In this paper, the authors address the lack of methodologies and tools that support community and consensus processes in online settings while also acknowledging agonistic conflicts and a diversity of interest communities. The purpose of this paper is to develop a methodology and tool support for analysing discursive processes, as well as for creating structural support for better informed deliberative processes.
This participatory design is based on two case studies of urban planning projects in Swedish municipalities. An ethnographic study of information practises among municipality officials and residents exposed a need for supporting the direct communication with citizens and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as democratic processes within groups.
The authors show how a general participatory methodology on different levels of governance can be supported using a standard type of interface and analytical tools for structured discussions and statistics.
The tool design has not been tested in any larger scale. The tool is at present foremost useful for communicating in participatory contexts. The actor perspective in the methodology used means that the actors, rather than organisations, are highlighted as the owners of specific questions. It also means that a survey or discussion initiated by a government can have competition from other actors using the same instruments or data.
Except for being an analytical tool for analysing participatory attributes and for better understanding of how decisions are formed, the platform also includes tools for more elaborated decision support, as well as support for voting and pro/con argumentation integrated with discussion forum for providing reasonable conditions for a broader more well-structured participation.
The actor perspective in the suggested methodology and tool support means that the actors, rather than organisations, are highlighted as the owners of specific questions. It also means that a survey or discussion initiated by a government can have competition from other actors using the same instruments or data.
This platform provides integrated analytical tools and elaborated decision support for individual users, to support democracy from a micro-perspective rather than from a government perspective, and reaches significantly beyond the capacities of similar tools and methods presently available. The traditional dichotomy between the government and the citizens in e-government research is, thus, avoided by developing a tool that takes the individual actor as the starting point rather than an abstract collective.
2016. Vol. 10, no 2, 256-272 p.
Decision support, Digital inclusion, E-government, Open government, Public deliberation, Representation online