A roadmap for future human-machine networks for Citizen Participation

Familiarity with sharing views and opinions via social media provides a possible mechanism for citizens to engage with politicians and take part in shaping policy

We all recognise that the reach of the Internet should add so much so the democratic processes [1,2]. But it turns out that there are still differences between on- and offline discussions [3], since although people are used to social networks for personal, leisure and retail activities, participatory behaviours are different when it comes to politics [2,4].

For instance, the characteristics of debate seem to differ. It appears that socio-technical systems extend but don’t really improve the quality of that debate [5]. The goal for eParticipation probably isn’t really about making political decisions or achieving consensus, but instead getting members of one group to refine what they think [6]. So the tools provided to support discussion have a careful balance to strike: they should be focused on encouraging as much participation as possible and not exclude those less comfortable online [5].

And so how do we know what an ‘ePerson’ – the citizen online – actually is and what they do [3]? Significantly, it seems that social identity affects how they interact with others [6]. That being so, these discussions will be open to peer influence [7,8]. How all of the social, technical and democratic-process concerns interact really needs to be carefully analysed and understood [2,9].

In the wake of surprising voting activities in the past year, have a look at where stakeholders think Citizen Participation online is going in our white paper.

[1]      O. for E. Co-operation and Development, Promise and problems of e-democracy: Challenges of online citizen engagement. OECD Publishing, 2004.

[2]      S. Coleman and D. F. Norris, “A new agenda for e-democracy,” 2005.

[3]      P. K. Dutt and T. Kerikmäe, “Concepts and problems associated with eDemocracy,” in Regulating eTechnologies in the European Union, Springer, 2014, pp. 285–324.

[4]      P. Panagiotopoulos, S. Sams, T. Elliman, and G. Fitzgerald, “Do social networking groups support online petitions?,” Transform. Gov. People, Process policy, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 20–31, 2011.

[5]      E. Loukis and M. Wimmer, “A multi-method evaluation of different models of structured electronic consultation on government policies,” Inf. Syst. Manag., vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 284–294, 2012.

[6]      D. Kreiss, “The problem of citizens: E-democracy for actually existing democracy,” Soc. Media+ Soc., vol. 1, no. 2, p. 11, 2015.

[7]      J. Ronson, So You’ve Publically Shamed. Oxford, England: Picador, 2015.

[8]      C. Stott and S. Reicher, Mad Mobs and Englishmen?: Myths and realities of the 2011 riots. London, UK: Robinson, 2011.

[9]      A. Macintosh and A. Whyte, “Towards an evaluation framework for eParticipation,” Transform. Gov. People, Process policy, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 16–30, 2008.

Post updated August 3, 2017, with link to revised version of roadmap.