Co-Design Processes and Partnerships Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Redesigning Participedia: Participatory Democracy in the Age of Crowdsourcing and Big Data

Amber Frid-Jimenez, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Art and Design Technology, Emily Carr University of Art & Design
Jesi Carson, MDes Candidate 2018, Emily Carr University of Art & Design

We redesigned Participedia, a crowdsourcing platform for sharing new data about participatory democracy, to be open source and responsive to a wide public.

A transformation of democratic governance is occurring as public participation empowers citizens to have their voices heard beyond the vote. Globalization combined with our contemporary connectedness across social networks have led to new channels and strategies for participatory democracy. Political scientists are grappling with a complex and largely undocumented set of data about these innovations. In response to this information gap, the Participedia project offers a crowdsourcing website designed to share emerging data about participatory democracy.

Participedia’s Design & Technology Team, made up of design educators, professional developers and student research assistants, was tasked with rethinking the Alpha version of the platform (participedia.net). We proposed to rebuild Participedia using a modern technology stack and an open source development strategy to address a set of diverse audiences. First, we designed the platform to be accessible on mobile devices, enabling practitioners in the field to use the site in remote locations. Second, we built a robust search interface and interactive map to serve the needs of political scientists. Finally, our open source methods include providing access to an API, organizing Slack discussions and developing the site on Github, providing tools for data scientists.

The redesigned Participedia.xyz has yielded positive outcomes since its initial release. For example, Canada’s Privy Council has participated on our Slack and Github channels and plans to use Participedia’s data model to collect case studies on public engagement. Student developers in the UK have gained access to our API and built new features. Researchers and assistants across the Participedia community have been empowered to expand their skills and pursue a wider range of research questions. Future directions include field tests, localization and expanding the map interface to include other relevant datasets, harnessing the power of data visualization to tell stories and promote discussion about our global political ecosystem.