Political Issue Analysis System

The report from the project is available (here). And have fun with the prototype (click on the image below).

Prototype PIAS

The Internet is recognised as a vital component of our political information systems. Although extensively used by governments and civil society groups, its effects on political processes, particularly deliberative political processes, remain relatively unknown. Emerging research suggests that the Internet’s capacity to produce information quickly has also led to data overload, undermining its deliberative potential. With the advent of the National Broadband Network, the data deluge promises to intensify, increasing the need for political information” in its various guises to be delivered more meaningfully.[1] This is especially important for younger audiences increasingly abandoning broadcast media in favour of online political information[2].

This project is an iterative study and design of an online political Issues Analysis System (PIAS) to assist users in researching and analysing political issues. It will deliver information about important political topics (i.e. environmental issues, socio-economic issues, immigration, government policy, etc.) using important data sources within a coherent deliberative framework.  It will evaluate users’ needs to comprehend political problems by applying several semantic indexing and data-matching tools and designing a prototype system. It will do this in part through five public workshops using the University of Melbournes Usability Lab, each focusing on a particular issue utilising particular tools and methods.[3] It will, in tandem, uncover recommendations to assist in the design of a unique software tool that fosters user-driven processes to effectively filter and visualise online political information obtained from government data sets (partly within the government 2.0 policy framework), the media, NGOs, historical data, and other user-generated online sources; (blogs, video etc.).

The research outputs will be a working prototype and a report documenting the research outcomes with recommendations for further investigation. This project may lead to the first significant study of online deliberative processes within Australia, competitive within the ARCs Linkage or Discovery scheme. The work will be of benefit to governments, community groups and other significant producers of political sites and the users of such sites. The project is within IBESs Social Infrastructures and Community theme and, in particular, adheres to IBESs and VeRSIs shared aspirations to make existing and available data more accessible. In summary, the broad aims of the project are:

  • To explore the evolving applications of online political information tools in an Australian and International context (especially in the analysis of broadband-enabled video and audio)
  • To examine deliberative processes with several stakeholder groups using semantic indexing methods and various communication tools at the University IDEA Lab.
  • To build, test and provide further recommendations for a Political Issues Analysis System (PIAS)

Through these processes, we address the following research questions:

  • How can we better understand online deliberation in the international and Australian context, and what tools must be developed to assist this?
  • How can we better design deliberative ideas using data and online analysis tools that will involve people in a meaningful and inclusive way in consequential goal-orientated political processes?

 Approach and Outcomes:

The combination of theoretical groundwork, empirical study, and the design and implementation of the PIAS will make an essential contribution to the emerging body of research on the nature of political information on the Internet and, in particular, the use of government data. Of chief significance is that the study will make explicit and open up to critical analysis the dichotomy between the availability of government and other data sources and effective online deliberative design. By consciously foregrounding information abundance as a condition of the present information revolution through a unique fusion of political theory with semantic analysis and clustering tools,” new perspectives will emerge, and fresh research areas in design will open up.

The approach, then, is both innovative and unique because it combines the theoretical sophistication of Politics and Media Studies with the technical proficiency of Humanities Computing, eDemocracy, and Information Systems to expose important issues of online political information to critique in previously unavailable ways. [4] The work will open up theoretical and technological pathways towards a more genuinely identifiable (and sustainable) online political engagement and democratic structuring.

[1]One of the first major agencies to coin the term Data Delugewas the UK JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee): Briefing Paper, Data Deluge: Preparing for the Explosion in Data, 1 November 2004 <http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2004/pub_datadeluge.aspx> (Accessed 14 May 2010).

[2] See: Clare Kurmond, Readership Decline Continues for Papers, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 14 Mat, 2010

< http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/readership-decline-continues-for-papers-20100513-v1tk.html> (Accessed 14 May 2010).

[3]Interaction Design Evaluation Analysis (IDEA), Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne,

< http://disweb.dis.unimelb.edu.au/research/interactiondesign//usability_lab.html> (Accessed 14 May 2010).

[4] Carson, L ‘Avoiding ghettos of like-minded people: Random selection and organisational collaboration’ in S. Schuman, (ed) Creating a Culture of Collaboration, ed. Jossey Bass/Wiley.pp.418-423.



Leave a Reply