Web 2.0 Tools for Policy Research and Advocacy

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Universite Laval]On: 05 October 2014, At: 08:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of Policy PracticePublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjpp20

    Web 2.0 Tools for PolicyResearch and AdvocacyJohn G. McNutt aa University of Delaware School of Urban Affairs andPublic Policy Fellow, Center for Community Researchand Service , 298B Graham Hall, Newark, DE, 19716,USAPublished online: 11 Oct 2008.

    To cite this article: John G. McNutt (2008) Web 2.0 Tools for Policy Research andAdvocacy, Journal of Policy Practice, 7:1, 81-85, DOI: 10.1080/15588740801909994

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15588740801909994

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  • Journal of Policy Practice, Vol. 7(1) 2008Available online at http://jpp.haworthpress.com

    2008 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1080/15588740801909994 81

    WJPP1558-87421558-8750Journal of Policy Practice, Vol. 7, No. 1, Mar 2008: pp. 00Journal of Policy Practice

    WEB SITE REVIEW

    Web 2.0 Tools for Policy Research and Advocacy

    Web Site ReviewJOURNAL OF POLICY PRACTICE John G. McNutt

    The Internet has had a tremendous impact on the social welfare policyenterprise. The Internet-provided access to policy information has greatlyfacilitated both policy analysis and more basic policy research while thedevelopment of Internet-based advocacy tools has revolutionized thepractice of changing policies. In the past few years, revolutionaryInternet-based tools, collectively referred to as Web 2.0, have emerged onthe scene and promise to have an even larger impact on both policyresearch and policy practice. This article will look at some of those toolsand how policy researchers, analysts and advocates might use them.

    WHAT IS WEB 2.0 AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?

    Web 2.0 is a term used to describe a unique set of tools designed to beused in an Internet-based environment. While there really is no clear

    John G. McNutt is affiliated with the University of Delaware School of UrbanAffairs and Public Policy Fellow, Center for Community Research and Service,298B Graham Hall Newark, DE 19716 (E-mail: mcnuttjg@udel.edu).

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  • 82 JOURNAL OF POLICY PRACTICE

    agreement on a definition of Web 2.0 (Madden & Fox, 2006), there areseveral major elements or themes. According to Addison (2006; see alsoBryant, 2006) Web 2.0 incorporates the Internet as platform, user-generated content and an emphasis on social networking. These are toolsthat are generally run over the Internet, as opposed to programs that runon your computer, that allow users to add or produce their own contentand that support collaboration and networking. Its sometimes called theparticipatory web (Madden & Fox, 2006) or the Read/write web(Richardson, 2006). As important as the tools are, the Web 2.0 worldviewstressing participation and collaboration is equally significant.

    Web 2.0 has made considerable inroads in business management,marketing and knowledge management. Librarians and educators havealso found it useful (Richardson, 2006).

    What are some of the technologies that are part of Web 2.0? Some (butnot all) (see Addison, 2006; Germany, 2006) of the major applicationsare:

    Blogs or Weblogs: These are on-line commentaries that have becomeanother major source of political information (see McNutt, 2007a fora more extensive discussion). A Blog is a Web site with a series ofposts. In many Blogs readers can offer their own comments.

    Wikis: A Wiki is a collaborative tool that allows users to add theirown content. Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page] isone example, but Wikis are used to support collaborative writing,organize advocacy campaigns, plan development projects and soforth. Anything that requires coordination and the ability to partici-pate is a good opportunity to use a Wiki.

    Social Bookmarking Sites: Wouldnt you like to know what otherexperts in the field are bookmarking? Social bookmarking sitesallow you to see what other people are bookmarking so that you canmore efficiently search for information. Two of the best known sitesare del.ico.us [http://del.icio.us/] and Furl [http://www.furl.net/].You subscribe to these sites and they combine your choices withthe choices of others and provide feedback to you and othersearchers. This allows you to share your experience with others andto benefit from their experiences in searching the Internet forinformation.

    Social Networking Sites: These are sites designed to help people net-work and connect. Some of the most commonly known sites are Face-book [http://www.facebook.com], MySpace [http://www. myspace.com]

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  • Web Site Review 83

    and Friendster [http://www.friendster.com]. These sites combine awebpage with a social networking capacity. Not only do regular indi-viduals have these sites, but so do celebrities and even people cam-paigning for political office.

    Podcasting: Podcasting involves making an audio file of a program,class, speech or other presentation and making it available for down-load on the web. There is also a video version which makes entireprograms available for download. Directories are available, such asthe Podcasting Directory [http://www.podcastdirectory.com/] andYahoos Podcast Directory [http://podcasts.yahoo.com/]. Pod-casts can be listened to on an MP3 player, such as an AppleI-Pod, or on your computer. Podcasts are available from manysources, including the White House [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/radio/].

    Image and Videosharing: These are sites that allow users to sharetheir images or videos. Flickr [http://www.flickr.com/] and Photo-Bucket [http://photobucket.com/] are among the more establishedimage sharing sites. YouTube [http://www.youtube.com/] is proba-bly the best known videosharing site.

    RSS: Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication: RSS makesit possible to subscribe to a desired Web site. Subscribes will benotified of all changes in the Web site, such as new content or formatthrough a reader or aggregator.

    On-line Mapping: This type of application allows users to developmaps and map data on-line. Google Earth [http://earth.google.com/]is probably the best known of these sites and offers startling amountsof functionality.

    Internet Virtual Worlds: These are web-based simulated realitieswhere users can try on new roles or interact with other users. SecondLife [http://www.secondlife.com/] is, perhaps, the most popular ofthese applications. Second Life has already been a tool in legislativedecision making and political campaigns.

    WEB 2.0 AND POLICY RESEARCH

    Policy researchers will find Web 2.0 a welcome addition to their set oftools. Data collection can be facilitated through Blogs, Wikis and SocialBookmarking. These techniques will speed the research process andprovide a larger range of data to researchers.

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  • 84 JOURNAL OF POLICY PRACTICE

    Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking and RSS are excellent techniquesfor sharing and collaborating. This means that projects that are theshared efforts of several researchers can be conducted faster andmore easily. These tools, along with podcasting and image/videoshar-ing, can make presenting results much easer. Tools like Wikipediaand Google Earth can aid in the process of analysis and knowledgediscovery.

    WEB 2.0 IN POLICY ADVOCACY

    Web 2.0 tools are becoming attractive to political campaigns and issueadvocates (Germany, 2006). In what was probably the first major use ofthese techniques in a political campaign, the 2004 campaign of GovernorHoward Dean used Meet Up [http://www.meetup.com] (a web-based toolto arrange face-to-face meetings) as a means to build his organization. Alsoused were a Blog, originally called Dean for America but now Blog forAmerica [http://www.blogforamerica.com/] and an online game to teachabout canvassing in Iowa [http://www.deanforamericagame.com/] (SeeTrippi, 2004; Cornfield, 2004). Many of the Internet artifacts of the DeanCampaign survive in his Democracy for America organization [http://www.democracyforAmerica.org].

    Other political campaigns picked up these techniques. Many of thecurrent political candidates are using blogs, streaming video and socialnetworking sites such as MySpace (see Germany, 2006).

    In addition to political campaigns, advocacy efforts are using these toolsto plan issue actions, coordinate advocacy efforts and for creating campaigns(see McNutt, 2007b; Germany, 2006). Blogs and Wikis have been used tocoordinate events and to train activists. Image and Videosharing sites havebeen used to expose political wrongdoing and advocate for change.

    Many of these techniques can be used for social welfare policy educa-tion. Richardson (2006) provides a very practical overview of howthe tools can be used in an educational setting. He also has a Web site athttp://www.weblogg-ed.com/ that can be useful to educators at all levels.

    There are a number of valuable sites that deal with these tools. GeorgeWashington Universitys Institute for Politics, Democracy and theInternet [http://www.ipdi.org/] has a number of valuable resources onWeb 2.0 techniques, many of which are free. The Internet AdvocacyCenter [http://www.internetadvocacycenter.com/] provides access to anumber of additional resources as does New Politics Institute [http://

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  • Web Site Review 85

    www.newpolitics.net/]. These are well developed, easy to navigate andcontemporary sites on Internet-based politics. Perhaps the most extensivecoverage is provided by the Personal Democracy Forum [http://www.personaldemocracy.com/]. The resources provided on this site arealmost as impressive as they are visionary and thoughtful. Finally, PhilNobles Politics On-Line [http://www.politicsonline.com/] providescoverage of the vast expanse of the field of Internet and Politics. Sign upfor the newsletter and visit the Web site frequently.

    CONCLUSIONS

    The evolution of Web 2.0 promises important and previously unavail-able capacities to policy researchers and policy advocates. In addition, itpresents a new way to think about the political process and the involvementof people within the process. While the tools offer tremendous capabilityand will help policy practitioners improve their work, perhaps the change inperspective will be what will change social policy practice the most.

    REFERENCES

    Addison, C. (2006). Web 2.0: A new chapter in development practice? Developmentin Practice. 16(6), 623627.

    Bryant, A. (2006). Wiki and the Agora: Its organizing Jim, but not as we know it.Development in Practice. 16(6), 559569.

    Cornfield, M. (2004). Politics moves online. Washington, DC: Brookings.Germany, J.B. (ed.) (2006). Person to person to person: Harnessing the political power of

    on-line social networks and user generated content. Washington, DC: The Institute forPolitics, Democracy and the Internet, George Washington University.

    Madden, M. & Fox, S. (2006). Riding the waves of Web 2.0. Backgrounder. Washington,DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.orgon October 13, 2006.

    McNutt, J.G. (2007a). Adoption of new wave electronic advocacy techniques by nonprofitchild advocacy organizations. In Cortes, M. & Rafter, K. (Eds.), Information TechnologyAdoption in the Nonprofit Sector (pp 3348). Chicago: Lyceum Books.

    McNutt. J.G. (2007b). Political blogging and social welfare policy: Internet resources forresearch and scholarship. Journal of Policy Practice. 6(1), 8589.

    Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful webtools for theclassroom. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

    Trippi, Joseph. (2004). The revolution will not be televised: Democracy, the Internet andthe overthrow of everything. New York: Reagan Book/Harper Collins.

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