New forms of online citizen participation in government decision making have been fostered in the United States (U.S.) under the Obama Administration. Use of Web information technologies have been encouraged in an effort to create more back-and-forth communication between citizens and their government. These “Civic Participation 2.0” attempts to open the government up to broader public participation are based on three pillars of open government—transparency, participation, and collaboration. Thus far, the Administration has modeled Civic Participation 2.0 almost exclusively on the Web 2.0 ethos, in which users are enabled to shape the discussion and encouraged to assess the value of its content. We argue that strict adherence to the Web 2.0 model for citizen participation in public policymaking can produce “participation” that is unsatisfactory to both government decisionmakers and public participants. We believe that successful online civic participation design must balance inclusion and “enlightened understanding,” one of the core conditions for democratic deliberation. Based on our experience with Regulation Room, an experimental online participation platform trying to broaden meaningful public engagement in the process federal agencies use to make new regulations, we offer specific suggestions on how participation designers can strike the balance between ease of engagement and quality of engagement—and so bring new voices into the policymaking process through participating that counts.
Farina, Cynthia R.; Newhart, Mary J.; Heidt, Josiah; and Solivan, Jackeline, "Balancing Inclusion and “Enlightened Understanding” in Designing Online Civic Participation Systems: Experiences from Regulation Room" (2013). Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative Publications. Paper 14.