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The sociodynamics of online political
behaviour: the case of lapetition.be
Jonathan Bright, Scott Hale,
Helen Margetts (OII)
Jean-Benoit Pilet, Laura Sudulich,
Sandra Bermudez (ULB)
Voluntary Participation in Civic Tech
• Voluntary participation
• Network good -> more
participation = better
• Collective outcome of
some benefit to
community itself
Nielsen: “In most online communities, 90% of
users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of
users contribute a little, and 1% of users
account for almost all the action.”
Voluntary Participation in Civic Tech
Problem?
• Site relies on a relatively small amount of
people -> vulnerability
• Harder to claim outcomes are
“representative” -> important for petition
sites etc.
• Hence: need to know more about why one off
users or lurkers become regular users of a site
Large French language
petitions website
Data 2006-2015
~2 million petition
signers, ~8,000 creators
Anonymised
Number of petitions signed
Question
• What turns a one off user into a regular user?
• Two hypotheses:
– Inherent characteristics of user
– Experience with the website / activity
User characteristics
• Desire to participate may be inherent, or
motivated by factors beyond website’s control
• Huge variety of potential factors: demographics,
personality, life experience
• Can be expressed through the idea of a
“threshold” (Granovetter)
– Some people like joining in more than others
• H1: regular users will typically also be ones who
sign smaller / minority petitions
• H2: petition creators (starters) are more likely to
sign other petitions
Experience with site
• However website experience may also play a
role
– How effective was the petition?
• H3 Signing a successful petition will make you
more likely to sign another
• H4 Creating a successful petition will make
you more likely to sign another
User characteristics
Good evidence that petition creators sign more
Some evidence that very regular signers also
have lower thresholds
Site experience
Weak positive relationship between first
interaction and subsequent revisiting (do
signers know about subsequent success)
Conclusions & Next steps
• Some evidence that both inherent
characteristics of users and site experience
make a difference in terms of explaining
participation
• But lots left to explain -> further work on
demographics, survey instruments,
characteristics of website itself

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The sociodynamics of online political behaviour: the case of lapetition.be by Jonathan Bright (Oxford Internet Institute)

  • 1. The sociodynamics of online political behaviour: the case of lapetition.be Jonathan Bright, Scott Hale, Helen Margetts (OII) Jean-Benoit Pilet, Laura Sudulich, Sandra Bermudez (ULB)
  • 2. Voluntary Participation in Civic Tech • Voluntary participation • Network good -> more participation = better • Collective outcome of some benefit to community itself
  • 3. Nielsen: “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.” Voluntary Participation in Civic Tech
  • 4. Problem? • Site relies on a relatively small amount of people -> vulnerability • Harder to claim outcomes are “representative” -> important for petition sites etc. • Hence: need to know more about why one off users or lurkers become regular users of a site
  • 5. Large French language petitions website Data 2006-2015 ~2 million petition signers, ~8,000 creators Anonymised
  • 7. Question • What turns a one off user into a regular user? • Two hypotheses: – Inherent characteristics of user – Experience with the website / activity
  • 8. User characteristics • Desire to participate may be inherent, or motivated by factors beyond website’s control • Huge variety of potential factors: demographics, personality, life experience • Can be expressed through the idea of a “threshold” (Granovetter) – Some people like joining in more than others • H1: regular users will typically also be ones who sign smaller / minority petitions • H2: petition creators (starters) are more likely to sign other petitions
  • 9. Experience with site • However website experience may also play a role – How effective was the petition? • H3 Signing a successful petition will make you more likely to sign another • H4 Creating a successful petition will make you more likely to sign another
  • 10. User characteristics Good evidence that petition creators sign more Some evidence that very regular signers also have lower thresholds
  • 11. Site experience Weak positive relationship between first interaction and subsequent revisiting (do signers know about subsequent success)
  • 12. Conclusions & Next steps • Some evidence that both inherent characteristics of users and site experience make a difference in terms of explaining participation • But lots left to explain -> further work on demographics, survey instruments, characteristics of website itself