DemocracySpot’s Most Read Posts in 2014

Glasses for reading (1936) – Nationaal Archief

(I should have posted this on the 31st, but better late than never)

Below are some of the most read posts in 2014. While I’m at it, I’ll take the opportunity to explain the reduced number of posts in the last few months. Since mid-2014 I have been working with a small team of political and data scientists on a number of research questions at the intersection of technology and citizen engagement (I presented a few preliminary findings here). Following the period of field work, data collection and experiments, we have now started the drafting and peer-review stage of our research. This has been an extremely time-consuming process, which has taken up most of my weekends, when I generally write for this blog.

Still, one of my new year’s resolutions is precisely to better discipline myself to post more regularly. And I am hopeful that the publication of our upcoming research will make up for the recent reduction in posts. We will start to disseminate our results soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a selection of the five most read posts in 2014.

The Problem with Theory of Change

Technology and Citizen Engagement: Friend or Foe? 

A Brilliant Story of Participation, Technology and Development Outcomes

When Citizen Engagement Saves Lives (and what we can learn from it) 

Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?

12 Papers on Social Media and Political Participation

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I just came across the website of the Social Media and Political Participation conference, which took place in Florence this May.

Below is the presentation by Henry Farrel (from the Monkey Cage) on Cognitive Democracy and the Internet, followed by links to the papers.

Cognitive Democracy and the Internet Henry Farrell, George Washington University

Politics 2.0: The Multifaceted Effect of Broadband Internet on Political Participation Francesco Sobbrio, European University Institute

Birds of the Same Feather Tweet Together: Bayesian Ideal Point Estimation Using Twitter Data Pablo Barbera, New York University

Politicians Go Social. Estimating Intra-Party Heterogeneity (and its Effects) through the Analysis of Social Media Andrea Ceron, University of Milan

Connective Action in European Mass Protest  Eva Anduiza, Autonomous University of Barcelona

The Bridges and Brokers of Global Campaigns in the Context of Social Media Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon, Oxford Internet Institute

Every Tweet Counts? How Sentiment Analysis of Social Media Can Improve our Knowledge of Citizens’ Policy Preferences: An Application to Italy and France Stefano Iacus, University of Milan

The Rise and Decline of the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement from a Digital Perspective Alessandro Flammini, University of Indiana

Is the Internet Good or Bad for Politics? Yes. Let’s talk about How and Why Zeynep Tufekci, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Follow the leader! Dynamics and Patterns of Activity among the Followers of the Main Italian Political Leaders during the 2013 General Election Campaign Cristian Vaccari, New York University and University of Bologna

Social Networks, Peer Pressure and Protest Participation Alexey Makarin, New Economic School, Moscow

Mobilizing Online Data to Understand Offline Mobilization: Two Attempts at Online Observational Research in Russia   Sam Greene, King’s College London

Cyberactivism through Social Media: Twitter, YouTube, and the Mexican Political Movement “I’m Number 132”

By Sandoval-Almazan & Gil-Garcia (2012)

Social media is increasingly important for political and social activism in Mexico. In particular, Twitter has played a significant role in influencing government decision making and shaping the relationships between governments, citizens, politicians, and other stakeholders. Within the last few months, some commentators even argue that Mexican politics has a new influential actor: “I’m Number 132” (a studentbased social movement using Twitter and YouTube). After the Arab Spring and the uprisings that have led to significant political changes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran, the Mexican case could provide new insights to understand these social movements. Understanding the students’ political mobilization “I’m Number 132” in the context of the 2012 presidential election in Mexico, and how they have been using social media tools to communicate their concerns and organize protests across the country, could help us to explain why and how these social meda-enabled political movements emerge and evolve.

Download the full paper here [PDF].

How New Media has Revolutionized Electoral Politics in the US

This paper [pdf] addresses the impact new media tools have on different segments of the electoral process in the United States. Specifically, it looks at  the impact new media has by providing information, influencing the news cycle and setting agendas, shaping public opinion, providing more fundraising opportunities, increasing political participation and youth voter turnout, and changing election results. This paper does so by drawing on systematic studies, data from the Pew Research Center, and case studies, specifically that of the 2008 Presidential Election. This analysis is unique in that it uses very current information, focusing on the 2008 election, as this was the first election in which new media was fully integrated into campaign strategies. It is also unique in that it analyzes several types of new media including social networks, blogging, campaign websites, and Internet fundraising. These findings suggest that new media does influence and shape the course of the electoral process in the United States through the six aspects of the electoral process presented in this paper.

Aronson, Elise D. (2012) “Cyber-Politics: How New Media has Revolutionized Electoral Politics in the United States,” Colgate Academic Review: Vol. 9, Article 7.

Participation is purposeful; it is intended to make a difference – to the participant, or to the world around them. People who take part in voluntary and community action are looking to fulfill this need. But local democracy has lost its sense of purpose. Politicians are seen as self-serving, local elections written off as a foregone conclusion and engagement is considered a cynical exercise in legitimising decisions already made.

It would be nice to think that social media could solve this problem, but I’m far from convinced. I do not dispute that it can be an excellent tool for engaging with certain groups, and making the business of government more open and transparent. But when people do not trust the messenger or the message, changing the medium is unlikely to make much difference.

Great discussion at the Guardian. Couldn’t agree more with the quote above.