Heading into the second decade of the 21st century, we constantly hear about how social media, geolocation, mobile apps and similar technological innovations are changing the way we interact with each other. But how are they changing the way we interact with our governments (particularly local governments)? Are they offering new opportunities for civic engagement? Are they changing the way residents view their role in local government, creating new opportunities for citizen involvement? Or are they cementing old ideas of citizens as customers by facilitating the delivery of government services?

These questions are of particular interest to those of us at the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership as we seek to help solve public problems by promoting citizen's participation in governance. We have created this blog to provide up-to-date information relating to what is being called "Government 2.0." We hope what you find here will help local governments and their residents make the most of the technology available for genuine citizen engagement.

New to Gov 2.0? Check out our foundational documents »

Social Media & (non)Deliberative Democracy

Dana (not Daniel) Radcliffe, posted a meditation on social media and deliberative democracy over at the Huffington Post last month that remains timely:

In short, with regard to political discussion, current use of social media favors affinity over engagement, expression over debate, silence over disagreement, dogmatism over compromise, and – toward opponents – disdain over respect. This, I believe, is largely why we have so far been unable to move beyond the use of social media as political weapons to make them instruments of deliberative democracy.

This is a great reminder that deliberation and genuine engagement do not come naturally: they require hard work. Advances in communications technology can help facilitate processes, but they can’t generate the will to engage our fellow citizens in the work of building communities. That’s up to “we the people.”

Read Radcliffe’s reflections at the Huffington Post here, and a blog post on the same theme from a few years ago here.

Contributor: Benjamin Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP 16

A Test Run for Brigade

Sean Parker’s Brigade app was put to the test this week in San Francisco and in Manchester, NH where it served as an interactive ballot guide for voters heading to the polls:

What differentiates the Brigade app is its game-inspired approach and its hooks to a broader online community of people who use the app to talk about local and national issues the way neighbors once did through civic groups, community centers or places of worship.

The ballot guide makes recommendations on candidates and referenda, based on the voter’s responses to 20 simply phrased questions (Should short-term rentals in San Francisco be limited to 75 nights per year — yes or no?). Brigade generates a personalized list of candidates most closely aligned with the voter’s expressed views — along with local organizations that offered endorsements, and why.

You can read more here.

NASA: Crowdsourcing for Science

We have talked before about the power of crowdsourcing both as a source of funding and data – now a new project from NASA is seeking to draw on the wisdom of crowds.  Accessing that wisdom is very much an issue of public policy:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is on a mission to study the entire sky to search for clues about the formation the solar system. However, the agency lacks the technical capacity and manpower to sift through all this data and identify any promising leads. Fortunately, over30,000 members of the public have volunteered to analyze this data and are helping NASA make much greater headway on its mission that it could on its own. For these and other projects, “citizen scientists” voluntarily collect and analyze data on behalf of the government. However, until recently agencies have lacked explicit authorization to take advantage of citizen science, limiting the government’s ability to solve problems in innovative ways. New guidance from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and newly proposed legislation aim to both authorize and encourage agencies to work with citizen scientists. As it becomes easier than ever for the public to collect, analyze, and share data that has important public value, the federal government should embrace the concept of citizen science and engage the public to solve tough problems.

This is a drastic policy step, undertaken by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with the aim of merging public and governmental technical expertise, in addressing national issues.

You can read more about both the Obama administration’s approach to this sort of  collaboration and about the specific NASA project here.

H/T: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate, ’16.