Designing E-Participation Processes and Platforms for Multistakeholder Internet Governance: Perceptions, Politics, and Practices in ICANN's Implementation of IdeaScale
23 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017 Last revised: 15 Aug 2017
Date Written: March 31, 2017
e-Participation platforms for policy deliberation have been sought to facilitate more inclusive discourse, consensus building, and effective engagement of the public. Since many internet governance deliberations are global, distributed, multistakeholder and often not formally binding, the promise of e-participation platforms is multiplied. Yet, the effectiveness of implementation of such platforms, both in traditional and multistakeholder policy deliberation, is up for debate. The results of such initiatives tend to be mixed and literature in the field has criticized excessive focus on technical solutions, highlighting the tension between expectations and actual outcomes. Previous research suggests that the utility and effectiveness of these platforms depends not only on their technical design features, but also on the dynamic interactions of technical choices with community or organizational practices, including “politics of participation” (i.e., the power relations among stakeholders and the dynamics of their interactions). We argue the importance of unpacking the interactions between technical capacities, and organizational practices and politics in emergent e-participation tactics for internet governance deliberations.
To better understand the tension between expectations and outcomes of e-participation tools in internet governance deliberations, and to unpack the practices and politics of participation, we offer a case study of ICANN’s use of the IdeaScale platform to crowdsource multistakeholder strategies between November 2013 and January 2014. To the best of our understanding this is one of the first empirical investigations of e-participation in internet governance. This is an ongoing project, building on our own previous work presented at CHI 2016 on the impacts of crowdsourcing platforms on inclusiveness, authority, and legitimacy of global internet governance multistakeholder processes.
Empirically, we draw on interviews with organizers and users of the ICANN IdeaScale implementation (currently underway), coupled with analysis of their activity on the platform. Conceptually, we draw on crowdsourcing and e-participation literature and apply Aitamurto and Landemore’s (2015) five design principles for crowdsourced policymaking processes and platforms to evaluate ICANN’s system-level processes and impacts of the IdeaScale platform design on participant engagement, deliberative dynamics, and process outcomes. Our paper will conclude with design recommendations for crowdsourcing processes and technical recommendations for e-participation platforms used within non-binding, multistakeholder policy deliberation forums.
Keywords: e-Participation, crowdsourcing, internet governance, multistakeholderism, ICANN, IdeaScale
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