Talking to imagined citizens: Why share information when no-one talks back?

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for a long time: the old eparticipation problem of lurkers.  I described the challenges of understanding posting to a non-responsive audience in blog posts here and here, back in 2017, when I was getting my thoughts together. (Academic writing and publication is not a fast process.)

One of my very first areas of academic research dealt with the transition from lurking to engagement with epetitioning systems.

This paper takes a different perspective: why (and when) do representatives share information even when they know there will be no response? That is, what is the response by democratic practitioners to the problem of lurkers? It turns out that feeling of duty and acting out their role as a representative are a significant motivation here. (That is, there is no expectation of a payback).

This paper takes an information science approach (specifically information practice), and I co-authored it with Prof Hazel Hall, who was able to turn it into a much clearer piece of writing, as well as adding her own perspectives and deep knowlege of the LIS domain. You can find her write up of the work here.

The theoretical development is to introduce the idea of information sharing by proxy: that is, extending the understanding of how and when people share information to include the idea of the duty to share because no-one else has done so yet.

The article has been accepted for publication by Information Research (they really need to invest in an HTTPS certificate), but author’s copies can already be downloaded from here at Napier document repository.


About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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