OP@LL Conference (I): Online Participation – stock taking

Notes from the OP@LL Conference: Online participation on the local level – a comparative perspective, organized by Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy and held in Dússeldorf, Germany, on 13-15 December 2017. More notes on this event: opll.

Online Participation – stock taking

Paolo Spada | University of Coimbra (Portugal)
The Untapped Potential of Participatory Systems

Abstract: Participatory systems that combine multiple engagement processes have moved from being an isolated case in the Brazilian city of Canoas and the state of Rio Grande do Sul to a global trend. Many European cities in the last two years have begun to build prototype participatory systems in the form of web-containers that describe the variety of participatory processes implemented by the city and available to citizens. To date these participatory systems are still not fully developed and are not much more than a directory of participatory processes. However, some experiments have shown the great potential of these systems to allow for new and innovative engagement strategies coupled with advanced monitoring and research capabilities. In this presentation I will overview the emerging body of knowledge on participatory systems and I will highlight some of the untapped potential of participatory system, together with the risk that these new participatory technologies face. The presentation will leverage a vast array of case studies and practical examples from my own work in Brazil, UK, US, Canada, UK and Europe and will use research conducted over the course of the EMPATIA project in collaboration with the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy (IODP) and the Participedia Project.

How to reach several types of citizens, or communities, or targets in a participatory process? Depending on how you design the process, you might leave outside some citizens. Multi-channel democratic innovations come to fix this. And then you have, as a step forward, participatory systems to integrate multiple democratic innovations each with its own domain.

Of all the projects so far in Participedia (135), most cities have more than one project and in different platforms. And the majority are hybrid or face to face, diminishing the share of online only processes.

There is a growing number of integrated systems. This is the real challenge, to integrate all the tools that come together in a participatory process.

But integration comes with strings attached: who will be in charge of the management? who will control the controllers? Other problems of integration: complexity, transparency, accountability, autonomy, negative interactions…

Advantages: diversification, differentiation, data, cross selling, efficiency, resilience, some other democratic goods, inclusion, etc.


We need to define the “Lego blocks” of participation to be able to compare different initiatives, to design them better, to tell the core blocks from the complementary ones, etc.

Panos Panagiotopoulos | Queen Mary University of London (UK)
‘eParticipation research: from government platforms to new forms of interaction’. A Review.

Abstract: Originally focusing on formal engagement on government platforms, eParticipation research now includes many new types of digital interactions such as social media and crowdsourcing applications. The presentation will review main developments based on accumulated experiences from the 9 years of the eParticipation track, IFIP 8.5 International Conference on eGovernment.

We have gone from government platforms to new forms of interaction. Ubiquitous participation is moving people out from institutional platforms. The definition of e-Participation has been changing since the last ten years.

Social media has gone from being something for youngsters, or to address young ones, to be arguably the most important part of any e-participation initiative, including regular government communication practices. Now social media is fully integrated into workflows, especially in:

  • Event-based communications like emergencies,
  • Questions, complaint management and engagement with representatives
  • crowdsourcing capabilities starting from basic social media monitoring.


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

Peña-López, I. (2017) “OP@LL Conference (I): Online Participation – stock taking” In ICTlogy, #171, December 2017. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from https://ictlogy.net/review/?p=4585

Previous post: Article. Digital platforms: consumption groups and cooperatives vs. The Food Assembly in the case of Barcelona

Next post: OP@LL Conference (II): Case Studies I

RSS feed RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your comment: