The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Reviews (ICT, Open Government and Civil Society) image

Review A

Reviewer: Thanasis Priftis

1: Is the subject matter relevant?
Yes, there is a clear relation between the practices presented in the text with the original call of articles.

2: Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations of bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?
Although there is a rich presentation of several cases where ICT, open government and commons are treated, the analysis of these case remains superficial.

3: Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgements?
While there is a plethora of concepts adopted and cited, their majority passes uncriticised. For example, the article treats commons as a high level argument, with few analysis that could demonstrate the complexity of such efforts, the contradictions and the conflicts deriving from the actors and their actions.

4: Is the article well written?
The article uses a clear language, however several assertions from other sources pass unexplained.

5: Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
Sections are unequally distributed, while a Section Two seems to be missing.

The Seoul Smart City case study, as presented, is not adding important information to the overall argument.

There is a transition to be reviewed between C. ICT and the Role of the Citizen, then directly to A. Public Goods and Technology.

In terms of analysis, if we were to understand and adopt Community Infocenters as Third Spaces then we would need a more in depth description of their governance, the community roles that are crucial to its success, the view of the stakeholders on the structure itself, as well as, a more detailed presentation of community problems and how are they, or not, surpassed.

Review B

Reviewer: Aleksandrs Cepilovs

Overall the paper addresses a range of important issues related to direct citizen participation in governance through, what the authors dubbed, generative democracy. The paper offers a good theoretical discussion of the issue at hand on a number of levels from technology and infrastructure, to institutions, to citizen participation and social capital, offering some insights into practical implications through a number of brief case studies. The authors also offer a useful appendix where some policy instruments are proposed to tackle the challenges addressed in the article. There are, however, still some issues that need to be addressed.

First, regarding the formal structure – the introduction can be more focused on the purpose of the article and shorter; the concluding remarks section can link to the policy proposals available in Appendix.

Second, the authors need to be consistent throughout the text with the style of references they use and follow the general citation guidelines provided by the journal (either in footnotes, endnotes, or in brackets). There are also some formatting issues throughout the article that need to be addressed, such as section headings etc. On page 16 the authors use a direct quotation without providing an appropriate reference to the source.

Third, the authors do not refer to what today is a substantial body of literature on democratic innovations (e.g. Smith, 2009) and in particular on participatory budgeting (e.g. the most well-known case of Porto Alegre in Brazil). One could argue that direct citizen participation in budgetary decision making is one of the components in generative democracy. A concise discussion of this literature could, perhaps, complement the theoretical framework developed in the article.

Furthermore, it is not entirely clear what was the authors’ intention in using the case of Smart Seoul in context of citizen participation. South Korea is well known in its top-down approach to policy making, which makes it often very efficient in overcoming some challenges related to democratic decision making. After all, as far as I understand, Smart Seoul refers to digital infrastructure for data gathering and analysis, and not citizen participation in any way. The reference to Information Communication Agora is also somewhat confusing, as what it offers is just a one-way government-to-citizen interaction without the necessary feedback loop. Therefore, I’d suggest that the Smart Seoul case is treated much more carefully, also discussing in more detail its relevance for the paper.

While the claims made by the authors might seem justified for those familiar with the subject matter, for others some of the claims would, perhaps, require references to relevant academic research, as, for example, is the case with the claim on page 20 that “involving users, the front line workers, as well as service managers, it has produced radical new designs for such things as prisons, schools, chronic disease treatments, social welfare services, elder care, and programs for energy efficiency.”, as well as subsequent paragraph. While this claim does make sense, as such some references to relevant research would strengthen the credibility of this claim.

Also, only in appendix are there references to the fact that in order for the generative democracy to work, substantial changes in the legislative framework need to be introduced. This aspect, in my view, needs to be addressed in the main body of the paper.

Smith, G. (2009) Democratic innovations: Designing institutions for citizen participation. Cambridge University Press.