A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation at TICTEC, mySociety‘s inaugural research conference on the impact of civic technology. It was an inspiring event with so many presentations from different organisations trying to make a difference in countries all over the world.
There were a few academics there and hopefully we added some value too. I gave a presentation on a current project we are running with ULB exploring the dynamics of the website lapetition.be.
It was interesting however to see how differently academia and civic tech conceptualise research, with us academics coming in for some stick for taking years to produce research which makes it difficult to integrate into the development of new tools. But there were also lots of good examples of researchers working with civic tech organisations to try out new ways of reaching people or do research on impact – this sort of stuff is the future of political science in my opinion.
Ofcom has just released a report on measuring online news consumption and supply, which I contributed to. It tackles the question of how to meaningfully measure the size of a news outlet’s audience in the digital age. This is a key issue for a regulator, in for example deciding whether to allow a takeover, and it’s also one that’s far from clear now that a lot of news consumption takes place online.
The report examines all sorts of different metrics which regulators could use, from amount of visitors to the website and time on page to amount of social sharing. It also highlights that while the best metric isn’t clear the detail offered is considerably better than what could be achieved in the offline age, and hence the digital environment also presents the opportunity to really understand audience behaviour as never before.
Read the report here.
I recently had the chance to review Cristian Vaccari’s excellent new book Digital Politics in Western Democracies. Vaccari has assembled a great cross country comparative dataset on various indicators relating to politics and the internet, and provides a refreshing contrast to work which has been largely US centric so far. Have a look at the review here.