Social Media and Participatory Democracy
Public Notice and the World Wide Web
With the onset of social media, government as well as personal information can be accessed at a push of a button for all to see. This book addresses the kinds of changes that public notice and published public records have experienced as governments around the world try to accommodate the digital formats for information and World Wide Web publishing, as well as presenting historical and legal underpinnings for the broader claim of a public requirement to be informed about government.
While there is concern that government information on the web will fall prey to pranks and misuse, the author argues that it is possible to reduce this risk by looking carefully at the intent of public notice and the history of democratic evolution. The book concludes with recommendations for smoothing the transition from a paper-based world of records to an environment of speed and virtual portability.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Political Communication Theories and the Development of Public Notice
- Political and Communication Theory
- Theory in Practice
- More Recent Examples
- Social Triple Helix
- Public Notice in the Twenty-First Century
- Chapter 2: The Origins of Public Notice
- Public and Private
- Public Information Values
- Accessibility as a Value of Public Information
- Authenticity as a Value of Public Information
- Ownership as a Value of Public Information
- Public Notice and Government
- Government Information and Public Notice Outcomes
- Chapter 3: Modern Legal Definitions of Public Notice
- Evolving Definitions of Public Notice
- Legal Definitions
- The Public Notice Umbrella
- Legal Expressions of Public Notice
- Constitutional, Statutory, and Administrative Statements
- Newspapers and Public Notice
- Chapter 4: Modern Examples of Web Posting
- Review of Public Notice Purpose
- Political Activists and Public Notice
- Governments and Online Public Notice
- The Middle East
- The Americas
- Chapter 5: Costs for Public Notice
- Privately Owned Newspaper Model
- Government-Owned Newspaper Model
- Privately Owned Web Publication Model
- Government-Owned Web Publication Model
- Costs Compared
- Chapter 6: Public Notice in Changing Environments
- Content and Delivery
- Specific Public Notice Situations
- Legal Notice and Individuals
- Legal Notice and a Class or Group of Individuals
- Public Notice and Entire Communities
- Public Notice and Society
- International, Transnational, and Global Public Notice
- Opportunities Rather Than Challenges
- List of Figures
- Bibliography of Printed Works
- Bibliography of Works of Law
- Bibliography of Websites and Universal Resource Locators
← vi | vii → PREFACE
Representative democracies depend on informed constituents to guide and oversee the officers who make the day-to-day decisions of government work. Voters, in turn, rely on information provided to them from those public officeholders in order to understand what needs to be done and which resources are available to accomplish the work. It is, at its most elegant, a feedback loop that works only as well as all the individual parts allow. Strong communication networks are one element of this loop that can make or break the success of the structure.
These communication networks not only help keep constituents informed about working governments’ activities but also allow voters to observe how well public officeholders are working on behalf of the electorate. Greek city-states required public reports, and there were opportunities for citizens to ask officials during public meetings to justify what was done during their terms in office. As governments have grown larger and serve larger populations, additional systems have been put in place to provide similar opportunities for reporting.
Modern representative democracies usually include an array of communication platforms, including speeches that may be broadcast over the air, handbills posted in public gathering places, advertisements and meeting reports in ← vii | viii → newspapers, bulletin boards on social networking sites, government-hosted webpages, and email listservs. Though the range of communication vehicles is now as wide as it has ever been, the contents of the government messages are usually quite specific and guided by statute. These legal structures for providing government information to the electorate often include freedom of access laws, open meetings laws, and public notice requirements.
Freedom of access, sometimes referred to as FOA, and open meetings, often called sunshine laws, are political inventions of the twentieth century. Public notice, however, has been part of representative democracies since the earliest iterations of their organization. These public notices are usually provided in the form of a document when something is about to be done or has recently been done by government. For about 200 years, these notices have often taken the form of legal notices placed as classified ads in newspapers.
The majority of the work in this book treats those instances where governments are required to provide public notice when something is about to be done, or when something that has just been done on behalf of the electorate needs to be widely publicized. Community budgets, calls for contracts or bidding, and new laws or changes in structure are often the subjects of public notice announcements, sometimes called legal notices, but these are not the only kinds of notice provided. The variations on content for public notice will be detailed more fully in chapters of this book concerning the history and definitions of legal notice.
The early chapters of this book will contextualize the theoretical frames for public notice and pose some questions that seem to be gaining traction among governments and legal scholars. In order to answer these questions, the work will present historical and legal underpinnings for the broader claim of a public requirement to be informed about government. The research presented here focuses primarily on published public records referred to throughout the book as “public notices.”
The penultimate chapter will report the kinds of changes that public notice and published public records have undergone as governments around the world try to accommodate the digital formats for information and World Wide Web publishing. The final chapter of the book will summarize the observations made in the previous chapters, and the author will make recommendations for smoothing the transition from a paper-based world of records to an environment of speed, virtual portability, and—if poorly managed— disastrous miscommunication.
← viii | ix → The author is keenly aware of the fear voiced by some policy watchers that government information on the web will fall prey to pranks and misuse. While it is possible—even likely—that the learning curve for avoiding information loss and misunderstanding will be steep, we can perhaps shorten the period of pain and mismanagement by looking carefully at the intent of public notice and the history of democratic evolution. This work aims to provide some of that recollection. ← ix | x →
← x | xi → ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This book is the product of many helpful people. I am grateful to the librarians and staff of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan for providing Reese Fellowship support, and to the librarians and staff at the University of Michigan and Indiana University law libraries for their help in pointing me in the direction of their wonderful resources. Librarians have long been among my favorite people, and these particular members of that community are exemplary.
I also thank Mary Savigar at Peter Lang Publishing for encouraging me to begin this research project and for guiding me through the acquisition process. David Copeland at Elon University, Charles Davis, now at the University of Georgia, and Kathleen Hansen at the University of Minnesota all wrote support letters so that I had a chance at the Clements Library fellowship. Thanks go to my research assistant, Rachelle Pavelko, for her thorough copyediting.
As always, I thank my patient husband, Edwin Martin, for his attention and kindness as I buried myself in this research and writing when I probably should have been attending to other aspects of our lives. Similarly, my sister and her husband, my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren generously released me from familial duties with grace and good cheer so that ← xi | xii → I could work on this project. I also thank my parents, Mary and Robert Rossi, for initially bringing this topic to my attention when I began my doctoral program two decades ago and for enthusiastically reading my draft papers along the way.
My boundless gratitude, however, goes to the many original thinkers across dozens of decades and geographies noted too briefly in the pages that follow. My biggest thrills were handling the original letters and scanning the quill’s flourishes as new knowledge was being born centuries ago. In this digital age it is easy to believe that all great ideas were born after 1993, but we all owe an almost unbearable debt to the brave intellects who came out of civilizations now barely recognized. I hope this book extends their legacies just a bit longer.
Shannon E. Martin
← xii | 1 → · 1 ·
POLITICAL COMMUNICATION THEORIES AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC NOTICE
The rationale for any one element of a political system depends on the interplay of that element with all other parts of the system. Public notice, the subject of this book, has such a long history within democracies and representative government that it seems almost redundant to have to explain or justify its character and use. Political theory helps us in this case not only to place public notice in a social construct but also to appreciate its contribution as an element of a political system and predict how the system would change if this one element were to change.
A good discussion of political theory was presented by William Bluhm in his classic text Theories of the Political System.1 Bluhm made the distinction between public government involving public politics and business or church government involving private politics. For the present work we will assume that public government and public politics are the subjects being discussed. Working on that premise, the political theory elements for us, here, will include the social process involving cooperation among those with power, leading to decision making for the group.
The relationship between and interplay of these elements—social processes, cooperation, the bestowing of power, and group decision making—remains a complicated network for government constructs. The chapters presented ← 1 | 2 → here will focus on representative democracies that are either long established or currently emerging. Though this form of government is not perfect for all social environments, it will provide the context for the following chapters of this book. The author is grateful that much has been written about the benefits and detriments of a representative democracy. The founding fathers of the United States of America rigorously debated the principles and the details for years, and much of that conversation can be found in The Federalist Papers, for example.2
These debates and those of the several centuries that followed preclude the necessity of arguing the merits of this form of government here. Instead, our attention will be focused on the particulars of communication between government functionaries and constituents within a representative democracy, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the fundamental structure.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2014 (January)
- democratic evolution government personal information misuse
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 158 pp.