One of my main concerns about current applications for collaborative governance and participation is their high costs of engagements. They are still designed for people that are really interested. In a way, we can compare these applications to the classic game platforms, such as XBOX and Playstation, which are designed for hard-core gamers, while new platforms such as WII and IPHONE games aim to involve the casual player. We need the WII of participation!

To be fair, web2 applications have already made huge steps in making e-participation tools easier and more usable, but still work needs to be done to engage “the second wave of users” (as Lee Bryant commented in one recent workshop at IPTS).
Therefore, research is needed to make participations easier, less costly, more interesting and relevant.

CONTEXT AWARENESS could significantly reduce the costs of participation, and facilitating it. We should not expect people to suddenly become participative citizens because it is a good in itself, but because it is practically useful in each specific situation (the long tail of participation). In terms of the previously mentioned “double dividend”, this could both dramatically increase the rate of participation, and provide interesting technological developments as context awareness is very much an innovation field of ICT at this stage (it is one of the features of web3.0, for some).

Context can have very different determining variables. Depending on my current situation (where I am, what I am doing, what I am reading etc.), I should be offered information on specific decisions being taken that could affect me.
1. For example, LOCATION-BASED participation services could be provided, so that when entering a public space (a park, a library…) I am informed of the changes that have been proposed (a proposal to reduce the number of art-books in the library). I could provide my view on the spot, both qualitative (suggestions) and quantitative (voting). I could also see what other users suggested and commented about the service I am using.
2. Another way to ensure context-awareness is through TASTE-SHARING tools. Just as Amazons builds on users’ data to suggest new books (customer who bought this also bought), e-participation tools such as debategraph could suggest “policy issues”: :citizens who engaged in this discussion also were interested in”. This makes it possible to leverage users’ intelligence to ensure better relevance (and less costs) of participation. Technologically, this requires algorithms that build patterns out of users behaviour.

Certainly these tools require better structured data to ensure interoperability, in a way or another, so that information such as taste, choices, location is made available across platforms. A specific pet idea of mine is to develop microformats for ratings of public services so that citizens’ ratings are made available across platforms.

Does this make any sense to you?

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