This article examines the citizen representativeness of crowdsourcing achieved through 311 systems—the non-emergency and quality of life service request reporting systems used by local governments. Based on surveys of San Francisco residents conducted in 2011, 2013, and 2015, our findings suggest that no systematic biases exist in participation rates across a range of socio-economic indicators. In addition, the findings provide evidence that participation may be responding positively to the city’s responsiveness, thus creating a self-reinforcing process that benefits an increasingly diverse and representative body of users. This inquiry builds on earlier studies of Boston and San Francisco that show that 311 systems did not bias response to traditionally disadvantaged groups (lower socioeconomic status or racial/ethnic minorities) at the demand level nor from high-volume users.
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A contractor in Denver, Colorado utilized 311 to report problems with sidewalks to the city so that they could generate more work for their firm. Thus, it is conceivable that in rare cases 311-enabled crowdsourcing could be used for private rather than public gain—though sidewalks that are repaired still benefit all that use them.
With the shift to phone-only surveying in 2015 the company doing the survey alternated using/not using some sections of the survey randomly to assure the survey was not too long. This results in the large difference between the total size of the sample, and the useful number of observations used in the analysis.
A supervisor district is political geography within the city of San Francisco. A Supervisor in the San Francisco context is a city councilor or county commissioner with a specified jurisdiction of representation or their District.
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Clark, B.Y., Brudney, J.L. Citizen Representation in City Government-Driven Crowdsourcing. Comput Supported Coop Work 28, 883–910 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-018-9308-2
- citizen participation
- 311 systems
- mobile applications