Social Media and Polarization


Paper by Arthur Campbell, C. Matthew Leister and Yves Zenou: “Because of its impacts on democracy, there is an important debate on whether the recent trends towards greater use of social media increases or decreases (political) polarization. One challenge for understanding this issue is how social media affects the equilibrium prevalence of different types of media content. We address this issue by developing a model of a social media network where there are two types of news content: mass-market (mainstream news) and niche-market (biased or more “extreme” news) and two different types of individuals who have a preference for recommending one or other type of content. We find that social media will amplify the prevalence of mass-market content and may result in it being the only type of content consumed. Further, we find that greater connectivity and homophily in the social media network will concurrently increase the prevalence of the niche market content and polarization. We then study an extension where there are two lobbying agents that can and wish to influence the prevalence of each type of content. We find that the lobbying agent in favor of the niche content will invest more in lobbying activities. We also show that lobbying activity will tend to increase polarization, and that this effect is greatest in settings where polarization would be small absent of lobbying activity. Finally, we allow individuals to choose the degree of homophily amongst their connections and demonstrate that niche-market individuals exhibit greater homophily than the mass-market ones, and contribute more to polarization….(More)”.

Exploring the Relationship between Trust in Government and Citizen Participation


Paper by Yunsoo Lee and Hindy Lauer Schachter: “Theories of deliberative and stealth democracy offer different predictions on the relationship between trust in government and citizen participation. To help resolve the contradictory predictions, this study used the World Values Survey to examine the influence of trust in government on citizen participation. Regression analyses yielded mixed results. As deliberative democracy theory predicts, the findings showed that people who trust governmental institutions are more likely to vote and sign a petition. However, the data provided limited support for stealth democracy in that trust in government negatively affects the frequency of attending a demonstration….(More)”.

Blockchain and Democracy


Literature Review by Jörn Erbguth: “Democratic states are entities where issues are decided by a large group – the people. There is a democratic process that builds upon elections, a legislative procedure, judicial review and separation of powers by checks and balances. Blockchains rely on decentralization, meaning they rely on a large group of participants as well. Blockchains are therefore confronted with similar problems. Even further, blockchains try to avoid central coordinating authorities.

Consensus methods ensure that the systems align with the majority of their participants. Above the layer of the consensus method, blockchain governance coordinates decisions about software updates, bugfixes and possibly other interventions. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this blockchain governance?
Should we use blockchain to secure e-voting? Blockchain governance has two central aspects. First, it is decentralized governance based on a large group of people, which resembles democratic decision-making. Second, it is algorithmic decision-making and limits unwanted human intervention

Cornerstones
Blockchain and democracy can be split into three areas:

First, the use of democratic principles in order to make blockchain work. This ranges from the basic concensus algorithm to the (self-)governance of a blockchain.

Second, blockchain is seen as providing a reliable tool for democracy. This ranges from the use of blockchain for electronic voting to the use in administration.

Third, to study possible impacts of blockchain technology on a democratic society. This focusses on regulatory and legal aspects as well as ethical aspects….(More)”

Political innovation, digitalisation and public participation in party politics


Paper by Lisa Schmidthuber; Dennis Hilgers and Maximilian Rapp: “Citizen engagement is seen as a way to address a range of societal challenges, fiscal constraints, as well as wicked problems, and increasing public participation in political decisions could help to address low levels of trust in politicians and decreasing satisfaction with political parties. This paper examines the perceived impacts of an experiment by the Austrian People’s Party which, in response to reaching a historic low in the polls, opened up its manifesto process to public participation via digital technology. Analysis of survey data from participants found that self-efficacy is positively associated with participation intensity but negatively related to satisfaction. In contrast, collective efficacy is related to positive perceptions of public participation in party politics but does not influence levels of individual participation. Future research is needed to explore the outcomes of political innovations that use digital technologies to enable public participation on voting behaviour, party membership and attitudes to representative democracy….(More)”.

Open Governance of Cities: A new paradigm for understanding urban collaboration


Paper Albert J. Meijer, Miriam Lips and Kaiping Chen: “This theoretical viewpoint paper presents a new perspective on urban governance in an information age. Smart city governance is not only about technology but also about re-organizing collaboration between a variety of actors. The introduction of new tools for open collaboration in the public domain is rapidly changing the way collaborative action is organized. These technologies reduce the transaction costs for massive collaboration dramatically and thus facilitate new forms of collaboration that we could call ‘open governance’: new innovative forms of collective action aimed at solving complex public policy issues, contributing to public knowledge, or replacing traditional forms of public service provision. These innovative open and collaborative organisational forms in cities seem to point towards not only a wide variety of digitally connected actors but also to a fundamentally different and more invisible role of government in these arrangements. We argue that the recently emerging paradigm of New Public Governance (NPG) (Osborne 2010) also fails to capture the dynamics of open governance since it does not acknowledge the emergent – pop-up – character of the new collaborations; neither does it present an understanding of massive individualized collaboration in cities.

This paper aims to theoretically and empirically explore the core elements and the underlying socio-technical developments of this new Open Governance (OG) paradigm and compare and contrast OG with existing governance paradigms. Based on illustrative real-life cases, we will argue that we need a new paradigm that is better capable of explaining these emerging innovative forms of governing cities. We will argue that this requires an understanding of governance as a platform that facilitates an urban ecosystem. By connecting new insights from studies on digital governance to the debate about governance paradigms, this paper results in a set crucial empirical and normative questions about governance of cities and also in guidelines for urban governance that builds upon the rich, emerging interactions in cities that are facilitated by new technologies….(More)”

Understanding our Political Nature: How to put knowledge and reason at the heart of political decision-making


EU report by Rene Van Bavel et al: “Recognising that advances in behavioural, decision and social sciences demonstrate that we are not purely rational beings, this report brings new insights into our political behaviour and this understanding have the potential to address some of the current crises in our democracies. Sixty experts from across the globe working in the fields of behavioural and social sciences as well as the humanities, have contributed to the research that underpins this JRC report that calls upon evidence-informed policymaking not to be taken for granted. There is a chapter dedicated to each key finding which outlines the latest scientific thinking as well as an overview of the possible implications for policymaking. The key findings are:

  • Misperception and Disinformation: Our thinking skills are challenged by today’s information environment and make us vulnerable to disinformation. We need to think more about how we think.
  • Collective Intelligence: Science can help us re-design the way policymakers work together to take better decisions and prevent policy mistakes.
  • Emotions: We can’t separate emotion from reason. Better information about citizens’ emotions and greater emotional literacy could improve policymaking.
  • Values and Identities drive political behaviour but are not properly understood or debated.
  • Framing, Metaphor and Narrative: Facts don’t speak for themselves. Framing, metaphors and narratives need to be used responsibly if evidence is to be heard and understood.
  • Trust and Openness: The erosion of trust in experts and in government can only be addressed by greater honesty and public deliberation about interests and values.
  • Evidence-informed policymaking: The principle that policy should be informed by evidence is under attack. Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend this cornerstone of liberal democracy….(More)”

Battling Information Illiteracy


Article by Paul T. Jaeger and Natalie Greene Taylor on “How misinformation affects the future of policy…“California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

This tweet was a statement by a US president about a major event, suggesting changes to existing policies. It is also not true. Every element of the tweet—other than the existence of California, the Pacific Ocean, and wildfires—is false. And it was not a simple misunderstanding, because a tweet from Trump the next day reiterated these themes and blamed the state’s governor personally for holding back water to fight the fires.

So how does this pertain to information policy, since the tweet is about environmental policy issues? The answer is in the information. The use and misuse of information in governance and policymaking may be turning into the biggest information policy issue of all. And as technologies and methods of communication evolve, a large part of engaging with and advocating for information policy will consist of addressing the new challenges of teaching information literacy and behavior.

Misinformation literacy

The internet has made it easy for people to be information illiterate in new ways. Anyone can create information now—regardless of quality—and get it in front of a large number of people. The ability of social media to spread information as fast as possible, and to as many people as possible, challenges literacy, as does the ability to manipulate images, sounds, and video with ease….(More)”

Participatory Citizenship and Crisis in Contemporary Brazil


Book by Valesca Lima: “This book discusses the issues of citizen rights, governance and political crisis in Brazil. The project has a focus on “citizenship in times of crisis,” i.e., seeking to understand how citizenship rights have changed since the Brazilian political and economic crisis that started in 2014. Building on theories of citizenship and governance, the author examines policy-based evidence on the retractions of participatory rights, which are consequence of a stagnant economic scenario and the re-organization of conservative sectors. This work will appeal to scholarly audiences interested in citizenship, Brazilian politics, and Latin American policy and governance….(More)”.

Improving access to information and restoring the public’s faith in democracy through deliberative institutions


Katherine R. Knobloch at Democratic Audit: “Both scholars and citizens have begun to believe that democracy is in decline. Authoritarian power grabs, polarising rhetoric, and increasing inequality can all claim responsibility for democratic systems that feel broken. Democracy depends on a polity who believe that their engagement matters, but evidence suggests democratic institutions have become unresponsive to the will of the public. How can we restore faith in self-government when both research and personal experience tell us that the public is losing power, not gaining it?

Deliberative public engagement

Deliberative democracy offers one solution, and it’s slowly shifting how the public engages in political decision-making. In Oregon, the Citizens’ Initiative Review(CIR) asks a group of randomly selected voters to carefully study public issues and then make policy recommendations based on their collective experience and insight. In Ireland, Citizens’ Assemblies are being used to amend the country’s constitution to better reflect changing cultural norms. In communities across the world, Participatory Budgeting is giving the public control over local government spending. Far from squashing democratic power, these deliberative institutions bolster it. They exemplify a new wave in democratic government, one that aims to bring community members together across political and cultural divides to make decisions about how to govern themselves.

Though the contours of deliberative events vary, most share key characteristics. A diverse body of community members gather together to learn from experts and one another, think through the short- and long-term implications of different policy positions, and discuss how issues affect not only themselves but their wider communities. At the end of those conversations, they make decisions that are representative of the diversity of participants and their ideas and which have been tested through collective reasoning….(More)”.

In the Mood for Democracy? Democratic Support as Thermostatic Opinion


Paper by Christopher Claassen: “Public support has long been thought crucial for the survival of democracy. Existing research has argued that democracy moreover appears to create its own demand: the presence of a democratic system coupled with the passage of time produces a public who supports democracy. Using new panel measures of democratic mood varying over 135 countries and up to 30 years, this paper finds little evidence for such a positive feedback effect of democracy on support. Instead, it demonstrates a thermostatic effect: increases in democracy depress democratic mood, while decreases cheer it. Moreover, it is increases in the liberal, counter-majoritarian aspects of democracy, not the majoritarian, electoral aspects that provoke this backlash from citizens. These novel results challenge existing research on support for democracy, but also reconcile this research with the literature on macro-opinion….(More)”.