The duality of e-participation - a model and technical infrastructure to study and harness social media-based participation
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Despite the proliferation of e-Participation initiatives, overall efforts towards mainstreaming social media-based and citizen-led political deliberations are still limited. Consequently, there is a paucity of research on expected mutual re-shaping of deliberations on traditional e-Participation platforms and spontaneous citizen discussions on social media platforms. This mutual re- shaping phenomenon also referred to as the “duality of e-Participation” has been identified by Macintosh et al. in 2009, however up to date there is lack of methods and tools to study or enabling to harness the duality. In particular, the duality requires a specific, e-Participation-aligned, technical infrastructure to enable decision makers in government to access relevant information about ongoing citizen discussions on social media platforms. In this dissertation, we investigate the nature of the duality of e-Participation phenomenon; we construct a design inter alia of a Social Software Infrastructure (SSI), as a tool to study this duality. The design has been based upon e-Participation domain structuration and analysis leading to specific infrastructure requirements. Specifically, we combine the Structuration Theory complemented by Dynamic Capabilities Theory in an integrated model for e-Participation – an essential theoretical lens for generation of the SSI requirements. Also, we conduct a set of semi-structured interviews with politicians and decision-makers in relation to the duality. We investigate with politicians the nature of duality, we discuss possible ways of harnessing the duality and we 4 attempt to evaluate the feasibility of applying specific technologies, in the context of SSI, to enable effective social media-based e-Participation. The consolidated, structured results from the interviews inform a comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of duality of e-Participation. From our results, we identify the essential technical capabilities that need to be obtained by governments to harness the duality. Finally, based on the knowledge acquired throughout the study, and considering all the challenges identified, we elaborate on the revised technical infrastructure implementation realising en evolved SSI design. We conclude with recommendations for governments to realise this SSI and some proposals for future work.