My academic colleagues in the Local Governance Research Unit at De Montfort (along with those from Southampton University) have been busy producing a report entitled “Empowering local communities to influence local decision making – A systematic review of the evidence” for the DCLG.
At 216 pages its another hefty read but one key finding on page 80 is that:
“The links between e-participation and community empowerment are surprisingly weak. Despite a growing interest in electronic forms of participation and, indeed, electronic democracy, the ways in which the wide range of devices actually empower individuals or communities, and the extent to which they have a direct influence on decision making, is often ignored. Although there is a large literature on the topic of e-participation and e-democracy, the actual evidence base on which to understand this topic is quite limited.”
Which I would also argue extends to much of the material on anything with an “e-” in fron to it, hence the reason for my own research and also the reason why I challenge much of the current hype about Web 2.0 and social media. Have a play by all means but don’t expect the other 98% of the population to buy into it!