Category:Online Participation

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The scientific research into online participation in the Fortschrittskolleg focusses around one key question:

„Wie und unter welchen Bedingungen kann das Potential von Online-Partizipation auf kommunaler Ebene systematisch entwickelt, praktisch genutzt und wissenschaftlich evaluiert werden?“

(„How and under which circumstances can the potential of online participation be systematically developed, practically used an scientifically evaluated?“) 


four specific aspects of online participation

To answer this question, four multidisciplinary groups are formed within the Fortschrittskolleg that each investigate one specific aspect of online participation in detail:

  • understanding participants in online participation
    • this group looks at the individuals that participate in online participation processes
    • its goal is to explain why and when individuals decide to participate, how they participate and what they expect to gain from participating
  • understanding organizers of online participation
    • this group focuses on politicians and members of the administration that set-up and support online participation processes as well as companies providing such services
    • its goal is to explain how online participation can be integrated in existing processes and the legal frameworks of political and administrative decision making and what effect it has on politicians and members of the administration
  • measuring the impact of online participation
    • this group investigates metrics that are able to capture and evaluate the impact that online participation has on the participants, the organizers and the results of online participation processes
  • providing functionality for online participation
    • this group seeks to understand what functionality should be provided and how it should be provided in order to enable 'meaningful' online participation
    • see Category:Functionality for details

possible definitions of online participation

Several definitions of online participation are possible depending on the criterias you take as its basis. As of now, there is not common definition within the Fortschrittskolleg.

grant application

The definition in the grant application refers to the above mentioned key question of the Fortschrittskolleg. It reads:

„[...] umfassende  und  direkte  Beteiligung  [mittels Internet] von  Bürgerinnen  und  Bürgern  an  für  sie  relevanten politischen und administrativen Entscheidungen.“

„[...] comprehensive and direct participation [via the Internet] of citizens in political and andminitrative decisions which are relevant for them.“

Hence the key criterias are:

  • decision-making processes are involved
  • topic is politics
  • it requires participation by those affected by the decision
  • it is rooted at the local level

current discussion

Based on a discussion in the Fortschrittskolloquium and work in progress here is a first draft to conceptualise a broader definition of online participation.

Common aspects identified in our discussion are:

  • it decribes 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

More controversy remains around the following issues:

  • 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?

teaching module

An alternative (and much broader) definition, based on Tobias' teaching in the modul "Theory and Practise of Online Participation":

Online participation has the following characteristics. It is:

  1. voluntary
  2. an activity
  3. aimed at a collective (i.e. public or common) good
  4. making at least some use of the Internet.

This implies no specific

  • initiator: participation can be organized bottom up as well as top-down
  • topic: participation is not fixed on certain topics (e.g. politics)
  • structure: participation can be formally structured and centrally organised as well as self-organised and unstructured
  • effort: 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


goals of online participation

The following goals of online participation were identified in the Fortschrittskolloquium:

  • increase quality
  • increase legitimacy (i.e. acceptance)
  • increase efficiency
  • increase reach/rate of participation
  • increase inclusiveness/representativeness of participants
  • enable participation in decision-making
  • enable opinion formation

There was some discussion whether these goals could be hierarchically ordered, e.g.

  • quality
    • reach
    • inclusiveness
    • efficiency
  • legitimacy
    • inclusiveness
    • decision-making
    • opinion formation
    • (reach)