In order to have a successful democratic society, citizens need to be fully engaged. This can be demonstrated by looking at the following:
In order to have a successful democratic society, citizens need to be fully engaged. This can be demonstrated by looking at the following:
In order for online participation to be a fully successful and supportive medium for democratic engagement, people must not only be motivated but also have the necessary access to do so. There is concern that the digital divide may serve to magnify political inequalities (Jensen et al., 2007). Access to the internet makes it easier to take part in democratic processes, but an estimated 12.5 million people do not have access to the internet (Williamson, 2010.) Of those who do have access to the internet, a large proportion lack the skills to seek, locate and interpret information.
A number of examples of library schemes from around the world have been identified, which suggests that many libraries perceive themselves as having a role to play in fostering democratic engagement in citizens. Eric Moon (no date, in Sparanese, A. in Lewis, A., 2008: 77) argues that in order to survive and remain relevant, libraries must choose to be “a significant thread in the social fabric, an active participant in social change or to face an inevitable passage toward irrelevance, possible extinction or an existence as some kind of grey historical relic”; a point echoed by Percival (2008). It is considered vital for libraries to serve citizens according to their needs, including the need to be informed about political and social issues. Public libraries are widely considered central to, and a product of, modern democracy (UNESCO, 1949), supporting an informed democracy by acting as “purveyors of fact” and an arena for cultural participation (MLA, 2005). IFLA (1973 in Kranich, 2001) posits that libraries are “a democratic institution for education, culture and information”. Cronenberger (no date, in Mason, no date) states that “the key element in a democracy is an informed citizenry; and that is the task of libraries”. Madsen (2009: 10) argues that libraries can help encourage citizens to engage politically and be active in democracy and cites the Swedish project 'The library as democratic hothouse' as a strong example. Samek (2008: 531) lists the ways in which librarians around the world engage in “persuasion and consensus building” through efforts such as petitions, manifestos, resolutions, rallies, boycotts, alternative conference programmes, publishing, lobbying and daily information exchange, all of which are strategies to address inequities and contribute to democratic engagement and functioning democracies. Hill (2009: 39) suggests that libraries have a unique role to play in the physical as well as online environment, with library use increasing instead of declining following the advent of the internet, in contrast to popular belief. She suggests that the role of libraries as “organizers and keepers of information access” is a social role with the potential to build communities and support engagement, asserting the Foucauldian notion that documents help to create and negotiate social space, enabling the development of groups and discussions.
The community 'democracy hubs' referred to by The Power Inquiry (2006: 254) were envisaged in 1920s America by William Learned, who pictured “public libraries as community information centers [sic] at the hub of creating an informed citizenry (Preer, 2008: 7). Kranich (2001) succinctly expresses the potential role of public libraries in supporting and encouraging democratic engagement, arguing that libraries provide a community commons, where people can find and express differing opinions on public questions, and arguing that through the support of trained library staff, citizens learn how to “find, evaluate and use the information essential for making decisions that affect the way we live, learn, work, and govern ourselves”. In response to a recent article on the Comment Is Free section of the Guardian newspaper website, a librarian commented about the work he/she does to support democratic engagement: “ I helped a person who can barely read register to vote. Without me, they couldn't have participated in our democracy. I hold sessions for people to give their views on local & national government consultations because libraries are one of the few places that hold copies of physical documents and also have computers to submit an online response. The library is a meeting space for the local walking group and Neighbourhood Forum meetings as well as out of hours computer training. It's also the venue for our local councillor drop in service as well as our PCSOs and MP.” (Unknown, 2010)
1. Making Public Information Meaningful: libraries and democratic engagement in the digital age Lauren Smith PhD Research Student University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland [email_address] twitter: @walkyouhome BOBCATSSS Conference, Amsterdam 23 rd - 25 th January 2012
2. Considerations <ul><li>Citizenship and Democratic Engagement
3. Online Information
4. Political Information-Seeking
5. Online Engagement
6. Impacts and Barriers
7. Solutions / Interventions </li></ul>
8. Citizenship <ul><li>Citizen “one who has a share in both the ruling and being ruled” (Aristotle)
9. Status + Rights + Duties
10. “ Citizenship describes the relationship between the citizen and the state and the need for citizens to understand the political and economic processes, institutions, laws, rights and responsibilities of our democratic system.” (Institute for Citizenship, 2012)
11. “ A good democratic system attempts to ensure informed and reflective decisions.” (Sunstein, 2001) </li></ul>
12. Democratic Engagement <ul><li>“ individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern” (Tapia & Ortiz, 2010)
13. “ individual and collection involvement in public affairs” (Norris, 2001 in Tapia & Ortiz, 2010)
19. citizen engagement </li></ul></ul>Indicators of Democratic Engagement (Canadian Index of Wellbeing, 2010)
20. Democratic / Political / Civic Engagement <ul><li>Voting in elections
21. Signing petitions
22. Donating money to campaigning organisations
23. Taking part in a protest or demonstration
24. Joining a campaigning organisation
25. Joining a political party
26. Donating money to a political party </li></ul>
27. Democratic Deficit <ul><li>Democratic deficit in UK (Demos, 2008) and worldwide (Hill, 2009; Print, 2007)
28. Democratic engagement low and in decline (Hansard Society, 2009; Demos, 2008; Coleman, 2005)
29. 2010 general election turnout: 65.1% of the eligible voter population </li></ul>
30. Importance of Engagement <ul><li>Address 'democratic deficit'
31. Democratic engagement and participation fundamental to successful democratic societies (Uitermark & Duyvendak, 2008)
32. People more likely to discuss with peer groups and others
33. Increased hetereogeneity
34. Increased understanding of others' points of view
35. More realistic view of politics – disenchantment less likely (Hay, 2003) </li></ul>
36. Digital By Default <ul><li>“ Simplifying the user experience of digital public services by making all of government’s transactional services available through Directgov” (Cabinet Office) </li><ul><li>Citizens' Advice Bureau warns against “premature withdrawal of non-digital channels” (Citizens Advice Bureau, 2011)
37. Risk of “dissuading those who are not computer literate from being tax compliant”. House of Commons’ Treasury Sub-Committee, 2011, in Citizens' Advice Bureau, 2011) </li></ul></ul>
38. <ul>Citizenship Information </ul><ul>Type A (First-Principle Justiciable) 1. Electoral information 2. Legal (statutory) information 3. Etc. (essential health information?) </ul><ul>Type B (Second-Principle Justiciable) 1. Domestic political news 2. Foreign political news 3. STM information (scientific, technical, medical) 4. Etc . </ul><ul>Type C (Nonjusticiable) 1. Soft news 2. Entertainment 3. Etc. </ul><ul>(Steele, 1998 in Duff, 2011) </ul>
39. Political Information-Seeking <ul><li>40% of Internet users have looked for political news and information on the Web (Cornfield & Rainie, 2003)
40. Using internet because newspapers and television not sufficient </li></ul>Finding out where and when to vote Contributing money to a candidate Taking part in political conversations Finding out about a candidate's voting history
41. Online Engagement <ul><li>70% of respondents agree that the internet makes it easier for them to participate in civic and political activities
42. 49% agree that they would generally prefer to use the internet to participate in civic and political activities
43. Hansard Society (2010) </li></ul>
44. Benefits of Online Engagement <ul><li>Increased access to information and discussion fora
45. More convenient
46. Privacy (?)
47. Exposure to political difference: </li><ul><li>People better able to explain reasons for political opinions
48. People have increased tolerance / understanding of others’ views
49. People have better idea of distribution of public opinion – sense of legitimacy for democratic outcomes
50. (Duff, 2011) </li></ul></ul>
51. Benefits of Online Discussion <ul><li>Anonymity, testing out new identities (Borgida & Stark, 2004)
52. Discussion aids construction of self / community / culture (Turkle, 1997)
53. Greater willingness to express less socially desirable opinions (Evans et al., 2003)
54. Political discussion results in better informed decisions, changed positions (Price & Cappella, 2001)
55. Increased social trust and community participation (Price & Cappella, 2001) </li></ul>
56. Problems With Online Engagement <ul><li>Risk of selective exposure : “True democracy thrives when people seek out new information and ideas rather than information that only bolsters their current beliefs and attitudes”. (Sunstein, 2001, in Borgida & Stark, 2004) </li><ul><li>However, little evidence that people are using the Internet to actively seek or avoid political difference. (Brundidge, 2010) </li></ul><li>People with high levels of knowledge/engagement more likely to participate (Price & Cappella, 2001) </li></ul>
57. Online vs. Offline <ul><li>Just a “new way of doing old things” (Tyler, 2002) </li><ul><li>Does the internet defy what we know about 'real life' psychological & social structures? (Brundige, 2010)
58. Political psychology doesn't alter between online/offline </li></ul><li>“ An inclusive information society essentially is a society where everyone has the information that they need, digital or otherwise” (Duff, 2011) </li></ul>
59. Political Discussion Network Heterogeneity Geographical Space Communicative Space “ Political” Space Private / Public Space Brundidge (2010)
60. Information Literacy <ul><li>Information-seeking competence as a sociopolitical skill
61. Critically scrutinizing questions: </li><ul><li>Who produces what print and electronic publications, and for whom?
62. Which institutions, corporations, and individuals are supporting publishing in terms of financial and political support?
63. Who takes part in the process of information decontextualization, relocation, and recontextualization?
64. (Pawley, 2003) </li></ul></ul>
65. Information-Seeking Behaviour <ul><li>How do people look for information about political issues?
66. What forms does the information take? </li><ul><li>Newspapers
90. Public library as 'community commons' </li><ul><li>Citizens learn how to “find, evaluate and use the information essential for making decisions that affect the way we live, learn, work, and govern ourselves” (Kranich, 2001) </li></ul></ul>“ I helped a person who can barely read register to vote. Without me, they couldn't have participated in our democracy. I hold sessions for people to give their views on local & national government consultations because libraries are one of the few places that hold copies of physical documents and also have computers to submit an online response. The library is a meeting space for the local walking group and Neighbourhood Forum meetings as well as out of hours computer training. It's also the venue for our local councillor drop in service as well as our PCSOs and MP.” (Librarian commenting on Guardian website, 2010)
91. References <ul><li>Andersen, J. (2006). “The public sphere and discursive activities: information literacy as sociopolitical skills”. Journal of Documentation, 62(2), 213-228.
92. Borgida, E. & Stark, E. (2004). “New media and politics: some insights from social and political psychology”. American Behavioral Scientist , 48 (4), 467-478. http://proxy.lib.strath.ac.uk/login??url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/57120252?accountid=14116
93. Brundidge, J. (2010). “Encountering “Difference” in the Contemporary Public Sphere: The Contribution of the Internet to the Heterogeneity of Political Discussion Networks”. Journal of Communication , 60 (4), 680-700.
94. Cabinet Office (2010). The Coalition: our programme for government . London: Crown Copyright. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/409088/pfg_coalition.pdf
95. Canadian Index of Wellbeing (2010). Indicators of Democratic Engagement . Toronto: Canadian Index of Wellbeing. http://www.ciw.ca/en/TheCanadianIndexOfWellbeing/DomainsOfWellbeing/DemocraticEngagement.aspx
96. Coleman, S. (2005). “e-Democracy: what's the big idea?”. Manchester: British Council. http://www.britishcouncil.org/bc-edemocracy-2.doc
98. <ul><li>Duff, A. (2011). “The Rawls-Tawney Theorem and the Digital Divide in Postindustrial Society.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology . 62 (3), 604-612.
99. Hansard Society (2009). Audit of Political Engagement 6: Political Engagement Indicators . London: Hansard Society. http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/files/folders/1755/download.aspx
100. Hill, C. (2009). “Inside, outside & online”. American Libraries , 40 (3), 38-42.
101. Institute for Citizenship (2012) “What is Citizenship?” http://citizen.org.uk/What_is_Citizenship.htm
102. Jensen, M. Danziger, J.N. & Venkatesh, A. (2007). “Civil society and cyber society: the role of the internet in community associations and democratic politics”. The Information Society , 23 , 39-50.
103. Madsen, M.C. (2009). "The library as democratic hothouse". Scandinavian Public Library Quarterly, 42 (1), 10-11.
104. Moy, P. & Gastil, J. (2006). “Predicting deliberative conversation: the impact of discussion networks, media use, and political cognition”. Political Communication , 23 , 443-460.
105. Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (2008). Generic Social Outcomes . http://inspiringlearningforall.gov.uk/toolstemplates/genericsocial/ </li></ul>
106. <ul><li>Print, M. (2007). Citizenship education and youth participation in democracy". British Journal of Educational Studies , 55 (3), 325-345. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com.eresources.shef.ac.uk/cgi-bin/fulltext/118492668/PDFSTART
107. Sunstein, C. (2001). republic.com. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press.
108. Tapia, A. H. & Ortiz, J. A. (2010). "Network Hopes: Municipalities Deploying Wireless internet to Increase Civic Engagement". Social Science Computer Review , 28 (1), 93-117. http://ssc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/28/1/93
109. Uitermark, J. & Duyvendak, J. W. (2008). "Citizen participation in a mediated age: neighbourhood governance in The Netherlands". International Journal of Urban and Regional Research , 32 (1), 114-134. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com.eresources.shef.ac.uk/cgi-bin/fulltext/119403656/PDFSTART </li></ul>
110. Images <ul><li>Library polling station by makelessnoise on Flickr
111. Public library computer by sillygwailo on Flickr
112. Global village communications by Combined Media on Flickr
113. Scales of Justice by Citizensheep on Flickr
114. Fox News by FastFashn on Flickr
115. All images creative commons attribution licensed </li></ul>