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Generally speaking, factors have certain implications in a particular context, as an important circumstance or co-determining cause.

In online participation, factors influence online participation processes on a number of levels, ranging from individuals up to organizations or institutions to states or even trans-national constructs such as the EU. Some factors may be constant for the time of measurement (i.e. the demographic characteristics of those that are invited to participate like age or income) others can be changed (i.e. the the technological functionality used for online participation).


Using the label "factors", this can be regarded as what is called "independent variable" in quantitative and qualitative social science.

There is a distinction between micro, meso and macro factors. There are some different ways to link these factors. One of the most used theoretical approach, primarly used in sociology, political science and communication studies, is the theory of methodological individualism and the frequently cited Coleman's boat. This theory will explain individual differences in social behaviour with focus on individual persons. More over, there is an alternative theory, the methodological collectivism. This theory explains social action as a collective phenomena.

Independent Variables

What influencing factors contribute to the theoretical and empirical considerations, depends on the research interest, the research questions and the hypotheses and of course, on the discipline, in social science or in others.

If, for example, the use of online participation platforms should be explained depending on sociodemography, then for example education, age, gender are used as influencing factors or as independent variables. More examples for independent variables in other contexts are motivation, hapiness, attractiveness or gender stereotypes.

Methodological Individualism and Methodological Collectivism

There are many ways to link these different and various factors. One possible way is the so called methodological individualism. Regarding Coleman's boat, macro-phenomena like the use of online-participation will be regarded exclusively as a result of individual action. Makro and collective conditions and relations are of interest against this backdrop. These makro conditions and relations.

Macro and collective states and relations are the constructs of interests. These are produced by acting individuals. This is one reason, why analysis starts on the individual level. In Aggregation of these individual actions the new social state of affairs is emerged. One example to make the methodological individualism more clear, can be found in Schnell et al. 2013, Chapter Uprisings often occur following a relative improvement in social living conditions.

Regarding the alternative theory, the methodological collectivism, macrophenomana can only be explained by other macrophenomena. According to Durkheim, social offences exists independently.

References and further Literature

Coleman, James S. (1986): Social Theory, Social Research, and a Theory of Action. In: The American Journal of Sociology 91 (6), pp. 1309–1335. Online, last check on 11/30/2016.

Durkheim, Émile (1992): Über soziale Arbeitsteilung. Studie über die Organisation höherer Gesellschaften. 1. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 1005).

Schnell, Rainer; Esser, Elke; Hill, Paul B. (2013): Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung. 10., überarb. Aufl. München [u.a.]: Oldenbourg.


This category has the following 3 subcategories, out of 3 total.


Pages in category "Factors"

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