The move of large tranches of social and political activity online, as well as facilitating social change, represents a big shift for the social sciences, allowing us to develop our understanding of social and political behaviour.
Web-generated ‘big data’ offers social science researchers the potential for new forms of analysis, using real-time transactional data based on entire populations, rather than sample-based surveys of what people think they did or might do. Using such data to track individual and institutional activity online, this paper maps ‘government on the Internet’, graphs a large number of internet-based mobilizations and investigates the implications for citizen engagement with policy issues.
Helen Margetts is Professor of Society and the Internet, University of Oxford, and the Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII). Her areas of interest include e-government, government information systems, public management reform, tools of government for public policy, and online collective action and political participation. She is the co-author (with C. Hood) of Paradoxes of Modernization. Unintended Consequences of Public Policy Reform (2010) and The Tools of Government in the Digital Age (2007) and (with P.Dunleavy) of Digital Era Governance (2008) as well as numerous articles and policy reports. She currently holds a professorial fellowship from the UK Economic and Social Research Council on ‘The Internet, Political Science and Public Policy’ developing ‘big data’ and experimental methods to study collective action, governmental structures and citizen-government interactions in the digital era.
Manuel Castells is University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He is, as well, Research Professor at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.