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The scholarly, peer-reviewed article examines engagement through a range of participatory arenas in Brazil (Earle, 2013). The study is based on the work and research of Cornwall (2002) and Gaventa (2004) concerning participatory spaces and power structures. It begins with a discussion of participatory spaces (closed, invited, and created spaces) and relates them to behaviors of social movements. Through the example of the Alliance of Housing Movements of São Paulo, Earle (2013) seeks to explain the dynamics of participatory spaces and its impact on organizations. The study’s findings suggest that interaction with various actors and diverse spaces “require a delicate balancing act to maximize returns form collaboration while avoiding accusations of cooption” (Earle, 2013, p. 67). Additionally, engagement in participatory spaces creates a struggle between autonomy retention and the desire to influence policy making.
The article offers additional and well-documented insights expanding upon existing research by Gaventa (2006) and Cornwall (2002). While both tend to acknowledge that power within spaces are not evenly or equally distributed between actors, they bare touch upon the possibility that organized and well-networked social movements may take over and dominate social forums (Earle, 2013). This article corrects this oversight and adds an additional dimension to the discussion by chronicling that organizations struggle wrestle with maintaining autonomy and fears of co-optation (Earle, 2013).
The article relates to my proposed dissertation topic through the discussion of invited and created spaces. It provides practical examples to the theoretical debates concerning participatory spaces. Furthermore, the case study offers some important insights related to citizenship norms in its discussion of participation, autonomy, and co-optation.
Harrison, E. (2012). Performing partnership: Invited participation and older people's forums. Human Organization, 71(2), 157-166.
Harrison’s (2012) peer-reviewed, scholarly article is an ethnographic research of older people’s forums examining performative aspects of invited participation. The article begins with a discussion concerning participation and partnership and how these bear on public policy. It then proceeds to describe the experiences of citizens “who have made at least some move to be ‘engaged’ or ‘active’” (Harrison, 2012).
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An interesting aspect highlighted by the article relates to the cynicism of people and their perceptions concerning invited spaces. Additionally, Harrison’s (2012) discussion concerning the power and interests of inviters/invited was illuminating. It added to the existing discussion concerning that those who create spaces are more likely to have power within them (Gaventa, 2006). This is of particular importance with regard to my proposed dissertation topic, as it may bear upon changing citizenship norms and contribute to engaged citizenship (especially grassroots activism).
Leighninger, M. (2011). Citizenship and governance in a wild, wired world: how should citizens and public managers use online tools to improve democracy? National Civic Review, 100(2), 20-29. doi: 10.1002/ncr.20056
The article by Leighninger (2011) examines the political impact of the Internet. Reviewing past literature and research, the article assesses the impact and contribution of the Internet to democracy. It acknowledges its role in informing citizens and empowering groups. It has contributed to greater engagement, promoted involvement, and enabled groups to increase and sustain networks (Leighninger, 2011). However, Leighninger (2011) also notes that it has not replaced traditional modes of engagement or is likely to make government superfluous. Using data from the PEW’s Government Online report, the author notes a social and generational rift in Internet usage relating to political participation (Leighninger, 2011). Findings suggest, “though discussions about policy and public problem solving are booming online, the conversation is mainly about government rather than with government” (Leighninger, 2011, p. 24).
Although the article by Leighninger (2011) contributes insights into the Internet’s role in political participation, it appears biased. Despite noting both positive impacts and negative ones, it could be argued that the latter have been given less consideration. In addition, while the article offers suggestions for public managers and employees on how to take advantage of the Internet, the recommendations lack specificity. In other words, the article could benefit from concrete examples and cases illustrating how cities, governments, etc. leveraged the Internet to engage with citizens.
Despite its shortcomings, Leighninger’s (2011) article is significant to my proposed dissertation topic as it explores the impact of the Internet on how citizens engage. It summarizes earlier findings from different studies, synthesizes the findings, and consolidates them into a coherent argument. Additionally, the author’s use of existing studies to form the argument provides crucial links to them and permits for further exploration.
McAtee, A., & Wolak, J. (2011). Why do people decide to participate in state politics. Political Research Quarterly, 64(1), 45-58. doi: 10.1177/1065912909343581
The peer-reviewed, scholarly article by McAtee and Wolak (2011) explores where people chose to participate and factors motivating choices. Using data from the American Citizen Participation Study, the authors investigate “whether the reasons people participate at the state level mirror the roots of political action at the local and national level” (McAtee & Wolak, 2011, p. 45). The study considers four potential explanations for participation, including material, social, selective, and collective rewards for political participation (McAtee & Wolak, 2011). Moreover, to explain differences in political participation the authors apply multilevel modeling to explore differences in motivational factors (McAtee & Wolak, 2011). The study’s findings suggest that neither the social environment nor the level of policy representation had a significant impact on political participation. By contrast, state and local party representation influenced where people invested their time and efforts (McAtee & Wolak, 2011). Additionally, organizational and party outreach notably contributed to political participation. Similarly, the findings confirm resource-based explanations, indicating that “household income, education, and political knowledge are generally positively related to participation” (McAtee & Wolak, 2011, p. 54). In summary, McAtee and Wolak (2011) conclude that even though “state-level factors are not deterministic in shaping people’s propensity to participate at a particular level of government, they do shape patterns of involvement” (p. 54).
Despite well-reasoned and supported arguments presented by the authors, the article has some limitations. For one, the data forming the basis for analysis is dated. The American Citizen Participation Study was conducted in 1990 and contains interviews from 2,517 participants. This is by far not representative of the U.S. population and may thus not permit for generalizability of results. Moreover, much has changed in the past twenty years, limiting the data’s reliability in assessing where people invest their time and efforts today. Nevertheless, the article provides valuable insights into motivational factors contributing to political participation. These may prove to be important to my dissertation as they may evolve into variable and/or questions for further consideration. Of course, McAtee and Wolak’s (2011) research also applies to changes in citizenship norms as research on more recent data may reveal links to changes in citizenship norms.
Cornwall, A. (2002). Locating citizen participation. IDS Bulletin, 33(2), 49-58. Retrieved from http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/PDF/Outputs/CentreOnCitizenship/1052734364-cornwall.2002-locating.pdf
Gaventa, J. (2006). Finding the spaces for change: A power analysis. IDS Bulletin, 37(6), 23-32.
Gutmann A, Thompson D. (2004). Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ.Press