A catalogue and a taxonomy of online participation tools. Request for comments.

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #76, January 2010


Together with other people, I am working in a project that includes a sort of catalogue of online participation tools. In three senses:

  • What different tools are out there (e.g. blogs)
  • Which and how have they been used (e.g. Howard Dean’s blog)
  • How can we depict and/or categorize them (e.g. top-down communication, possibility to gather feedback through comments, text-based, Internet based, etc.)

What I am here presenting is the alfa-über-draft version of the preliminary and potential taxonomy that we might be using to categorize online participation tools. And I am openly (and sincerely and earnestly and humbly) asking for comments and examples:

  1. Comments on the taxonomy
  2. Examples of kinds of online participation tools (e.g. maps)
  3. Examples of actual cases of usage of online participation tools (e.g. Ushahidi in Kenya)

Needless to say that the final taxonomy, and list of tools and collection of practices will be shared here. Thank you very much.

A taxonomy of online participation tools

General Description

Name of tool

General category (do we accept more than one category per tool? e.g. Is Twitter nanoblogging and a social networking site? Should we speak about Twitter or about nanoblogging (which would include Yammer, WordPress’s P2, etc.)?

  • Forum, Blog, Wiki, Map, Social Networking Site, Photo, Video, Documents, etc.

Kind of Content

  • Text
  • Multimedia (Photo, Video, Audio…)
  • Application/database (e.g. Ushahidi, FixMyStreet)

Examples of tools

Examples of usage / cases

Field of participation

Directionality: qualitative

  • Unidirectional (e.g. web page)
  • Asymmetric Bidirectional (e.g. blog+comments)
  • Symmetric Bidirectional (e.g. forum)

Directionality: quantitative

  • One to one
  • One to many
  • Many to many
  • Hybrid (some of the above in the same tool, e.g. Facebook)

Direction (will depend on specific case?)

  • Top-down
  • Bottom-up
  • Both

Participation: level (inspired in, among others, Arnstein, 1969)

  • Information: unidirectional exchange of information (Arnstein 1-3)
  • Management / consultation / debate: bidirectional exchange of information (Arnstein 4-5)
  • Relationship: the exchange of information ends up in specific results (Arnstein 6)
  • Desicion: results are binding or have a direct impact (Arnstein 7-8)

Participation: scope

  • Government
  • Citizenry / grassroots
  • Parties / political organizations

Participation: goal

  • Accountability, transparency, monitoring
  • Propaganda, political message
  • Report, complaint, petition

Field of technology


  • Free
  • Freemium
  • Paid service
  • Own development


  • Online Service (e.g. Google applications)
  • (self-)hosted application (e.g. LimeSurvey)
  • Both (e.g. WordPress)

Difficulty / skills (too subjective?)

  • Basic
  • Advanced
  • Expert


  • Internet
  • Mobile phone
  • Other (e.g. digital TV)
  • Crossmedia
Updated with Roser Beneito‘s comments on the “Directionality: quantitative” section. Thanks!

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “A catalogue and a taxonomy of online participation tools. Request for comments.” In ICTlogy, #76, January 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3269

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