Koen van Aeken
The question is how technologies characterized by ubiquitous networked computing and Web 2.0 interactivity may contribute to democracy. Following a case study design, two applications were evaluated: the Belgian CitizenLab, a mobile, social and local private application to support public decision making in cities, and the Dutch governmental website Internetconsultatie.nl. Available data suggest that the Dutch consultation platform is mainly visited by the ‘usual suspects’ and lacks participatory functionalities. In contrast, CitizenLab explicitly aims at policy co-creation through broad participation. Its novelty, however, prevents the making of sound empirical statements. A comprehensive conceptualization precedes the case studies. To avoid instrumentalist reduction, the social setting of the technologies is reconstructed. Since its constituents, embedding and expectations – initially represented as the nation state and representative democracy – are increasingly challenged, their transformations are consequently discussed. The new embedding emerges as a governance constellation; new expectations concern the participatory dimension of politics. Future assessments of technologies may benefit from this conceptualization.