ECPR Joint Sessions
Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz
11 - 16 March 2013

Comparing the Design of Online Collective Action Processes - An Analytical Framework

Tobias Escher
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Katharina Gerl
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Tobias Escher
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Ulf Tranow
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Collective action online has many different faces: Protests organised on Facebook, petitions to national government or public deliberations on local matters. They all aim at public goods but vastly differ in how they make use of online technologies to achieve their goals. In line with the theme of the call for papers, we believe in the utility of a comparative approach to identify determinants of success of online collective action. However, to systematically compare single acts of online collective action requires an analytical framework that comprehensively comprises all aspects of an online collective action process that could be relevant for its outcome. We propose such a framework that has been developed by approaching the problem in two steps. From a theoretical perspective, we first identified dimensions from the literature that could be relevant to such processes. Secondly, we used these dimensions to classify several dozen online projects aimed at preparing or reaching collectively bindings decisions. In this process the framework has been substantially refined.
With this focus, we are interested first and foremost in the design – both technical as well as institutional – of processes of online collective action. This framework forms the basis for an analysis of how individual design options and their combinations might impact on the process of participation and lead to certain outcomes. This is part of the objective of a current long-term multi-disciplinary effort based at the University of Düsseldorf. The research project aims at developing both a theoretical understanding as well as the technical foundation of processes to support and enable online-mediated norm setting processes. While we have started with an emphasis on decision-making processes in its various stages, we aim to broaden the framework to also encompass ideally all forms of online collective action, including those less formalized, bottom-up initiatives.
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"The less the power, the greater the desire to exercise it" - Bernard Levin

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