I’m putting up this post even though it’s a rehash of an idea I ran here on Dart a few months back.

The “E-Government Arcade” idea is actually a very simple one, is an effort to characterise how public servants can view their online engagement with the public.

A fairly common concern expressed by public servants when discussing how and why they would engage with the public is the fear that the internet is a completely unregulated medium. If you’re putting ideas out for discussion, or attempting to gather feedback on a project or idea, there’s the chance that you’ll end up with crazy responses and hijacking of discussion by trolls (people who deliberately obfuscate, or who deliberately make trouble online).

This is of course a completely legitimate concern. Trolls are a very real problem online. But they will only become a problem in an e-government space if you let them. 

And that’s where the arcade analogy comes in. The internet itself is almost complete anarchy. You can liken this to an open park. If you’re a band on MySpace you’re effectively a busker in a park. Anyone can walk up and abuse you, sing with you, or cheer. The rules are limited, and this makes it slightly edgy and fun.

Government bureaucracy doesn’t like this kind of space though. Bureaucracy needs order, and is naturally risk averse. You can’t have random things happening. And you can’t have people firing off in all directions. that’s where the arcade idea has application.

An arcade, or a mall, is a private space that pretends to be a public space. Everyone is welcome, but there are clear rules about what you can and can’t do. Likewise in the shops in the arcade. You’re welcome in, but everyone knows that you behave according to the rules set down by the owners.

Any public interaction set up by a government agency is in effect a “shop” within the overall ‘arcade’ of the government e-space. It is a controlled space that a member of the public needs to accept is not a place where free-for-all behaviour will be tolerated. It is also there to serve a specific purpose, and will have the same limitations as other types of channels.

If you liken the public space that is “e-government” to an arcade it makes it much more comfortable for practioners to provide clear rules and parameters for the tools they construct, and therefore makes them a lot less jumpy…

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