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Back [PhD thesis] Characterizing online participation in civic technologies

[PhD thesis] Characterizing online participation in civic technologies

Author: Pablo Aragón

Supervisor: Vicenç Gómez, Andreas Kaltenbrunner

This thesis constitutes one of the first investigations focused on characterizing online participation in civic technologies, a type of platform increasingly popular on the Internet that allows citizens new forms, on a larger scale, of political participation. Given the opportunities of civic technologies in democratic governance, it should be noted that their design, like that of any online platform, is not neutral. The ways in which information is presented or interaction between users is allowed can greatly alter the results of participation. For this reason, we analyze the impact of different interventions in civic technologies in relation to online conversation views, ordering criteria for ranking petitions, and deliberative interfaces. Since these interventions were carried out by the corresponding development teams, the analyses have required to develop novel computational and statistical methods, while also extending generative models of discussion threads to better characterise the dynamics of online conversations. Results of the different case studies highlight the social and political impact of these interventions, suggesting new directions for future research and the need to develop a paradigm of citizen experimentation for democracy.

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