Empowering Online Idea Management for Civic Engagement with Public Displays and Social Networking Services

PhD Candidate Jorge Augusto Saldivar Galli

April 28, 2017
Versione stampabile

Time: April 28, 2017, h. 11:00 am
Location: Room Ofek, Polo scientifico e tecnologico “Fabio Ferrari”, Building Povo 1 - Povo (Trento)

PhD Candidate

Dr. Jorge Augusto Saldivar Galli

Abstract of Dissertation

Idea Management (IM) is the process of requesting, collecting, selecting and evaluating ideas to develop new and innovative products, services or regulations, or to improve existing ones. The process is supported by dedicated Idea Management systems (IMS), which lets people propose ideas, as well as rate and place comments on other users’ suggestions. When used in the civic domain, IM serves as a tool to engage citizens in processes of innovation of public services, laws, and regulations. A key ingredient in the success of IM is the community of participants. The larger the community, the more diverse views are likely to appear. Diversity of views increases the chances of discovering valuable ideas that can lead to innovations. However, having a large number of people participating in IMS is a hard challenge; it requires an understanding of the people and their needs, as well as designing the proper technology to match the characteristics of users and purpose of the community.

In this thesis, we aim at involving the society at large into IM processes. Achieving this ambitious goal requires transforming IMS into people’s everyday life tools. We understand that civic engagement tools should be more pervasive than they are today, should engage people on their own terms, and should be readily available. We meet these requirements by proposing an approach that integrates IMS into common physical and virtual spaces of participation enabling people to participate in IM using ordinary tools and without having to step outside their daily habits.

In a systematic and extensive study of the literature about technologies used to foster civic engagement in innovation processes, we found that the choice of technology and its “situatedness” is essential in granting ease of public access and promoting inclusive processes of civic engagement. We also discovered that civic engagement technologies still have room to improve their use of multiple channels of participation. In this regard, we saw social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as having a strong potential to lower participation barriers and engage citizens, considering how pervasive these sites are today as daily tools.

We show how the lessons learned can be applied in practice by presenting two solutions to increase participation in IMS. The first solution is a platform that extends IMS by integrating them into displays located in public spaces. From this experience, we found that taking the right instruments to where people actually are is important to address specific inequalities regarding access to technology. We also saw that the display represented for citizens not only an opportunity to make their voice being heard but also an occasion for socialization. The second solution is a model and tool that empower IMS through Facebook services. Here we found that the integration with Facebook facilitated participation by reducing the friction related to getting informed and involved in IM. Also, the participants reported that the familiarity and easy to use of Facebook features represented an advantage for participation. We informed the design of both solutions with large- and medium-scale data analysis studies on the behavior (individual and collective), practices, and motivation factors of IM communities' participants.