true reach and network score, but failing to link to that research. In Government Information Quarterly, a troika of international researchers have suggested an uninspired research agenda for “open innovation in the public sector”, with a focus on domain-specific studies, tools other than social media, and more diverse methods.

This TechCrunch article attributes civic innovation in US cities to governmental gridlock at the federal level, the NYT describes research suggesting that price transparency in the US health sector has failed to drive prices down and Results for Development Institute is developing a framework to help governments “cost” open government initiatives before they pursue them.

In the Methodological Weeds

The Development Impact Blog has a great post on life satisfaction reporting between women and men. The discussion begins with the assertion that “women definitely say they are happier” and moves quickly to debunk that assertion, using hypothetical vignettes, anchored to common response scales. The methods are smart, and highly relevant to response bias problems in any social survey setting, especially in assessing political and social impacts of media and information.

An article in JeDEM presents a model for multidimensional open government data, which focuses on the integration of official and unofficial statistics. The proposed method builds on the data cube model from business intelligence, and relies entirely on a linked data technology. This paper goes a bit beyond my technical expertise, but at bottom it promises to harmonize indicators from different data sources (with different, but overlapping meta-data and data context) on the basis of shared attributes. Kind of a lowest common denominator approach. This is intuitive, and the type of thing I’ve seen attempted at data expeditions via excel, but having a rigorous method could be a huge advantage. Especially if demonstrated with the participation of governments in the pilots this article references, a solid methodology for this could be hugely useful to initiatives like DataShift, which talk a lot about merging citizen-generated data with official statistics, but struggle to make that happen either politically or technically.

Academic Opps

Calls for Papers:

Miscellanea and Absurdum

  • America’s most common Christmas-related injuries, in charts (from Quartz)
  • The Hate Index “represents a journalistic effort to chronicle hate crimes and other acts of intolerance since Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.”
  • DataDoesGood is asking you to donate your anonymized shopping data, which gets sold, and profits donated to charity.
  • Academic article: “Tinder Humanitarians”: The Moral Panic Around Representations of Old Relationships in New Media
  • The Association of Internet Researchers has a YouTube channel (!)
  • 4% of U.S. internet users have been a victim of “revenge porn” (via Data & Society)
  • CFP: Women’s Head Hair as a tool of communication, in media outlets and social media activism