Public Participation 2.0

“Doing Public Participation on the Geospatial Web” explores how the Geoweb has altered public participation. In particular, the layouts and algorithms of Geoweb applications have the power to structure and influence public engagement. Do these forms of engagement support democratic ideals, or do they lull us into complacency as freedoms erode? Filter bubbles applied to many online queries limit our exposure to different opinions and perspectives, reinforcing our own beliefs, and removing us from the broader discussion. In my opinion, the creation of these online ghettos of thought facilitates citizen two citizen dialogue among like minded people but has the potential to undercut the interaction of people with differing or opposing points of you from meaningfully engaging with one another. What’s more, anonymity removes accountability for what is shared on online fora and can hamper respectful dialogue among online contributors. The elitist attitudes that this can consolidate deeply undermine the inclusive nature of democracy.
Nevertheless, the Geobweb allows its user to stay ‘plugged in’. It provides a medium of expression for those that may not be comfortable in face-to-face discussions; the anonymity it provides can empower individuals who would otherwise stay disengaged.
Similar to high school civics classes, I think we need to teach and explain the implications of online engagement, outlining its obligations, rights and responsibilities. We need to upgrade to civics 2.0.
The influence of the Geoweb on public participation is complicated. It presents challenges and opportunities for democracy, but more research is needed to fully characterize it.

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