The paradox of digital civic participation: A disorganization approach

Amanda J. Porter, Michele H. Jackson

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In this study, we investigate how and why paradoxes persist in digital civic participation. Our communicational lens of disorganization builds on the Communication as Constitutive of Organization, or “CCO�? approaches, and literature on multiplicity of objects and practices in order to conceptualize digital civic participation as multiple. We use our communicational approach to disorganization to analyze qualitative data of a digital civic participation project called Mesa Vision 2030. Combining iterative and situational analysis, our findings show how a controversial voting incident at Mesa was enacted in the interference of meanings across three interconnected communication episodes: real-time digital civic participation, its planning and its design. The push-pull for control over which configuration of meaning is in focus contributes a new analytic dimension for the empirical study of disorganization. Our study also makes a methodological contribution to CCO research by providing tools to analyze empirical situations for differences and heterogeneities. As a practical implication, we discuss how civic technology organizations should place greater emphasis on flexible designs of participatory tools that preserve the voices of diverse participants.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDis/organization as Communication
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication
EditorsConsuelo Vásquez, Timothy Kuhn
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780429960567, 9780429492327
ISBN (Print)9781138588387
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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