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[liberationtech] Call for Submissions : Democracy & Society, Volume 8, Issue 2

Ayesha Chugh ac656 at hoyamail.georgetown.edu
Sun Feb 6 21:03:18 PST 2011


*Call for Submissions: Democracy & Society, Volume 8, Issue 2*

We are seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1500-2000 words on
the themes below, including summaries and/or excerpts of recently completed
research, new publications, and works in progress. Submissions for the issue
are due Friday, March 4, 2011.
*
*
*Social Media, Governance, and Political Reform*

Over the past few years, many technophiles, activists, and political
observers have been lauding the potential of social media platforms such as
Facebook, SMS, Twitter, and YouTube to improve governance and foment
political change. To date, we possess largely anecdotal data on the impact
of new media and technologies on political reform. For example, many argue
that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have played critical roles in organizing
the recent protests in Egypt, Iran, Moldova, and Tunisia. Moreover,
anecdotal evidence suggests that cell phone technologies can play an
instrumental role in revealing electoral fraud by improving election
monitoring and reporting techniques. Yet, in spite of the anecdotal evidence
that supports these developments and their use in specific instances, there
is a dearth of empirical analysis on the subject. We lack studies that trace
the causal impact of these technologies on political reform and improved
governance. As a result, a number of open questions remain. Some areas that
mandate more serious inquiry are the following:

•    Evidence of Political Change. While we know that social media can play
an important role in publicizing political activities such as protests, do
we have evidence that such actions have led to substantive political change?
Is it possible to develop a set of indicators to more effectively gauge the
impact of new technologies and media on questions of political change?

•    Technology and Governance. That social media can help coordinate large
and discrete activities, such as protests and election observation, is
clear. Is there any evidence that these technologies can help to improve
day-to-day governance and improve political accountability? Moreover, as a
transparency instrument, mobile governance relies on outflows of information
from citizens to each other, and to governments and NGOs. Therefore it is
important to consider how citizens can be persuaded to adopt such
technology. What incentives do citizens have to participate in mobile
governance, and how can new technologies be employed to complement advocacy
efforts already underway?

•    Questioning Access and the Digital Divide. Many social media
technologies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, require access to
functional Internet connections, however most people in developing countries
lack access to such technologies. Rather, the most common technology in
developing countries is a basic cell phone. Since the countries with the
worst governance tend to be the poorest ones as well, how relevant are these
advanced technologies to the people living in the countries with the worst
forms of governance?

•    Dictators versus Demonstrators. How quickly are regimes opposed to the
spread of these technologies learning how to block them and/or employ them
to suppress political dissent more effectively? For governance projects,
technical questions relating to how data will be managed, and by whom, are
worth considering. U.S. policy in this area also seems to work in
contradictory ways: while the U.S. State Department has emerged as strong
advocate for Internet freedom, the U.S. Department of Defense is building
more effective programs to monitor the use of the Internet.

•    Substitute versus Complement. Is social media a complement to direct
political action or a substitute for it? Does it pose problems to the nature
of direct political action today, and if so, how? Are people who use social
media for political purposes more likely to take direct action, such as
participating in a protest, or are virtual protests becoming
substitutes foractual ones?

This issue of *Democracy and Societ*y will take a broad and analytical
perspective to the impact of social media on political reform and improved
governance. We seek to gain leverage not on anecdotal or circumstantial
evidence of these impacts, but to demonstrate causal effect. We are also
interested in exploring how we can employ such technologies away from large
scale and discrete events, such as protests and elections, to more everyday
issues of governance. Finally, we are interested in studies that illuminate
how we can employ more modest technologies, such as SMS, to improve
governance and catalyze political change.

Please email submissions democracyandsociety at gmail.com. For additional
information, please visit www.democracyandsociety.com or contact Deborah
Brown or Ayesha Chugh at democracyandsociety at gmail.com.
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