Investigating the online and offline contexts of day-to-day democracy as participation spaces

Ella Taylor-Smith, Colin F. Smith
2018 Information, Communication & Society  
School of Computing. Ella explores online and offline spaces, and the relationships between them, in the context of grassroots democracy. Dr Colin F Smith is Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. His research examines the relationships between information and communication technologies, innovation and organisational change, particularly in the contexts of e-government and e-democracy. Investigating the online and offline contexts of day-to-day democracy as
more » ... rticipation spaces Abstract Citizen-led participation in democracy is explored through studying the online and offline spaces where people work together to influence those in power and improve their communities. The concept of a participation space is introduced to describe these contexts. The spatial theme guides the research, from literature, through methodology, to findings. Case studies of three community/ activist groups provide the data to identify participation spaces and model these as Socio-Technical Interaction Networks (STINs) (Kling, McKim, & King, 2003) . These participation spaces include social media, email, and blogs, as well as paper media and offline spaces, such as rooms. The STIN models of these participation spaces reveal that the characteristics which influence their use for participation are the same for online and offline spaces. These can be understood in terms of spatial characteristics: the spaces' perceived boundaries and inhabitants, combined with ownership and access, including costs. As well as recording the roles of these spatial characteristics, the participation space models map the dayto-day activities of participation. Collating these activities reveals that participation primarily takes the form of communication: organising and increasing solidarity, sharing information, encouraging involvement, and trying to influence events. The models also reveal that most of these activities are nonpublic. This socio-technical study describes the relationship between the activities of local, grassroots democracy and the characteristics of the online and offline spaces where it takes place.
doi:10.1080/1369118x.2018.1469656 fatcat:bbe6hmkwdbb7fpxbi6fexvqbmy