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Dashed Hopes? Citizen Engagement with the Obama Administration

We're about to start the second day of EDEM 2010 in Krems, with a keynote by Micah Sifry from Tech President. His starting point is the use of online media during the US presidential election, which created a significant expectation that in office, the Obama administration would similarly utilise new and social media to develop new models for governing. This has not happened quite as much as people might have expected, though.

Positioning Citizens as Agents of Governance: MyQ2

The final speaker in this session at EDEM 2010 is Matthew Allen, who examines the Queensland State Government's MyQ2 initiative. He notes that e-government is about government, citizens, political governance systems, and governmentality (through which we make sense of government). Additionally, we are talking both about the past in governance, the present moment of development, and our visions for the future. In e-government, then, there is both a structural quest for a model of connecting the four elements, and a rapid temporality that aims to move through the trajectory for development. This also mirrors our debates around the introduction of other technologies, from automobiles to television.

Building Issue-Based Social Networks in Europe

The next EDEM 2010 session starts with Francesco Molinari, who reflects on the outcomes of a component of the IDEAL-EU project: a multilingual social networking project involving Spain, France, and Italy which connected citizens and regional governments in order to discuss issues around climate change. Part of the question here was whether online interaction could be a valid extension of conventional face-to-face interaction; whether it could be of use to politicians and policymakers; and whether there were differences between the well-examined US approach to online participation, and more specific European approaches.

Political Activism through Facebook and Online Games in Singapore

The final speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Marko Skoric, who shifts our focus to Singapore and away from explicitly political spaces: rather, his interest is in investigating emerging platforms for online sociability and entertainment - like Facebook and (online) games. Such spaces constitute a third place for their users to gather.

Facebook has a substantial civic potential, and several studies have documented that potential, focussing both on everyday generic use of Facebook and on specific political pages within it. Similarly, various civic activities are happening in online games and immersive 3D environments; such games can also act as labs for practicing civic skills - through deliberately serious games but also through others.

Towards an Expressive Rationality in Online Participation

The next speaker at EDEM 2010 is Jakob Svensson from Karlstad University, who notes that the Net is considered to be the new arena for digital citizenship, of course - citizenship is membership in a political community which confers particular rights and duties; but what does the political consist of? What should be considered to be political?

The political, Jakob suggests, concerns the organisation and structure of society, and power relations within it; it is discursive and relational. This also relates to questions of what we mean by community - and community is now more often a community of interest than a geographically or otherwise determined community. Overall, then, a political community is an ensemble of people who are concerned witb the organisation of society and make sense of these concerns in a similar way. When such political communities address these concerns, they engage in active citizenship.

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government

My own presentation (of a paper co-authored with my colleague Adam Swift) was up next at EDEM 2010, and I've already posted up the slides and full paper - audio to follow some time soon, hopefully! now added as well. Bit rushed, but I hope it made sense...

Beware the Goverati: e-Democracy Processes in the Post-Industrial Age

The second keynote speaker at EDEM 2010 is Ismail Peña-López, who begins from an economic perspective: he notes that in the orthodox view, the basic structure of the production system is that inputs (resources) are acted upon by labour and capital in the production process, generating outputs (products). Democratic processes are traditionally based and built upon this production process, too - scarcity of resources, transaction costs, and processes of intermediation are its fundamental delimiting elements,which democracy attempts to coordinate.

Towards Real Citizen Participation in e-Democracy

I've now arrived at the 2010 Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010) in Krems, Austria. I'll present my paper on the g4c2c concept with Adam Swift later this afternoon, but we start today with a keynote by Andy Williamson. He begins by pointing to the relative youth of e-democracy projects, and says that there's a lot to learn from the interesting failures of many such projects to date. Indeed, there's a problem with the academic language of many of these projects (democracy is a disputable enough term as it is - sticking 'e' in front only makes it worse).

More Travel Coming Up: EDEM 2010

In a few days' time, I'll head off to Europe again, to present at this year's Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM 2010). I really enjoyed the 2009 edition (see the coverage in this blog), and it's hard to believe a whole year has passed already - probably because it hasn't: EDEM 2009 was held in September...

Still, that's not stopped us from developing some new ideas on how to further the 'government 2.0' push which aims to utilise Web 2.0 technologies, social media models, and produsage processes in order to create better engagement and participation between governments and citizens. This year, I'm building on my observations with Jason Wilson about top-down and bottom-up forms of engagement, presented at EDEM 2009, to suggest (in a paper co-authored with Adam Swift) that neither the common government-to-citizen (g2c) nor citizen-to-citizen (c2c) initiatives in the government 2.0 space quite manage to find the right balance, and that we may need to explore the possibility for new, hybrid models in between these poles: we outline what we've called a g4c2c model in which government provides explicit support for, and gets involved in, citizen-to-citizen activities.

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government (EDEM 2010)

EDEM 2010

g4c2c: Enabling Citizen Engagement at Arms' Length from Government

Axel Bruns and Adam Swift

  • 6 May 2010 - 2010 Conference on Electronic Democracy, Krems, Austria

The recognition that Web 2.0 applications and social media sites will strengthen and improve interaction between governments and citizens has resulted in a global push into new e-democracy or Government 2.0 spaces. These typically follow government-to-citizen (g2c) or citizen-to-citizen (c2c) models, but both these approaches are problematic: g2c is often concerned more with service delivery to citizens as clients, or exists to make a show of 'listening to the public' rather than to genuinely source citizen ideas for government policy, while c2c often takes place without direct government participation and therefore cannot ensure that the outcomes of citizen deliberations are accepted into the government policy-making process. Building on recent examples of Australian Government 2.0 initiatives, we suggest a new approach based on government support for citizen-to-citizen engagement, or g4c2c, as a workable compromise, and suggest that public service broadcasters should play a key role in facilitating this model of citizen engagement.


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