Can Online Forums Be Designed to Empower Local Communities?
There has been a growing concern regarding political disengagement among citizens within western representative democracies. This concern has brought about calls for local communities to be empowered by giving citizens more control over local decision making. The objective of this paper is to examine if local political online forums can be built to empower local communities. That is to say, this paper will test if the E-Democracy.org’s Local Issues Forum Guidebook recommendations (A to do list for building successful online forums) actually work and produce forums which facilitate citizens to have a greater say on local decision making and thus, induce empowerment. In order to test these recommendations a two-pronged methodological approach was taken. Firstly, using these recommendations an online forum was constructed in-conjunction with a local authority within the UK. Secondly, the recommendations were tested again except in this second approach a sample of online forums from around the world was examined. This paper argues that the E-Democracy.org’s recommendations do not always produce forums which empower local communities - Based on lessons learned from both experiments new guidelines are provided.
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