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.
Whoa, week 26, half way through 2017. That went quick.
There are serious transparency and participation shortcomings in international transparency review mechanisms (like the UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism and the OECD Working Group on Bribery, according to a new report from Transparency International. And a report on global internet censorship from @BKCHarvard finds “evidence of filtering in 26 countries across four broad content themes: political, social, topics related to conflict and security, and Internet tools (a term that includes censorship circumvention tools as well as social media platforms).” Continue reading “research links w 26”
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”
There’s lots of findings on inclusion and exclusion this week. A study of Fix My Street platforms in Brussels suggests that they “marginalize low-income and ethnically diverse communities,” while a Dutch survey suggests that citizen forums aren’t increasing political engagement as much as we’d like. primarily due to problems with representation and drop-out problems, and @phat_controller offers early research reflections from the Philippines on how digital technologies are excluding rather than including. Meanwhile, a survey in Brazilian favelas (telecenter convenience sampling, n=107) suggests online content creation, digital freedom, mobile Internet access as best ways to improve political engagement among marginalized groups. Continue reading “research links w 18 – 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.
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 @ 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 (@ among news groups, @ among NGOs) and Democratic committees dramatically out-FOIA their Republican counterparts (81/7). These and other fascinating insights in @‘s analysis of 229,000 requests to 85 government agencies.
#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”