This blog is my attempt to be professional in my social media use. I’ll write about my research and IT things that interest me professionally. I have another place to rant about cycling, spinning, politics and other things that interest me personally.
So what are my professional interests? In early 2014 finished an MSc in Information Systems Development at Edinburgh Napier university. During this, I got interested in Social Informatics – how computing affects society. I had been a community councillor in St Andrews in 2004-5, rising to the giddy height of Treasurer.
In 2012 I had two strokes of luck: firstly, I took a module on web-enabled business, led by Peter Cruickshank. Peter’s research interests around e-democracy intrigued me. Secondly, thanks to being a part-time student, I had nothing timetabled for that summer. So under Peter’s guidance I surveyed community council websites. The results were not impressive: of the 1369 potential CCs, 213 (16%) simply did not exist. 498 (36%) existed but did not have websites. 351 (26%) had websites but the material on them was out of date. That left only 307 (22%) with worthwhile websites.
Worse still, only 12% of CC websites mentioned planning, despite this being one of CCs’ main duties, while only about 10% of websites supported interaction between CCs and their citizens – most simply gave out information.
So I became interested in why this happens – what inhibits so many CCs from using the internet effectively, and what drives those that do? That became the subject of my MSc dissertation. I interviewed community councillors in Edinburgh and found that while they are driven to use the internet to keep costs down, to be more efficient, to increase their visibility and to satisfy citizen demands, they are hampered by the time-costs of maintaining internet presences and by the age-related part of the digital divide. The biggest practical problem faced by those who run CC online presences is that they generally have little support, even from fellow CC members.
So I’m delving deeper into this – into the issues of e-democracy, e-participation and e-government and information/digital literacy as they pertain to local democracy. Also, I want to help support community councils that wish to improve their internet offerings. I want my research to support such practical work, and practical work to inform my research.