Following a prompt from @kegill, here my materials from a recent talk at ICA pre-conference on digital divide.
Digital divide in context: A case study in complex policymaking through online civic engagement
Dmitry Epstein, Mary J. Newhart, Cynthia R. Farina, and Cheryl L. Blake
CeRI Cornell eRulemaking Initiative
When examining the digital divide through the lens of online civic engagement, research tends to focus on the agency of citizens as they participate (with varying degrees of effectiveness) in mass political activities such as voting, petitioning, or mobilization for physical demonstrations (Norris, 2001). Earlier scholarship focused mainly on citizens’ material access to technology, whereas contemporary research is more concerned with their (primarily technical) skills (e.g. Min, 2010). Overall, few researchers have looked in depth at the contextual factors of the digital divide, and even then it is done in relation to citizens as primary actors and with context drawn from factors exogenous to the participatory situation itself, such as socioeconomic status, culture, etc. (e.g. van Dijk, 2005). Drawing on our experience with RegRoom – a platform for online civic engagement in complex policymaking – we want to call attention to additional factors, some of which can be viewed as contextual to citizens’ individual experiences or endogenous when examining the system as a whole. First, we will expand the notion of online civic engagement by discussing public participation in complex policymaking processes. Second, we will unpack the “digital dividedness” among policymakers and the limitations imposed on the use of technology by existing administrative processes. Finally, we will address potential implications of technology design for enabling effective civic engagement that goes beyond petition signing and sentiment expression.
Min, S.-J. (2010). From the digital divide to the democratic divide: Internet skills, political interest, and the second-level digital divide in political Internet use. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 7(1), 22–35. doi:10.1080/19331680903109402
Norris, P. (2001). Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and internet worldwide. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2005). The deepening divide: Inequality in the information society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
You can find my slides here, but I am afraid they will not be particularly informative on their own. @kegill, please let me know what you think.