Searching for City Hall, Digital Democracy, and Public-Making Rhetoric: U.S. Municipal Websites and Citizen Engagement
U.S. cities rely on their websites to enhance citizen engagement, and digital government portals have been promoted for decades as gateways to participatory democracy. This study, through rhetorical and qualitative content analyses, focuses on 200 municipal homepages from 2017 and the ways they invite participation through public-making rhetoric. The findings reveal very few cities have: platforms for interactive discussions; representations of citizen activities; or ways to call citizens into being for the important work of shared governance.
Andrejevic, M. (2006). The discipline of watching: Detection, risk and lateral surveillance.
Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23(5), 391-407.
Andrews, C. (2014). Your citizen engagement checklist: 18 strategies for success. GovLoop.
Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of
Planners, 35(4), 216-224. doi:10.1080/01944366908977225
Bauer, M. W. and Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound:
practical handbook. London: Sage.
Borins, S. (2008). A holistic view of public sector information technology. Journal o
Government, 1(2), 3-29. doi:10.1300/J399v01n02_02
Brail, S. (1996). The price of admission: Harassment and free speech in the wild, wild West. InL. Cherny and E. R. Weise (Eds.), Wired women: Gender and new realities in cyberspace (pp. 141-157). Seattle, WA: Seal Press.
Center for Digital Government. (2016). Best of the web and digital government achievement awards 2016. Government Technology. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/cdg/Best-of-the-Web-Digital-Government-Achievement-Awards-2016-Winners-Announced.html
Chadwick, A. (2011). Explaining the failure of an online citizen engagement initiative: The role of internal institutional variables. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 8, 21-40. doi:10.1080/19331681.2010.507999
Denhardt, R. B., & Denhardt, J. V. (2002). The new public service: Serving rather than steering. Public Administration Review, 60(6), 549-559. doi:10.1111/0033-3352.00117
Desouza, K. C., & Smith, K. L. (2014). Capturing the wisdom of crowds. Retrieved from https://www.planning.org/planning/2014/dec/capturingwisdom.htm
Domain requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://home.dotgov.gov/registration/requirements/
Ede, L. & Lunsford, A. (1985/1999). Audience addressed/audience invoked: The role of audience in composition theory and pedagogy. In L. Ede (Ed.) On writing research: The Braddock essays, 1975-1998 (pp. 156-171). Boston, MA: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press.
Fiorenza, P. (2014). GIS: A platform for enhancing policy and civic engagement. ESRI and GovLoop. Retrieved from https://www.govloop.com/resources/gis-a-platform-for-enhancing-policy-and-civic-engagement-new-report/
Felt, U., & Fochler, M. (2010). Machineries for making publics: Inscribing and describing publics in public engagement. Minerva, 48(3), 219-238. doi:10.1007/s11024-010-9155-x
Foss, S. K., & Griffin, C. L. (1995). Beyond persuasion: A proposal for an invitational rhetoric. Communication Monographs, 62(1), 1-18. doi:10.1080/03637759509376345
Garett, R., Chiu, J., Zhang, L., & Young, S. D. (2016). A literature review: Website design and user engagement. Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, 6(3), 1-14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974011/
Girardin, L. (2015). “5 website best practices from the 2015 Center for Digital Government award winners.” GovLoop. Retrieved from https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/5-website-best-practices-2015-center-digital-government-award-winners/
Gore, A. (1994, March 21). Information superhighway. International Telecommunications Union speech. Speech retrieved from http://vlib.iue.it/history/internet/algorespeech.html
Grossman, L. (1996). The electronic republic. New York: Viking.
Habermas, J. (1991). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society (T. Burger with F. Lawrence, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Herring, S. (1993). Gender and democracy in computer-mediated communication. Electronic Journal of Communication, 3(2), 1-17.
Herring, S. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
Hsieh, H.F., & Shannon, S. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. doi:10.1177/1049732305276687
Hurlbert, M., & Gupta, J. (2015). The split ladder of participation: A diagnostic, strategic, and evaluation tool to assess when participation is necessary. Environmental Science & Policy, 50, 100-113. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.01.011
International City-County Management Association. (2011). E-participation/e-democracy survey. ICMA. Retrieved from https://icma.org/documents/icma-survey-research-2011-e-democracy-survey-summary
International City-County Management Association. (2014). ICMA digital use survey 2014.
ICMA. Retrieved from https://icma.org/documents/icma-survey-research-digital-use-survey-2014
King, C. S., & Nank, R. (2011). Citizens, administrators, and their discontents. In C. S. King (Ed.) Government is us 2.0 (pp. 3-16). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Kock, C., & Villadsen, L. S. (2012). Rhetorical citizenship and public deliberation. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Krzmarzick, A. (2013). Innovating at the point of citizen engagement: Making every moment
count. GovLoop white paper. Retrieved from https://www.govloop.com/resources/
Lambiase, J. (2010). Hanging by a thread: Topic development and death in an online discussion of breaking news. Language@Internet, 7, urn:nbn:de:0009-7-28145. Retrieved from http://www.languageatinternet.org/articles/2010/2814
Lambiase, J., and Bright, L. (2016). Boosters, idealized citizens, and cranks: City communicators share and moderate information in social media, but real engagement is messy and time-consuming. In A. L. Hutchins & N. T. J. Tindall (Eds.) Public relations and participatory culture: Fandom, social media and community engagement (pp. 132-143). New York, NY: Routledge.
Lanham, R. (1993). The electronic word: Democracy, technology, and the arts. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Latorre, D. (2011). Digital placemaking, authentic civic engagement. The Project for Public Spaces. Retrieved from https://www.pps.org/article/digital-placemaking-authentic-civic-engagement.
Leonard, M., & Lahman, S. (2017, March 10). Dutchess scores high in review of county websites. Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network. Retrieved from http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/2017/03/10/dutchess-scores-high-review-county-websites/98911836/
Lunsford, A. & Ede, L. (2009). Among the audience: On audience in an age of new literacies. In M. E. Weiser, B. M. Fehler, and A. M. Gonzalez (Eds.) Engaging audience: Writing in an age of new literacies (42-69). Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Manatt, A., Blake, S., Mathews, J., & Schneider, T. K. (2011). Hear us now? A California survey of digital technology’s role in civic engagement and local government. The New America Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.ca-ilg.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/hear_us_now.pdf
Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No sense of place. New York, NY: Oxford.
Mill, E., & Brooks, G. (2014, December 8). A complete list of .gov domains. U.S. General Services Administration. Retrieved from https://18f.gsa.gov/2014/12/18/a-complete-list-of-gov-domains/
Mitchell, A. A. (1986). The effect of verbal and visual components of advertisement on brand attitudes and attitude toward the advertisements. The Journal of Consumer Research, 13(1), 12-24. doi:10.1086/209044
Newsom, G., & Dickey, L. (2013). Citizenville: How to take the town square digital and reinvent government. New York: Penguin Press.
Nielsen, J. (2013). Homepage real estate allocation. Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/homepage-real-estate-allocation/
Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. (2017). One PGH: Pittsburgh’s resilience strategy. City of Pittsburgh. Retrieved from http://onepgh.pittsburghpa.gov
Poster, M. (1990). The mode of information: Poststructuralism and the social context. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Quinn, S. (2015). Eye-tracking photojournalism: New research explores what makes a photograph memorable, shareable, and worth publishing. National Press Photographers Association. Retrieved from https://nppa.org/news/eyetracking-photojournalism-new-research-explores-what-makes-photograph-memorable-shareable-and
Rakow, L. (1988). Gendered technology, gendered practice. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 5(1), 57-70. doi:10.1080/15295038809366685
Raths, D. (2016). The big redesign: What’s next for government websites? Government Technology. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/internet/The-Big-Redesign-Whats-Next-for-Government-Websites.html
Rosen, J. (2014). What’s next in digital communications for government? Adobe Public Sector Blog. Retrieved from https://blogs.adobe.com/adobeingovernment/whats-next-in-digital-communications-for-government/
Ruhland, A. (2014). Why home page sliders are ineffective (and what’s replacing them). Leadpages. Retrieved from https://www.leadpages.net/blog/home-page-sliders-ineffective-whats-replacing/
Ryder, P. M. (2009). The stranger question of audience: Service learning and public rhetoric. In M. E. Weiser, B. M. Fehler, & A. M. Gonzalez (Eds.) Engaging audience: Writing in an age of new literacies (pp. 207-228). Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Ryder, P. M. (2011). Rhetorics for community action: Public writing and writing publics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Schade, A., Cheng, Y., & Sherugar, S. (2016). Top 10 enduring web-design mistakes. Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/top-10-enduring/
Shueh, J. (2015). Three lessons from New York’s website redesign. Government Technology. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/internet/3-Lessons-from-New-Yorks-Website-Redesign.html
Smith, A. (2017). Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/
Smith, S. (2015). 6 key takeaways about how Americans view their government. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/23/6-key-takeaways-about-how-americans-view-their-government/
Svara, J., & Denhardt, J. (2010). Citizen engagement, why and how? In J. Svara & J. Denhardt (Eds.) Connected communities: Local governments as partner in citizen engagement and community building (pp. 5-51). Decatur, GA: The Alliance for Innovation.
Thomas, J. C. (2013). Citizen, customer, partner: Rethinking the place of the public in public management. Public Administration Review, 73(6), 786-796. doi:10.1111/puar.12109
Wood, C., Knell, N., Pittman, W., Newcombe, T., Eidam, E., McCauley, R., & Mulholland, J. (2016). 2016 Best of the Web winners demonstrate technological innovation, service delivery improvements. Government Technology. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/internet/2016-Best-of-the-Web-Award-Winners-Announced.html
Zahra. (2016). Everything you need to know about .gov domains. TownWeb. Retrieved from https://www.townweb.com/2016/09/30/everything-need-know-gov-domains/
Zavattaro, S. M. (2013). Cities for sale: Municipalities as public relations and marketing firms. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Zheng, Y., Schachter, H. L., Holzer, M. (2014). The impact of government form on e-participation: A study of New Jersey municipalities. Government Information Quarterly 31(4), 653-659. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2014.06.004
By submitting to the Journal of Public Interest Communications, the author(s) agree to the terms of the Author Agreement. All authors retain copyrights associated with their article contributions and agree to make such contributions available under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) 4.0 upon publication.
This agreement takes effect upon acceptance of the Submission for publication in JPIC.
- I hereby grant to the University of Florida (“the University”) the non-exclusive right to retain, reproduce and distribute the Submission in whole or in part, in print and electronic format and in any medium. This agreement does not represent a transfer of copyright to the University.
- The University may make and keep multiple copies of the work for purposes of security, backup, preservation and access; and may migrate the work to any medium or format for the purpose of preservation and access.
- I represent and warrant to the University that the work is my original work and that I have the authority as sole author or I have the authority on behalf of my co-authors to grant the rights contained in this agreement. I also represent that the work does not, to the best of my knowledge, infringe or violate any rights of others.
- I further represent and warrant that I have obtained all necessary rights to permit the University to reproduce and distribute the work, including any third-party material. Alternatively, I represent that my use of any third-party material is allowed because the material is not in copyright or I have performed a fair use analysis and reasonably believe my use is permitted. Any content owned by a third party is clearly identified and acknowledged within the work.
- I grant these same rights to the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida. Additionally, I grant the right to both the University and Smathers Libraries to enter into agreements with third-party entities and the rights necessary to host, print, index and abstract the Submission.
Open Access and Self-Archiving
JPIC follows an open-access publishing model, meaning that all articles will be publicly accessible on the Internet immediately upon publication. I understand that I may share the submitted manuscript (preprint) of the Submission on the Internet at any point before or after publication, with a citation and link to the final version of record to be added as soon as the issue is available. I may disseminate the final peer-reviewed version at any point after publication.
Creative Commons License
JPIC applies a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) 4.0 to encourage sharing and reuse of content and to maximize the impact of published research. By publishing in JPIC, I agree that the terms of this license will be applied to the Submission. Smathers Libraries (email@example.com) may be able to offer additional information.
By granting this license, I acknowledge that I have read and agreed to the terms of this agreement.