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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Technologies of Civic Participation (PGSP11390)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryTCPs have been defined as distributed, networked, inter-operable, digital innovations that facilitate the open discovery and sharing of information and the organisation of individuals for collective action. The focus of this course is on understanding the current and potential uses of new TCPs by citizens and policy-makers in responding to mundane, everyday threats to social resilience (e.g. street crime, problems with community service delivery, environment, health, etc.), and appreciating how these activities (e.g. monitoring, informing, reporting) are linked to everyday life in the community. Through access to participants of the ¿Reading the Riots Project¿, an in-depth case study will be developed to explore how the police, other organisations and individuals used Twitter as they responded to this event. The course also includes delivery of a hands-on tutorial on use of Remote Event Analysis (mapping conflicts, disasters, elections and other events) with Online and Social Media Data. This 10 credits course provides students with skills to (1) compare and interpret different visions (optimistic and critical) on technologies of civic participation; (2) understand in detail the difference in their use when put to the service of citizen or adopted by policy makers (3) monitor social media data streams by using social media monitoring tools.
Course description Week 1 Visions of Technologies of Civic Participation
Some observers argue that new TCPs have the capacity to empower individual citizens and communities, creating a new ¿public sphere¿ where they can engage directly with politicians, public sector organisations and services, help influence policy, shape practice and monitor delivery (Chadwick, 2008; 2011). There is mixed evidence to date of how the potential of new technologies of civic participation may be realized. More problematic for the optimistic vision articulated above is the recent use of Twitter feeds to propagate ¿hate speech¿ and intimidate high-profile feminists in the UK, demonstrating the potential of TCPs for harm and disempowerment. The new technology capacities can be used for very different social purposes. This draws our attention to how technologies are appropriated and used by particular groups.
Week 2 Putting new tools to the service of citizens
In this week we will analyse whether there is evidence that citizens and communities may be represented and empowered or disempowered through the use of TCPs. The precise character of the form of social relational ordering through TCPs ¿as the local world unfolds¿ will be a key concern. Through discussion of real life case studies, students will begin to learn the practical lessons for realising promises of citizen and community representativeness and empowerment through TCPs, assess its potential impact and understand its wider implications for civil society, citizen engagement, agency and deliberative democracy

Week 3 Policy Use of Technologies of Civic Participation

Week 4 Tutorial: Remote Event Analysis

This tutorial is devoted to the remote analysis of events. When Twitter changed its byline in 2009 from "What are you doing" to "What's happening" it acknowledged a transition in its use and value to a news and event-following one. Indeed there is a growing literature on the relationship between social media and events, often focusing on conflicts and disasters as well as formal political events like elections. But what do events look like online, and how does one follow them analytically? Students will be introduced to use of a set of tools to extend the research into the blogosphere, online newssphere, discussion lists and forums, folksonomies as well as search engine behavior (see These tools include scripts to scrape web, blog, news, image and social bookmarking search engines, as well as simple analytical machines that output data sets as well as graphical visualizations. As well as allowing students to get started in using with social media monitoring tools, this basic tutorial will lead to ¿device critiques¿ - exercises in deconstructing the consequences of social media monitoring tools and debating about the value and reputation of information.

Week 5 Case Study: Reading the Riots

In this week we will host a guest lecture from members of the Reading the Riots project:
The guest lecture will explore in technical detail how social media monitoring tools have been applied around the riots to explore how the police, other organisations and individuals used Twitter as they responded to this events.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 21/09/2015
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 98 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. will develop a critical understanding the range of theories, principles and concepts available to assess evidence deriving from monitoring digitally derived internet data, recognizing its strengths and limitations in comparison to other ways of apprehending citizen needs;
  2. will develop the capacity to make best use of the results of digital data analytics for service design, marketing and institutional reputation management
  3. will develop the capacity to identify, access and commission on-line data analytics tools and services appropriate to their needs
  4. will develop the critical skills needed to appreciate the practical benefits and limitations of digital data for organizational decision-making
  5. will develop the critical skills needed to understand when and how to procure social media data analytics services and how to combine them with existing knowledge practice
Reading List
Boczowski, P. (2010). The Divergent Online News Preferences of Journalists and Readers. Communication of the ACM, 53(11), 24-26.
Bright, N., Nicholls, T. (2014). The Life and Death of Political News: Measuring the Impact fo the Audience Agenda Using Online Data. Social Science Computer Review, 32(2), 170-181.
Bruns, A. (2006). Wikinews: The Next Generation of Online News? Scan Journal 3(1).
Chadwick, A. (2008). Web 2.0: New challenges for the study of e-democracy in an era of informational exuberance. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society (ISJLP) 5: 9.
Chadwick, A. (2011). Explaining the Failure of an Online Citizen Engagement Initiative: The Role of Internal Institutional Variables, Journal of Information Technology & Politics 8, no. 1: 21-40.
Chun, S.A., Shulman, S., Sandoval, R., & Hovy, E. (2010). Government 2.0: Making connections between citizens, data and government, Information Polity, 15, no.1: 1-9.
Dunleavy, Patrick (2010) New worlds in political science. Political Studies, 58 (1). pp. 239-265. ISSN 0032-3217
Edwards, A., Housley, W., Williams, M.L. Sloan, L., & Williams, M. (2013). Digital Social Research and the Sociological Imagination: Surrogacy, Augmentation and Re-orientation, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16:2.
Lansdall-Welfare, T, Lampos, V & Cristianini, N (2012), ¿Effects of the Recession on Public Mood in the UK¿. in: Mining Social Network Dynamics (MSND) session on Social Media Applications in News and Entertainment (SMANE) at WWW '12. ACM, pp. 1221 ¿ 1226.
Liste Munoz, Lucia Munoz; de Soysa, Indra. (2011) The Blog vs. Big Brother: New and Old Information Technology and Political Repression, 1980¿2006. International Journal of Human Rights. volum 15 (8).
M. Mendoza, B. Poblete, and C. Castillo. (2010) Twitter under crisis: Can we trust what we rt? In 1st Workshop on Social Media Analytics (SOMA ¿10). ACM Press, July 2010.
Procter, R., Crump, J., Karstedt, S., Voss, A., & Cantijoch, M. (2013b). Reading the riots: what were the police doing on Twitter? Policing and Society, (ahead-of-print), 1-24.


Link to the missed call campaign:
Recent ¿Internet, Policy & Politics¿ Conference:
Us initiative to explore use of TCPs in Government:
Relevant Journal:
Policy and Internet Special issue on the potentials and challenges of big data:

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Robin Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 6387
Course secretaryMiss Jade Birkin
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659
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