From November 3rd till 6th, ePART took place in Kristiansand, Norway. It has been the 4th research conference of this kind which takes place as a separate track within the EGOV research conference. The EGOV conferences are organized by the IFIP Working Group 8.5 and in 2012 the 11th conference took place.
ePART is a place where people exchange latest research results, network, foster and establish cooperation between researchers and practitioners from the field of e-participation, and identify future trends.
ePART is a rather small research conference, in total the city of Kristiansand and the University of Agder welcomed around 100 participants including speakers and moderators.
Within the project, youthpart will be able to pile up some insights regarding relevant questions about youth & e-participation and young people’s participation in the digital society. These findings but also technical innovations may be interesting for a forum such as ePART as well.
Among the 18 research presentations, 2 key notes and 2 workshops, the following four projects attracted youthpart’s attention:
- Getting Teenagers to participate: a case study from the city of Lausanne
- Choosing the Right Medium for Municipal eParticipation
- Online Communities Support Policy-Making: The need for Data Analysis
- Public Policy Formulation through Non Moderated Crowdsourcing in Social Media
Getting Teenagers to participate: a case study from the city of Lausanne
Getting Teenager to participate – that was the focus of the scientific analysis presented by a representative of the University of Lausanne. The task proofed to be challenging: the city of Lausanne decided to establish a youth council and in order to attract applications for it, the decision was made for a two folded campaign, using online (e.g. facebook, youtube) and offline media (e.g. posters). For the design and implementation a media agency was contracted. The (failed) campaign was evaluated by the University of Lausanne and the Graduate School of Public Administration and showed how difficult it is in fact to motivate young people to participate in political engagement beyond organized structures. Yet, some interesting findings from the motivated youngster who handed in an application suggest that various factors contribute to becoming active as a young person, such as idealism to improve the world, political discussions with parents or active members of the family who serve as example, previous (voluntary) experiences.
Choosing the Right Medium for Municipal eParticipation
Researchers from the University of Agder put the relationship between media preferences, the need for information and local participation in the centre of their research. They chose an 8,000 inhabitant village and first identified the different target groups (e.g. business, youth, immigrants, seniors) and asked them about their media preferences and information need. According to the data, young people voice a need for general information, local information, individual information, and in addition are interested in a service dialogue as well as a service to report infrastructure problems. For all these information needs, the figures show that internet based communication services are in the lead, especially websites and email. Social media services unfold their strengths when it comes to the specific information need “forum for discussion” and “dialog among business” whereas mobile media peak when it comes to reporting infrastructure problems.
Online Communities Support Policy-Making: The need for Data Analysis
Using swarm intelligence to support policy making still has its perils when it comes to text-based online discussions: finding the key arguments and their benchmark within a reasonable time span proofs to be difficult. There is a need for data analysis based on a technical approach says a representative of the Fraunhofer Institute. The software presented manages to analyse long thematic threads according to different criteria: words are clustered based on their frequency and the user just needs to define the name of that specific cluster then. Additionally, the tendency of clustered text can be displayed which allows to identify positive and negative arguments and their strength. One important aspect is the setting of the discussion meaning that users know about the purpose of the online-platform, the topic, relevant questions and who set it up; that only allows users to make conscious contributions.
Public Policy Formulation through Non Moderated Crowdsourcing in Social Media
The presentation of a European research project lead to some controversial discussion among the audience: the consortium presented the idea to develop crawler software that searches social media, collect postings, analyse them and offer them to support policy making. The consortium calls it non-moderated crowdsourcing in social media, while the audience is reminded about surveillance mechanisms. Representatives of the project argue that social media are public sources of information, similar to online newspapers, and therefore could be used easily for policy making purposes. A listener from the audience refers to ministries who use exactly the same argument to watch online activities of their citizens, for surveillance purposes. The discussion showed that this project works at the brim of the notion of e-participation.
ePART and EGOV conferences benefit from their international audience; not only through the contribution of European participants, but to a great extant through participants from around the globe, such as Mexico, Indonesia, the United States of America, Brasilia, Cameroon, India and South Korea. ePART’s fifth edition will take place from September 16-19, 2013 in Koblenz, Germany, jointly with the 12th EGOV conference.
For more information about the conferences browse https://www.epart-conference.org/