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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Online participatory systems : a case study of a web platform for public consultation Castro Miravalles, Claudia Maria


The aim of the study was to address the issues discussed by scholars that refer to the potential and the challenges of the use of online participatory methods, and contextualize them in a case study of a web platform for public consultation. To accomplish this, first a framework was set up by conducting a literature review. This study contrasts some of the theories described in the academic literature with the empirical results of this study. Using a mixed methods approach, an online survey (N=118) and phone interviews (N=23) were conducted. The survey and interview addressed issues of satisfaction with the current experience of participating online, trade-off between transparency and privacy, governance involvement and familiarity with technology in the context of online public consultation, in the hope to learn more regarding the concerns that users have about potentially replacing more traditional methods of consultation with online methods. Based on the experience of the participants of this study, we were able to identify some of the elements that increase and decrease satisfaction when participating in public consultation online, which seems to be critical in guiding the efforts of increasing online engagement. It was also found that participants prefer features such as summary tables, graphs and pictures when presented data related to the topic consulted, and that they value having options to providing feedback on a participatory web platforms. Finally, we discuss the possibility of further research with the aims of providing participants the opportunities they look for to engage in a more nuanced way. Although this research sheds light on online behavior, it also demonstrates that this is still a field that constantly requires exploration as the interaction of internet users with participatory platforms evolves. We think that understanding how theory and practice coming into play in an empirical scenario of a public consultation web platform could help online platforms and mechanisms to not only improve online participants’ experience, but most importantly, to focus on ways to achieve the larger goals of public consultation via the Internet.

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