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E-Tools for Citizen Participation -

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Revision as of 21:48, 7 July 2008 by Jonathan (Talk | contribs) (Citizen Journalism)

Back To: SPED-Outreach
Rondo Workshop Schedule -- A schedule of Monday night workshops at Rondo Library presented by St. Paul E-Democracy.

Learn to use the internet to become more informed and involved with your community.

Welcome, and thank you for coming. I am here with St. Paul E-Democracy, the local branch of an organization called that was founded in 1994 to promote political discussion in Minnesota.

E-Democracy, according to Wikipedia, "comprises the use of electronic communications technologies such as the Internet in enhancing democratic processes." This is typically meant in a literal, government-centric sense: that is, how to use the Internet to better connect government and governed, often through new technologies being applied at the bureaucratic level.

What we are going to do today, and what we largely try to do throughout our workshops, is take the opposite approach: my goal here is to give citizens (and I use that term broadly) the tools to work more efficiently at the community level, to strengthen democracy from the bottom up. Of course, this does not mean I am actively Internet-based advocacy. In fact, most of the things covered in our workshops are essentially "basic skills" that can just as easily be used for fun or profit as for political gains. And that's ok. The purpose of these workshops, as I said, is simply to introduce you to some new technologies; I don't really care what you do with them.

I also want you to note that word "introduce." Nothing we do here will be particularly in-depth.

This is particularly true of today. I'm going quickly touch on several different tools, or really categories of tools, which are currently being used for citizen participation in one form or another. We will begin by discussing some of the work of, particularly local issues forums. We will then move on to Wikis, Citizen Journalism, blogs and social networking, as well as government and government-related sites and finally community-built sites. Sounds like a lot, and I'm going to move quickly, but please ask questions.

Issues Forums

Forums allow users to share opinions and discuss issues. They typically feature multiple discussions occurring simultaneously in different threads.

Social Networking

Users create a profile, connect with other users and join groups.


Blogs are simple websites that consist of posts arranged chronologically. While you can do just about anything with a blog, they are frequently used for sharing opinions or reporting on events. They are easy to start and run, and with interesting content they can be very successful.

Citizen Journalism

Citizen Journalism is the practice of community members reporting on issues or events they find interesting, often as an independent or more locally-focused alternative to existing news outlets.


There is a tremendous amount of information produced by and about governments, and much of this information is now available online. (Unfortunately, much of it is difficult to find)


Wikis are websites that anyone can edit, such as Wikipedia. Using a wiki, it is fairly simple to create a community-built reference site, or to collaborate on a group project.

Local Portals

Some neighborhood organizations and block clubs are now moving online.

  • Greater Frogtown CDC
  • Hamline-Midway district council web site
  • Riverview List
    • My block club very recently assembled a combination free site, craigslist, and community bulletin board to serve our West Side bluff neighborhood. It's quite simple and flexible. My block club is independent of the District Council, so we don't have to worry about the commercial aspect. -Guy Western

Build Your Own

You can replicate many of these tools yourself using free tools available online.

  1. Discussion Group
    1. Yahoo Groups
    2. Google Groups
  2. Social Network
    1. Ning
  3. Blog
    1. Blogger
    2. Wordpress
  4. Wikis, for collaboration or reference(See Outreach tools page)
  5. Complete site
    1. Drupal

Online Media

  1. Podcasting
  2. Photo hosting
    1. Flickr
    2. Picasa
  3. Video hosting
    1. Youtube

See Also


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