We recently spoke with Nicole Goodman, the Centre’s Research Director, about her involvement in this initiative, the need for more knowledge and research around e-Democracy in Canada, and her hopes for the Centre’s future. Here’s what she had to say.
What prompted you to get involved in with the Centre?
I think democracy in this country is in flux ? some say it’s changing, others contend it’s eroding. I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know it is important for us to shed light on these developments. At the same time as people have been calling the quality of Canadian democracy into question, use and adoption of digital and mobile technologies has been growing exponentially ? changes which certainly have implications for the practice of Canadian democracy.
I think the vision for the Centre will make an important contribution toward learning about the impacts and interconnectedness of these two processes.
A second motivation is the Centre’s focus on knowledge translation and dissemination. Too often great scholarly findings are printed in an article for an academic journal, which many people are not able to access or interpret. Taking these findings, writing them in clear, plain language, and making them freely available holds real promise to ensure this knowledge reaches a broader audience and will deliver better value for money for research dollars awarded to academics.
Why should we care about the study of e-Democracy?
We should care about the Centre because it will be the first of its kind in Canada ? a place focused on carrying out and facilitating innovative research on digital technologies. The Centre’s additional focus on translating and disseminating knowledge will hopefully represent a shift in the ways in which academic findings are made available.
Why do we need more knowledge and research?
Knowledge and research in this area is particularly important since developments are unfolding so quickly and digital technology is truly pervading our way of life. We need to learn about these effects to better understand impacts on behaviour and attitudes, recognize the changes to our democratic institutions, and to better inform policy.
What is knowledge creation and translation?
The idea of creating knowledge refers to generating knowledge about a particular area, issue or topic. Translating this knowledge means to make it jargon-free, easy to understand, and access with the goal of increasing accessibility to research findings and ensuring a broader audience is able to benefit from, or make use of, this information.
What do you hope the Centre will achieve?
My hope is that the Centre will become a hub for e-democracy research and knowledge in Canada. This means the Centre will make important findings and analyses freely available online for anyone to access, in easy to read formats, to improve dissemination and translation of innovative research being carried out by scholars. This knowledge will be available for citizens, governments, industry, and other actors and will hopefully lead to more informed policy development in the area of digital technology.
For governments specifically, it would be nice if the Centre outputs could help eliminate duplication of research currently being carried out between departments and among different levels of government.
Two broader goals are to actively engage societal actors in the research, and to help improve the democratic character of Canada by learning about how digital technology is shaping and impacting our social and political way of life.