The current discussion related to eGovernment and participation is deteriorating continuously, as it focuses on the present primary use of social media: a “Like” or short Tweet with a maximum 140 characters.
However, the much spoken of and desired participation means more than that.
Wikipedia defines (political) participation as follows:
*The term political participation defines all actions by citizen(s) (alone or in a group) striving to influence political decisions at all levels of the political system. Distinctions are made between conventional (legally ensured and regulated, in writing), unconventional (not in writing) as well as between illegal and legal forms of participation.
Conventional forms of participation which can easily be quantified are participation in elections, participation in political parties or interest groups and the acceptance of political offices in parliaments and governments. The unconventional, less institutionalized or at times illegal forms of participation are more difficult to assess and research. This includes citizens’ political consumerism, participation in citizen initiatives and / or in the new social movements, in petitions, public discourse, demonstrations and strikes.
E-participation on the basis of Web 2.0 is also mentioned.
*This is a translation of the German language Wikipedia entry.
Assuming that citizens are mature, they should be able to participate in and shoulder responsibility for the (political) system as a whole. Part of this co-responsibility consists of concrete content and actions, which cannot be reduced to a “Like” or Tweet. It is therefore high time to put the brakes on social media euphoria and to focus on real content again. These media can be used for real participation insofar as they can enhance acceptance and topical identification, but that alone is not enough by far.
Hence supplementary platforms with detailed information structured by topic, collaboration platforms for various citizens and institutions, voting and electing possibilities and much more should be made available. Responsibilities also foster obligations (such as secure IDs, traceability) which are neither compatible with the large number of fake identities and accounts, nor with the short life span of social media.
Therefore, we have a long way to go before real Internet-based participation comes true.