Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

New Survey Research Paper

Read the Full Paper

In this paper we report data collected through a survey of 1,553 recent participants in regulatory rulemaking public comment processes. Our analysis focuses on the differences between those who used newly available electronic tools and those who mailed or faxed letters on paper and also between those who submitted original letters and those who submitted a version of a mass-mailed form letter. We first discuss current research and theory developing around the issue of electronic rulemaking and online policy deliberation. Next we provide background on the particular rulemakings from which our sample of survey respondents was drawn. After describing the survey methodology, we focus on three types of findings: 1) the absence of a significant difference in discursive practices between electronic and paper commenters, 2) the presence of unexpectedly high levels of discursive engagement across all survey respondents, and 3) the significant differences between respondents who submitted original comments and those who submitted form letters. Finally, we conclude with discussion of the implications of our findings and suggestions for further research.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

Whither Deliberation?

Imagine if I stood up at this professional meeting and said:

“If only Information Technology had been used to facilitate online dialogue and deliberation with the ENEMY, Al Queda, prior to 9.11, we might have resolved our differences. We might all have come to better understand the other sides’ point of view. We might have collaborated to find a better solution than mass murder.”

If I said such a thing, aside from thinking I was insane you probably would howl and hiss in a manner not often seen at such meetings. But, if instead I said:

“If only Information Technology could be better used to facilitate online dialogue and deliberation with the ENEMY, (say, Industry, Government, the environmentalists, Ralph Nader, or whomever), we might have resolved our differences. We might all have come to better understand the other sides’ point of view. We might have collaborated to find a better solution than, say, allowing a suboptimal dose of mercury pollution into our nation’s air that may ultimately harm or kill more people than died on September 11th, 2001.”

A few observers might endorse the second argument. Some would call it democracy’s technological cutting edge. That is, the potential in the United States for information technology and Internet-enhanced participation in the notice and comment process to become widely distributed, reflexive, transparent, information rich, asynchronous, low-cost, and meaningful. Others openly hope for a regulatory rulemaking system free of the exercise of power, intimidation, deception, single-mindedness, and other forms of even more commonplace treachery. In a word, the second argument is about transformation.

Read the full set of remarks

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

Mass E-mail Campaigns

Mass E-mail Campaigns May Do More Harm Than Good

Report: Internet is shifting how public participates in regulatory process

PITTSBURGH—Groups that send out tens or hundreds of thousands of similar e-mails seeking to influence government regulations may be "inadvertently petitioning themselves into obscurity," according to a new report by a University of Pittsburgh professor. "The assumption has been that the more people participate in the policy-making process, the more they'll be listened to," said Stuart W. Shulman, assistant professor of information sciences and public administration at Pitt and senior research associate in Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research. "The fact may be that the more they participate in mass e-mail campaigns—without creating substantive, detailed, specific new information relevant to a decision—the lower the agency estimates the role of the public to be over time."

Read the full press release or the full report

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