Category:Online Participation

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Definition

Online participation is any kind of voluntary activity that is aimed at a collective good and that makes at least some use of the Internet.

The focus of this wiki is on a particular subset of online participation, namely online participation in decision-making. Such participation might occur in the context of political decisions (e.g. budget consultations) as well as in other contexts such as for-profit organizations or NGOs. In this specific context online participation is defined as the involvement of those who are affected by a decision in the decision-making process with at least some use of internet technology.

Defining online participation

It is important to note that there is not yet a standard definition of online participation in the academic literature. Most definitions of online participation would accept that:

  • it describes an activity
  • it requires some form of publicness (even though it might not be public to everyone but just to some group)
  • it needs to be voluntary
  • it needs to have a significant online component

There is controversy on questions such as

  • Is it limited to politics (or certain topics)?
  • Is it limited to decision making processes?
  • Are only those affected by the topic of the participation of interest?
  • Is it always collective?

The definition outlined above is very broad. In particular it does not explicitly limit online participation to specific

  • initiators: participation can be organized bottom up as well as top-down
  • topics: participation is not fixed on certain topics (e.g. politics)
  • structures: participation can be formally structured and centrally organised as well as self-organised and unstructured
  • efforts: participation entails activities with low as well as high effort/involvement
  • collective action: participation can take place collectively as well as by individual activity
  • publicness: participation can take place in public as well as within groups
  • online: online participation can take place exclusively online as well as in combination with offline activities


Other definitions of (online) participation

Rowe and Frewer(2004:512) "Public participation may be defined at a general level as the practice of consulting and involving members of the public in the agenda-setting, decision-making, and policy-forming activities of organizations or institutions responsible for policy development."

Gadras and Greffet (2014:262) focus on online political participation and define it as: "any type of online activity, either individual or collective, which expands the involvement of people in politics and/or questions politics, whether this is linked or not with a direct effect on public affairs."

Kneuer (2016) offers a two-dimensional approach distinguish top-down from bottom-up forms of online participation (e-participation) on four different levels: e-information, e-dialogue, e-monitoring and e-decision-making