Citizens4Citizens: Mapping Participatory Practices on the Internet

Many important forms of public participation take place in interactions between citizens. Studying these interactions is crucial for understanding e-governance, defined as steering in the public domain. The new forms of public participations can be labeled Citizens2Citizens interactions (C2C). Citizens use the Internet to facilitate policy participation (meant to support or undermine government policies), political participation (directed at influencing political decision-making and agenda-setting) and social participation (to increase social capital). Attention for these forms of digital participation coincides with the rise of a new set of Web applications which are grouped under the label ‘Web 2.0’. This paper is an attempt to conceptualize and categorize the wide variety of types and forms of C2C to provide a basis for a further development of this new research field. We do not claim that our exploration will lead to a final and complete description of C2C; we merely aim to present an overview of the diversity of forms of C2C initiatives that are taking place in the digital world. The argument we are putting forward is that new technologies offer new venues for participating and that these new practices will constitute both a replication of and an addition to existing offline practices of public participation. Our explorative research of C2C initiatives results in a map of political, policy and social participation. This map of C2C initiatives can provide insights in the variety of Internet practices and help subsequent researches in their selection of initiatives for in-depth studies. Additionally, our research results in an exploration of the implications the analyzed initiatives can have for participation in the public sector.

Albert Meijer, Nils Burger and Wolfgang Ebbers
Utrecht School of Governance, The Netherlands

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