Social Science Computer Review

Volume 28, No. 4

Winter 2010



Participation: Designing and managing political discussion forums / Øystein Sæbø, Jeremy Rose, & Judith Molka-Danielsen

Abstract: eParticipation is the extension and transformation of participation in political deliberation and decision-making processes through information and communication technologies. The most commonly found examples of eParticipation systems are political discussion forums. Though much of the discussion of these technologies is conducted in the eGovernment and eDemocracy literature, political discussion forums present a distinct set of design and management challenges which relate directly to IS concerns. In this article we use Sæbø et al.’s (2008) overview model of eParticipation to structure a critical review of the existing literature to identify key challenges for designing and managing political discussion forums. We offer a contribution to theory in the form of a descriptive model of political discussion forums in their social context, based on a literature review of relevant literature. The explanatory potential of the model is illustrated by analyzing D:mo, a Norwegian political discussion forum. Based on the review and the case study we offer a contribution to practice by suggesting a set of guidelines for the design and management of political discussion forums.

Keywords: eParticipation, political discussion forums, case study


Citizen-centric e-government services: Understanding integrated citizen service information systems / Yu-Che Chen

Abstract Advances in the networked features of information and communication technologies hold the promise of enhancing integrated citizen-centric information and services. However, few governments to date have implemented an integrated citizen service information system, which is needed to fulfill that promise. This study aims to investigate the organizational determinants of the level of integration and use of a citizen service information system. It draws from the literatures on diffusion and adoption of innovation, technology acceptance and use, information systems implementation, and information technology and public administration. The primary sources of data are from ICMA data on citizen service systems and e-government surveys. Ordered logit is the primary data analysis technique employed. The study findings suggest the importance of getting citizen feedback in the move toward a more integrated citizen service information system. Strong organizational commitment to citizen services further plays a significant role in the more sophisticated use of such a system. Overall, however, management capacity and technical capacity do not register a significant relationship with a more sophisticated and extensively used system.

Keywords: e-government, citizen-centric services, information technology, information systems, adoption of innovation


Engaging with the public? Assessing the online presence and communication practices of the nanotechnology industry / Robert Ackland, Rachel Gibson, Wainer Lusoli, & Stephen Ward

Abstract: This paper examines whether the nanotechnology industry is engaging in the wider social debate surrounding it, through an analysis of its online communication practices. This is an important topic to study given the nascent nature of the technology and the concerns among proponents to avoid the backlash biotech companies faced over GM crops. Applying a new web crawling tool, the study captures and codes the hyperlinks of key nanotechnology companies according to their social and technical orientation, and status as producers, disseminators, commercializers. The links are mapped and the prominence of social and technical issues assessed. Finally, the home pages of sites are content-analyzed to contextualize the presentation of the debate. The results show that while parts of the scientific community may have accepted the case for more engagement with the social aspects of nanotech, commercial developers are more reluctant to do so, at least based on their online presence.

Key words: Nanotechnology, social risk, science communication, online networks, hyperlink analysis, cybermapping


Examining the role of technology in the formation of deviant subcultures / Thomas J. Holt

Abstract: This article examines the development of technology-focused deviant subcultures.  The adoption of new technologies cause shifts in human behavior patterns, and a small body of research has considered the ways that criminals adjust their offending practices due to new technology.  Few have, however, explored the ways that technology produces new forms of crime and deviance.  This study addresses this gap in the literature by examining the argot of the technology-focused computer hacker subculture using multiple data sets.  The findings explore the dynamic use of hacker argot, and how these terms reflect the role of technology in shaping attitudes toward and support for deviance and crime.

Keywords:  technology, computer hacking, argot, subculture


Urban 3-D GIS modeling of terrorism sniper hazards / Jason E. VanHorn & Nathan A. Mosurinjohn

Abstract: This study explores the prevention of terrorism using three-dimensional (3D) analysis for the protection of populations in urban environments. Terrorism and crime prevention has become a popular exercise using the spatial tools available with Geographic Information Systems (GISs). Thus far, most approaches have considered two-dimensional (2D) applications focusing primarily on hotspot identification or mapping trends in a geographic region. Sniper rifle fire modeling is examined in 3D modeling within a GIS environment. The primary methodology is tested using the concept of a viewshed and line-of-sight (LoS). To test the model, the Gerald R. Ford Funeral in Grand Rapids, MI is used to examine the protection of individuals from sniper fire. It is found that using viewsheds have good potential to aid protection agents responsible for protecting individuals and populations. 

Keywords: viewshed, terrorism, GIS, 3D, Grand Rapids


Visualizing situational data: Applying information fusion for detecting social-ecological events / M. R. Altaweel, L. N. Alessa, & A. D. Kliskey

Abstract. As anthropogenic and environmental behaviors rapidly evolve many ecosystems and communities, managers of natural resources, scientists, and other stakeholders increasingly need tools that can rapidly alert them to emerging events that can affect social wellbeing. Data detailing such behaviors may derive from textual sources with varying content, requiring an approach to merge multiple media sources and create linked relationships between relevant event terms. In addition, applied methods need to provide both quantitative capacity and qualitative functionality that can rapidly display emerging trends and potentially significant individual events. This paper presents an information fusion approach for conducting text searches on web-based sources in order to provide managers and scientists with rapid search capabilities identifying potentially significant social-ecological events. Along with general analytical utility, a network approach that links associated terms is used in order to show semantic relationships between social-ecological terms at different time scales. 

Keywords: events; visualization; decision support; information fusion; text analysis, data mining; social-ecological


Computer literacy and the accuracy of substance use reporting in an ACASI survey / Timothy P. Johnson, Michael Fendrich, & Mary Ellen Mackesy-Amiti

Abstract: In recent years, audio computer-assisted self-interviews (ACASI) have been demonstrated to increase and presumably improve the quality of drug reporting in epidemiologic research. Surprisingly little research is available, however, regarding the potential limitations of this technique. For example, it is unclear what effects computer literacy may have on the validity of substance use information collected via ACASI. Respondents with limited computer skills may become distracted by the automated technology, requiring the devotion of considerable cognitive effort to the navigation of unfamiliar computer equipment and software that would otherwise be available for use to more carefully process and answer survey questions. In this study, we report findings from a community ACASI survey conducted in Chicago which are used to address this problem. Using multiple indicators of computer literacy, a covariance structure model was developed to test the hypothesis that persons with low computer literacy skills may report drug use with less accuracy. Biological assays were employed to evaluate 30-day cocaine use reporting accuracy. Model findings confirmed a positive relationship between computer literacy and the accuracy of cocaine use reports. Future research should investigate strategies for improving the usability of self-administrated computer reporting systems for persons with little direct computer experience.

Keywords:      ACASI, computer literacy, drug use surveys