Embedded Citizen Participation

by Matthias Korn at University of Siegen, Germany, November 26, 2010

The Internet has often been praised as a means to empower citizens in democracies. However, research has shown that merely increasing the available amount of information about public policy does not lead to increased democratic engagement (Toregas, 2001). Online deliberation platforms are likewise struggling to engage citizens in political decision-making processes. In this talk, I argue that in order to better facilitate democratic engagement on a local, municipal or regional level one needs to provide citizens with means to engage while in the situation and moving about in their local environment. It is the idea of embedded citizen participation that by situating discussions in the environment, it will be possible to connect to citizens' concerns in a way that is different from other forms of contribution. In this respect, mobile and ubiquitous technologies provide the possibility for citizens to (1) experience issues "in the wild" and (2) to contribute "on the spot" - i.e. the exact time and place where it makes sense for citizens to engage in the solution of a given problem. During my talk I will present two cases where first steps towards understanding embedded citizen participation have been made and highlight methodological issues in connection with the study of use embedded in real-world contexts.