I am taking a break from the statistical wrestling necessitated by my exam next week to note down my thoughts on my questionnaire as its been preying on my mind and is a lot more interesting than the stats (or to be more accurate more interesting than SPSS – the stats are fine!).

The questionnaire seems to have taken on a life of its own – its initial purpose was to provide a benchmark for my research so that I could measure whether the citizenscape pilots had succeeded in making people more likely to do something democratic.  However I now want to combine this with additional exploration of the similarities in behaviours required for informal participation online and formal democratic participation.  This is still work in progress but the main sections of the questionnaire will need to be:

  • Demographics – I want to find out a little about the respondents and at the moment plan to look at age, gender, educational background and main occupation.  We should also find out where (if anywhere) they use the internet.  This section should support the link between age and online participation.  There will also be a question to define their role in the process for example citizens / officers / members (though I want to make it possible for people to choose more than one role)
  • Current online activity – This section will look at what respondents already do online.  I want to cover transactions, social interactions and user generated content.  This needs to be properly catagorised but I am aiming at a distinction between doing the weekly grocery shop, posting to a friends facebook wall, gaming  and blogging.  We will also ask people to list their 3 most frequently visited sites
  • Current democratic activity:  This section will look at how involved the respondents are in their local community, communities of interest or in democratic debate more generally.  Within this section we need to look at formal and informal activity including democratic transactions such as petitions.
  • Where should this happen? This is the section that I am struggling most with as I want to ask a set of questions which explore where people want to talk about ‘important’ things, where they think they ought to be listened to and whether they see the connection which I am making between informal participation and formal decision making.  I want to ask questions which explore the idea of a virtual civic space and their feelings towards this (including opinions about moderation and co-creation) but I am going to need to think more about how to pose these theoretical attitudinal questions – and also read more about questionnaire design to support this

The questionnaire will be administered online, by paper through the pilot sites (if they are prepared to do the admin for this) and also with some interviews as I want to use this as a basis for a more substansial discussion with a few stakeholders (I might do this to pilot the questionnaire as well).  We will then run follow up interviews as well.

At the end of this process I am hoping we will have a random sample of data from a number of UK sites as well as from the other pilot areas for both CitizenScape and EuroPetition.  The first three sections will serve as a benchmark for both these projects as well as being a standalone piece of research on the current informal/formal behaviours online.  The last section is much more focused on my research question.

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