Last weekend I participated in DrupalCamp Colorado. Some very interesting presentations and amazing to see the Drupal community grow so fast.
I know I'm kind of late to the game, but I'm finally warming up to Twitter. So during the conference I started live twittering and I liked it. Does anyone care? I'm not convinced, but other participants discovered me and ended up being a discussion starter.
Also, Beth Kanter's thoughts and experiences with live twittering at conferences keep me thinking - there's something to it, even though I feel like it's not quite there yet.
Mobile Participation (mParticipation) seems to be the next step in ePartizipation. With the rising of the iPhone and other smart phones and combined with other features like GPS and Location Based Services the expectations for new applications for are high. Consequently mobile applications amplify eParticipation in an spatial and temporal dimension. Not only at home, but also e.g. traveling in the metro, participants are enabled to read, write and follow the discussions.
While the discussion about mParticipation itself is not new, the debate about its benefits is changing with new phones and features coming out on a weekly basis. At this point, I feel the question is, what do we call mParticipation and where is the difference to what we consider eParticipation?
In my eyes, using smartphones to participate in online dialogues or consultation processes shouldn't be considered mParticipation. Technologies change and a couple of years from now I doubt there's going to be any differentiation whether citizens use desktop PCs, laptops, xBoxes, mobile devices or whatever online-enabled device comes next to participate in eParticipation projects.
Where I agree with Stefan, and feel some of the comments are coming short, is the added value mobile devices can bring to the table - the core of mParticipation. Stefan points out that
"even if SMS only offer limited possibilities (because of the restriction to 160 signs) in comparison to mobile internet devices, there are arguments for integration in participation processes. They are an easy to use feature, they are cheap, they can be integrated to web (and vice versa). Looking at demoscopic data, they even offer more advantages."The point is they are ubiquitous, basically everyone on the street carries them. This is the true value which we need to explore further - how do we best use mobile devices as points-of-entry to the main engagement offering: a short question, first statements, spatial annotations, etc. that are context-sensitive and make the connection between project and everyday life of our target audiences. And responses with further information and automatic opt-ins into a contact database are bridges that can help to turn interested passerbys into engaged participants. The design of those kinds of cross-media participation processes is still in its infancy. I barely know good examples in the field (any pointers?), but looking at the shifts going on in the marketing world, there's a lot of potential.
Finally, I believe we shouldn't get hung up in discussions about whether mParticipation is a next step (e.g. here and here), but an addition to the toolset with a lot of potential that still needs to prove its true benefits.
Today I was invited to host a webinar for the EBM Tools Network talking about our civic engagement work. I boiled down the longer presentation I usually give to leave room for a very interesting Q&A session afterwards.
My colleagues at Zebralog in Berlin have recently released a great video clip showcasing the online dialogue they hosted about the reuse of Flughafen Tempelhof, formerly Berlin's biggest inner city airport. It shows the on-site workshops they organized which accompanied the online discussion to inform and educate participants. The end of the clip demonstrates the importance of public kiosks to reach a less tech-savvy crowd and include their opinions into online processes.
A summarizing article of my research on cross-media public participation has been published in the most recent Limehouse publication. It outlines the key findings from the evaluation of two cutting-edge public participation projects in Berlin, Germany and ends with a list of recommendations for successful citizen engagement in an age of rapid technological changes and convergence of communication media.