The ever-changing digital landscape continues to open up possibilities and debate about the most meaningful and effective ways to approach public involvement. The reality is that digital media, and particularly online technology, introduces innovative ways to consult and engage people in governance systems. The intersection of technology and democracy also presents all sorts of new challenges with creating safe, secure, effective and informed participation.
As with any interaction between two unique disciplines, a lot of the resources exploring e-democracy and online deliberation hone in on aspects of the technology relative to democracy, or vice versa. For example, there is ample research exploring the potential for e-technology (i.e. discussion boards, instant messaging, web conference, social media and virtual environments) to support consultation and engagement practices. As the field develops, there is a growing understanding of e-democracy as its own conceptualization and, as a result, its own field of study. For example, there is more and more research on specific concepts, such as e-petitioning, webcasting and liveblogging council and committee meetings, and crowd sourcing solutions to local issues.
The ubiquitous nature of online technology has also created an opportunity to explore public involvement outside of the traditional lens of democracy. In other words, technology makes it possible to invite public involvement on local issues through the preferred lens of the stakeholder, without necessary framing it in the context of politics or democracy. This noticing is being explored as an opportunity to increase public involvement and as a challenge to increasing the profile and value of governance systems.
A few of the most generous resources exploring e-democracy and online deliberation include:
- E- Democracy: An online public space using online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities and build democracy.
- E‐democracy Handbook from the City of Bristol, United Kingdom.
- Promising practices in online engagement from the Center for Advances in Public Engagement.
- The challenge of increasing civic engagement in the digital age from the Time Warner Cable Research Program on Digital Communications.