The Political Issues Analysis System (PIAS) project sought to investigate how citizens in Melbourne, Australia used the Internet to seek political information about key political issues. It also sought to understand how citizens contacted their elected representative about these issues. Through workshops, case studies, and the development and testing of a prototype, the research uncovered some notable trends in terms of engagement with components of the formal political system online.
Email remains the favoured means of contacting elected representatives. There are a number of systems being developed to assist online politics yet individuals still report having great difficulty discovering policies from the major parties in key policy-debate areas. Furthermore, many of the policies published by the parties exist as political advertisements and do not necessarily aid balanced or deliberative debate. This suggests that further research examining online engagement with formal political processes in key policy areas is needed. In addition, pressure needs to be placed on the parties to provide machine-readable information and to allow open-access to structured policy material that can be aggregated into third-party systems that will aid voter decision making.
Authors: Dr Craig Bellamy, Victorian eResearch Strategic Initiative (VeRSI); Dr Martin Gibbs, Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne; Dr Andy Williamson, Future Digital, Europe; Prof Sean Cubit, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton