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Title: A comparative analysis of Decide Madrid and vTaiwan, two digital platforms for political participation
Author: Tseng, Yu-Shan
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 1337
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis is a comparative examination of the impacts of two so-called ‘Digital Platforms for Political Participation’ (DPPPs) — Decide Madrid and vTaiwan — on urban policymaking and citizen empowerment. DPPPs are a novel subset of digital platforms which are focused on facilitating online political participation and are designed and implemented by governmental institutions: the two cases under study here are designed by Madrid City Council and the Taiwanese government respectively. This thesis utilises what I term a situated lens, which fuses the idea of relational comparative urbanism, Deleuzian assemblage thinking and theories of empowerment. This situated lens allows me to evaluate, compare and identify the similarities in the forms of digital political participation provided by the two DPPPs under study. It does this by breaking each DPPP down into three sets of assemblages: (1) the design process; (2) the dynamic User Interface (UI); and (3) the process of algorithmic decision-making. The term ‘situated’ is coined to highlight the dynamic and mutating nature of digital political participation. Via this situated lens, I stress that digital empowerment is highly changeable, constrained and opened up by rules set at design stage, the dynamic UI, contingencies introduced by algorithmic interactions with users, and the changing human/institutional contexts in which these processes are embedded. This thesis demonstrates that my comparative study of the two DPPPs can enrich existing studies in digital urbanism and digital participation. Firstly, drawing from theories of empowerment, the situated lens allows me to indicate the level of empowerment a DPPP provides should not be seen just as the provision of a fixed static set of participatory capacities. Rather, a DPPP should be seen as a fluid space in which empowerment is present to a greater or lesser extent, affected by a fast-moving environment in which a user can be disabled or enabled in making informed and collective decisions due to various contingencies (such as the dynamic UI and the processes of user data interacting with algorithms to produce decisions). The wider institutional context also drives this fluidity: the citizen/user’s ability to impact on policymaking through reaching collective decisions through DPPPs is constrained or promoted by subsequent processes of governmental allocation of political legitimacy and resources. Secondly, the situated lens offers a new view in digital urbanism, by deploying an innovative hybrid method to produce ‘flashbacks’ on specific processes of digital political participation. In doing so it reveals and question the ways in which political decisions on legitimating urban issues are mutably (re)configured by algorithmic interactions with users and by subsequent human interpretation in institutional policymaking processes. This serves to question what constitutes fairer and more empowered political decisions by pointing out exclusions which emerge during the decision-making processes of DPPPs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available