Participation, civic engagement and Web 2.0 – three cases

Susanne Bødker, Pär-Ola Mikael Zander

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This paper takes its starting point in the civic sphere, in the meeting between (municipal) democracy, social technologies (Web 2.0) and participatory design as it has been brought to non-work settings. There is a significant body of literature that deals with the use of social technologies/Web 2.0. in relation to government, most of these being a matter of how politicians and citizens debate in relation to elections. In this paper, we will argue that while such issues may be addressed on the level of the design process, it is difficult to escape the political discussions on the macro level. Merely increasing the available amount of information about public policy does not lead to increased democratic engagement.
Based on the eGov+ project where we explored three cases of Web 2.0 and participatory design in municipal government settings, we discuss the various understandings of democracy and participation that are represented by these traditions, and not least the clash between them. While IT has been used, beyond Facebook groups, in governmentsʼ attempts to support civic engagement in what Doug Schuler calls civic intelligence, other authors conclude that, by and large, politicians and public stakeholders fail to take these types of electronic possibilities seriously, and that this is a serious hurdle for on-line democratic deliberations. In the current paper we discuss productive practices of discussion and negation, rather than the practices of individual politicians and how they promote themselves vis-à-vis their voters. We discuss how we develop the potentials of participation on the boundaries of design and use of Web 2.0 technologies. We also discuss the extent to which participation can be of political value by enabling active citizenship. And vice versa, we investigate how democracy takes many forms, and discuss design implications of that for participation and participatory design.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventRethinking participatory cultural citizenship - Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 14 Nov 201316 Nov 2013


ConferenceRethinking participatory cultural citizenship

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