Co-Shaping Smart Cities: Participation Inequalities in Civic Crowdsourcing

Co-Shaping Smart Cities: Participation Inequalities in Civic Crowdsourcing

Bastiaan Baccarne (imec-mict-UGent, Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Product Design, Ghent University, Kortrijk, Belgium) and Lieven De Marez (imec-mict-UGent, Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJUPSC.2021070103
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This paper studies participation divides on civic crowdsourcing platforms in a smart city context, hybrid applications of distributed urban innovation management, and new modes of digital citizenship, often applied to co-shape future urban environments. However, the emergence of new participatory instruments also brings new digital inequalities, as their adoption is not distributed equally. Hence, from an explicitly interdisciplinary perspective, this article explores the role of civic engagement, digital inequalities, and opinion leadership in understanding differences in participatory behavior on such platforms. Using a regression model (N = 178), this study shows that participation differences on civic crowdsourcing platforms are explained by opinion leadership and political engagement, but not by community engagement, traditional digital inequalities. This reveals that such platforms are used most by those who were already participating and have high levels of expertise, which sheds a light on the potential empowerment of such platforms and its democratic implications.
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Civic Crowdsourcing

Civic crowdsourcing can be positioned on the crossroads between two driving forces. The first is the changing nature of civil society, democracy and the political system. While there is quite some academic literature with a rather pessimistic undertone, concluding democracy is in a crisis (e.g. Putnam, 2000), other authors, focus on new forms of civic engagement, social movements and other exponents of lifestyle politics (Dahlgren, 2003). Research in this domain often focuses on the abilities of web 2.0 to empower citizens and on a new (bottom-up) form of political engagement (Castells, 2000). On the other hand, governments have also started adopting open government principles (Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderwijk, 2012), positioning themselves as a platform, facilitating and supporting other societal actors in the delivery of civic tasks, services and infrastructure (Janssen & Estevez, 2013; O’Reilly, 2011).

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