Internet, Politics, Policy Conference – Day 1

16. & 17. September 2010, St. Anne’s College, Oxford
– Blog Post about Day 2:
click here

Opening by Helen Margretts & Arthur Lupia

Arthur Lupia

Online participation has high goals, but most attempts concerning online participation have failed; presently failure seems to be the norm. The main reasons for failure are that people are ignorant, lazy and apathetic. It is a common believe that good intentions are sufficent. Motivation is influenced by biologal factors such as a working memory, which is very constraint and has limited capacity and a high decay rate. Lupia stated that pre-conditions for persuasion are attention, elaboration, and credibility. According to him, the core question is: How do we get people to memorize things? People have to set words into the context of what is important to them. If they do not see it essential for their own goals, it is neccessary to talk about things that are relevant to them. Chunks of information leave a legacy if the recipient perceives them as unique and highly relevant.

Arthur Lupia outlined how to win battles for attention. One should make participation projects on a local level as consequences of such projects are concrete and immediate for the people involved, and the desired outcome has to be possible to achieve. He presented a study showing that threats are weak motivations for participation. He then underlined the study’s results by analysing wordings concerning monetary support by Obama and H. Clinton. Clinton’s wordings were much more frightening than those of Obama, and Obama raised much more money that Clinton did. Lupia finished his presentation with popular differences between online & offline debates. While traditional communication is marked by interruption (white interrupt more often that non-white persons, men interrupt more often than women) and an order of who speaks first (the first contribution ist far more likely to be picked up for further discussion), internet based deliberation doesn’t have these effects and merely the abscence of these effects will have an impact on society.

Political Participation and Petitioning

Andreas Jungherr from Otto-Friedrich-Universität, Bamberg Germany on the topic: The political click: political participation through e-petitions in Germany.

Ralf Linder from Fraunhofer, Germany: Broadening participation through E-Petitions? Results from an empirical study on petitions to the German parliament. In his presentation about e-petitions and the Deutsche Bundestag, Ralf Lindner came to the conclusion that e-petitions failed to attract underrepresented groups. Users of e-petitions are much more involved than users of traditional petitions.

Giovanni Navarria from the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster: e-Petitioning and Representative Democracy: a doomed marriage? – Lessons learnt from the Downing Street e-Petition Website and the case of the 2007 Road-Tax petition. In his presentation he concluded that it was a bad idea to incorporate e-petitions into the official web site of the prime minister’s office. First, e-petitions suddenly conveyed the “feeling” of authority and second, as e-petitions flew in, the opposition claimed to stick to the promise and listen to peoples’ voices.

Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos from the Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University, presented a case study of different e-petitions in the UK, like the promintent pre-cursor in Kingston borough of London. An interesting finding is that facebook groups linking to e-petitions sites actually have more fans or followers than e-petitions signatures; an interesting isnight worth to undergo further investigation.

Participation in Politics and Policy-making

Matthew Addis, IT Innovation Centre, University of Southampton, UK about New ways for policy-makers to interact with citizens through open social network sites – a report on initial results. This talk was about the WeGov project, an EU-funded project and software system which monitors SNS and aggregates forums, groups, etc. on the WeGov platform. The biggest challenge there is to identify the hot topics – key indicators of political discussions – and to undertake means for sustainable discussion. Another challenge is that almost any data of SNS is personal data. Thus an automatic aggregation has to be very sensible concerning what data to aggregate.

Aude Bicquelet, London School of Economics (LSE) Analysing e-consultations with the help of Computer Assistance: In this paper the author asked the question wheather text mining tools can help handling the vast amount of textual data which accumulates and should be quickly analysed. Risks include missing data and the influence of the context on meaining. Besides those technical problems there are ethical risks such as privacy infringements and confidentiality violoations.

Ana Sofía Cardenal, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute IN3, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona presented the paper Surfing the Net: a pathway to political participation without motivation?. She established the idea that given the incredible low threshold of internet based participation (cf. upvote/downvote on reddit, “like” on Facebook), the need of politcal interest as a factor for participation actually disapears. The use of the Internet has a direct effect on participation, independent of persons’ motivations.  In order to participate at least in one activity online, frequent and skilful internet users do not neccessarily need to be motivated or interested in politics.

Ian Jayson Reyes Hecita, Florida State University was talking on the paper Creating Participatory Spaces for Democratizing ICT Policy and Governance in the Philippines.


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