IDP2013 (VI): Politics

Notes from the 9th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 25-26 June 2013. More notes on this event: idp2013.

Moderator: Ana Sofía Cardenal. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Opening new windows: decision-making centralization and online interaction in CIU, ERC and PSC.
Marc Esteve Del Valle. Doctorando del Programa de Sociedad de la Información y el Conocimiento de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) – Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3); Rosa Borge Bravo. Profesora Agregada de Ciencia Política de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) – Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)

What is the use of the Internet that parties do to “open” themselves and interact with the citizenry.

There are two approaches to ICTs and politics:

  • normalization: nothing is changing, parties will adopt ICTs for their traditional purposes, for their “politics as usual”. The citizenry nor adopts ICTs to participate more or whatever.
  • new mobilization: citizens can initiate their own campaigns thanks to several tools available online. These campaings, though, would be bound to parties, that is, it’s partisans that initiate campaigns to support parties. Networ party (Heidar & Saglie, 2003), cyberparty (Margetts, 2006), citizen initiate campaigns (Gibson, 2013), etc.

Reasons why parties would use ICTs: external context, inner characteristics of the party, position in the electoral market, contagion, etc.

H1: centralized and highly hierarchical parties have less interaction instruments in their websites (centralization index by K. Janda, 1980)
Data show that the three parties do not difer very much in centralization, and they do not difer either in matters of windows of interaction. Thus, evidence that centralization leads to more interaction is very weak.

H2: the degree of centralization does not seem to be related with the windows of interaction that PSC, CiU and ERC provide on their Facebook pages
Concerning the web 2.0, there neither are many differences. Indeed, the thesis of the contagion is very powerful, as there seems to be a pattern where a party initiates a certain activity and the rest copy it not long after.

Though parties showed different strategies and different levels of participation on Facebook, it cannot be stated that this was due to centralization differences. It is very likely, though, that is the state of political news or the political agenda that better shapes the strategies and interactions on Facebook.

To tweet or not to tweet? Social networking strategies in Catalan local governments
Joan Balcells, Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC); Albert Padró-Solanet, Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC); Iván Serrano, Researcher, IN3

How can be Twitter used in the context of e-Government? What are the factors of adoption of Twitter by local governments? How is Twitter used by local governments?

Logistic regression on the characteristics of the 947 municipalities in Catalonia was performed to tell the reasons for Twitter adoption. On the other hand, Twitter was mined to retrieve tweets by twitting municipalities and be able to tell the different usages of Twitter by them.

Problem: what (or which one) is the “official” Twitter account in a local government? The more representative one was chosen.

Assumption: if local governments are rationals, they will be on Twitter if the benefits are bigger than the costs of using Twitter.

Characteristics like size of the government, level of e-government, population, public employees expenditure per inhabitant, level of education of the municipality, socio-political mobilization or a change in government in the 2011 elections impact positively in probability of opening a Twitter account. The last issue, a change of party in office, is especially relevant, which stresses the point that in local governments leadership still plays an important role.

Concerning performance, measurements were tweets per week, RT per week, mentions, etc. Larger cities were the ones that performed better on Twitter.

A survey was addressed to Twitter managers asking what was Twitter for. There is major consensus on Twitter for informing citizens. But there is no consensus on interaction with citizens. Again, there is agreemen that Twitter is good for the local administration and for citizens, but there is some level of conflict when asked whether it is good or not for the public employee.

Accounts were grouped in three clusters according to the perception of conflict or not, and the use of Twitter for information or for engagement. And performance is related with perception: if one thinks Twitter is good, the account will do well.

A caveat is that having a Twitter account has consequences for the inner organization of the local government.

Casual Politics: From slacktivism to emergent movements and pattern recognition
Ismael Peña-López. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).


9th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2013)

Workshop on youth participation in youth policies. Monograph on ICTs (II): Tools, applications and cases

Notes from the Workshop on Youth Participation, organized by the Diputació de Barcelona, and held in Barcelona (Spain), on June 11th, 2010. See here the first part of these notes.

The second session was led by Ivan Serrano and myself, and presenting some preliminary results of a small research project we are both taking part in, along with other members of the GADE research group.

The goal of the session was to make a brief introduction to some web 2.0 tools and applications, and see how they had been put into practice in some localities. Our approach was neither to remain in the theoretical level nor to focus on the tool, but, on the contrary, to see what tools fit better in what participation purposes and goals.

Tools and applications

So, the first distinction I made was to tell tools (a way to do things, e.g. a blog) from applications (the different incarnations of tools, e.g. WordPress, Blogger, Typepad…). This distinction is relevant because we might find better applications for a specific use/tool than the most popular ones. Thus why focussing on the concept, not the service.

As we already explained in A catalogue and a taxonomy of online participation tools, we classified tools according to the following characteristics:

  • Directionality, qualitative: unidirectional, bidirectional, hybrid
  • Directionality, quantitative: one-to-one, one-to-many, many to many.
  • Competences: basic, advanced, expert.
  • Platform: phone, Internet, both.

Though I believe the Platform will be deprecated because of the increasing pervasiveness of smartphones, that render it quite irrelevant.

Concerning applications, the main classification types are:

  • Kind of tool.
  • Cost: free, freemium, payment.
  • Hosting: installation, online service, both.
  • Mashable: open API or similar.

The latter a last-minute addition and that might well explain part of the success of the most popular tools, as mashability enables ubiquity of the tool, thus making possible to bridge all the tools one is using.

Slides 6 & 7 show a simplified matrix where the above mentioned categories are crossed:

If you cannot see the presentation, please visit <a href=""></a>


Ivan went on with the applied cases, among others the following:

He ended up with some preliminary conclusions that came after the analysis of the preceding (and many other) participation initiatives. They seemed to be gathered in two groups and with different aims and characteristics:

  • Initiatives aimed at community building, characterized by being open, relational, fostering engagement, using free tools and aiming at a networked participation.
  • Policy oriented initiatives, characterized by being more formal (or formalized), focussing at decision-taking and representation, using own platforms and more “traditional” participation means.

Though all what we presented in this session is still in a draft stage, we believe that some interesting insights come from the e-participation experiences on the purposes-tools relationship. All in all, hi-engagement approaches demand more participatory and horizontal tools, and more top-down or traditional ones also demand traditional 1.0 tools. The error being, of course, first choosing the coolest 2.0 tool and then forcing the institution or the process to (against nature) adapt to the tool.