Online Participation

My former job at University of Düsseldorf dealt with new forms of cooperation in organziation enabled through new communication technologies. A thrilling topic so that I’ll keep some information about this on the website although the topic is not central to my research interests.

The global spread of new information and communication technologies (NICT) profoundly changes human interaction. The development of Web 2.0 technologies enables direct and unmediated interactions between large groups of people. These technologies are increasingly used by political parties (e-Participation), government agencies (e-Government) or business corporations (Enterprise 2.0) to improve services, knowledge generation (i.e. wikis), and decision making. The basic idea is that including large number of participants into decision making processes will (1) increase acceptance of decisions and (2) improve the overall quality of outcomes. The rationale behind this argument is known as “wisdom of the crowd”. It says that diversity in knowledge, ideas, and interests will ultimately lead to solutions that are superior to expert or parliamentary decision making. NICTs potentially provide the technological infrastructure to enable cooperation of large and heterogeneous groups.

In practice, online-based participation has to deal with important challenges. First of all, individuals have to be motivated to participate. Second, as online participation works transversal to organizational hierarchies, it might challenge the power relations within organization. This might create resistance to its use. Third, the technical infrastructure has to be secured against manipulations of postings and votings.

The interdisciplinary research group “online-based cooperative decision making” at University of Düsseldorf studies which factors contribute to successful online participation. In particular, it answers the question how technical infrastructures have to be designed and which social devices are necessary for online decision making.

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