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Of course social media is transforming politics. But it’s not to blame for Brexit and Trump

Of course social media is transforming politics. But it’s not to blame for Brexit and Trump

After Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, 2016 will be remembered as the year of cataclysmic democratic events on both sides of the Atlantic. Social media has been implicated in the wave of populism that led to both these developments. Attention has focused on echo chambers, with many arguing that social media users exist […]

Don’t Shoot the Messenger! What part did social media play in 2016 US e­lection?

Commentators have been quick to ‘blame social media’ for ‘ruining’ the 2016 election in putting Mr Donald Trump in the White House. Just as was the case in the campaign for Brexit, people argue that social media has driven us to a ‘post-truth’ world of polarisation and echo chambers. Is this really the case? At […]

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Brexit, voting, and political turbulence

Cross-posted from the Princeton University Press blog. The authors of Political Turbulence discuss how the explosive rise, non-normal distribution and lack of organization that characterizes contemporary politics as a chaotic system, can explain why many political mobilizations of our times seem to come from nowhere. On 23rd June 2016, a majority of the British public voted in a […]

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Back to the bad old days, as civil service infighting threatens UK’s only hope for digital government

Technology and the public sector have rarely been happy bedfellows in the UK, where every government technology project seems doomed to arrive late, unperform and come in over budget. The Government Digital Service (GDS) was created to drag the civil service into the 21st century, making services “digital by default”, cheaper, faster, and easier to use. […]

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Alan Turing Institute and OII: Summit on Data Science for Government and Policy Making

The benefits of big data and data science for the private sector are well recognised. So far, considerably less attention has been paid to the power and potential of the growing field of data science for policy-making and public services. On Monday 14th March 2016 the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the Alan Turing Institute […]

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Digital Disconnect: Parties, Pollsters and Political Analysis in #GE2015

Digital data generated during election campaigns are a valuable – but underused – source of information for political parties, pollsters and political analysts alike. They contain signals of what political parties are doing, how they are being received, and what people are thinking and talking about. The OII’s Helen Margetts and Scott Hale discuss how use of digital tools and social media by the two largest parties both, in different ways, illustrate a disconnect between the tightly controlled party campaigns, and the electorate on social media. These differences could lend a clue to why the opinion polls throughout the UK’s GE2015 campaign got it so wrong, and provide signposts for parties seeking to rebuild their relatioship with their supporters after this surprising election.

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Technological innovation and disruption was a big theme of the WEF 2014 in Davos: but where was government?

The 2014 meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) aimed to develop the insights, initiatives and actions necessary to respond to the profound political, economic, social and technological forces that are transforming our lives, communities and institutions. OII Director Helen Margetts reports her experience of the event and reflects on an absent guest from this feast of futurism — the nature of government in a rapidly changing world.

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Five recommendations for maximising the relevance of social science research for public policy-making in the big data era

In a previous post, OII Director Helen Margetts outlined ways in which the environment in which public policy is made has entered a period of dramatic change; one in which ‘big data’ presents both promises and threats to policy-makers. Here she discusses how social scientists can help policy-makers in this changed environment, ensuring that social science research remains relevant, and warns that social science concerns or questions may be increasingly ignored if ‘big data’ education and training is left completely in the hands of computer scientists.

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The promises and threats of big data for public policy-making

The environment in which public policy is made has entered a period of dramatic change; one in which ‘big data’ presents both promises and threats to policy-makers. Big data offers a chance for policy-making and implementation to be more citizen-focused, taking account of citizens’ needs, preferences and experience of public services. But it is also technologically challenging for government, and presents new moral and ethical dilemmas to policy makers. OII Director Helen Margetts discusses how policy-makers might respond to this changed environment.

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Experiments are the most exciting thing on the UK public policy horizon

OII Professor Helen Margetts discusses how the massive growth in Internet-mediated interactions creates a need for innovative methods to research online activity. Experimental laboratories — where subjects participate in games or information-seeking tasks on networked computers — have been used by experimental economists for some time, but the great expansion in online social and commercial activity means that they have growing utility in sociology and political science.

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