Designing for better citizenship

Here, I’ve often written about how tools and texts construct visions of citizenship, but I’ve been spending a lot of this year focused on actually making those tools and texts that construct better forms of citizenship. This policy brief, authored with my colleague Eric Gordon, lays out some specific ways to do that. Focusing on tools for reporting issues to the city, often referred to as CRM (constituent relationship management) systems, we discuss the existing state of these tools while also making recommendations for how to make them more engaging and more productive for civic life.

While this brief argues that a lot of government’s current use of technology are transactive and therefore lead to more shallow or thin possibilities for citizenship, it’s by no means limited to that (nor do governments–especially those like our New Urban Mechanics partners in Boston–necessarily want to limit citizenship in this way). By providing recommendations for how to get to deeper, more interactive forms of citizenship, hopefully this brief  also makes it clear that academic work doesn’t stop at investigating and illuminating what exists, but should try to develop ideas for how to improve the state of things when practical.

You can read the whole thing here, but there’s also a version translated into the great language of charts if you click through…

Developments in CRM systems

  Features Examples Effect on citizens
CRM 1.0
  • Data is physically and temporally disconnected from act of providing information.
  • Raw data is made public for anyone to analyze or graphically represent
  • Process of providing data transactional, not interactive (i.e. filling out a form).
  • Raw data files
  • Databases
  • Data visualizations of past information
  • Phone hotlines and online forms
  •  Information is public, but not translated in accessible language; use requires skill.
  • Citizens engage in transactions with government institutions.
  • Interaction with other citizens not possible.
CRM 2.0
  • Capability to view or interact with other data while providing information.
  • Immediate updating of data.
  • Easy to offer extra information—geolocation, photos, etc.
  •  Interaction generally enabled, but not a necessary part of tool.
  • Lists or map-based representations of reports on separate page from reports
  • Ability to comment on, mark-as-important, or “favorite” other existing actions.
  •  Information is accessible.
  • Interaction with others is a possible, but seldom-used, affordance.
  • Civic habits developed/ encouraged by ease of use, mobile capability, etc.
CRM 3.0
  • Use necessarily involves interacting with other data/users by adding extra steps or representations to the process of reporting.
  •  Upon reporting, other actions are recommended, and other actions are automatically shown
  • Leaderboards show others’ actions
  •  Interactive features on home reporting screen, not other page.
  •  Information is accessible.
  • Interaction with other people or other civic habits accompanies any use.
  • Civic habits made more reflective and communal.
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