I’ve just finished my first week at Georgetown University, where I’ll be through the end of 2017 (locals can find me at cw986). I’m here to do field work for a case study on the institutional context of open government, and it’s an exciting theme to be digging into right now, as the US revamps work on it’s much speculated OGP participation. Continue reading “Cosgrove goes to Washington”
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.
This paper looks at how two Swedish government agencies (police and social insurance) use social media to build legitimacy, highlighting the importance of institutionally integrating communication strategies, and how this can create tensions with highly interactive approaches to citizen engagement. An AidData report emphasizes the broader benefits of government engagement, noting that the best way to increase civic participation in government monitoring is government responsiveness, according to field experiments conducted in Uganda, where responsiveness clearly outperformed encouragement from community and media figures. Analysis of U.S. national online panel data (n=1,201), on the other hand, finds strong correlations between expressive uses of tech, online storytelling networks and civic participation both online and offline, and finds community storytelling “to be a catalyst for building a vibrant civic communities.” Ahmed Tohamy’s analysis of Youth Activism and Social Networks in Egypt highlights the importance of moving between online and offline contexts. Continue reading “research links w 27 – 17”
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”
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.
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.
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”