2019 Best Dissertation Award

The Best Dissertation Award for 2019 goes to Erhardt Graeff for “Evaluating Civic Technology for Citizen Empowerment” (MIT Center for Civic Media).

Dr. Graeff’s dissertation posed the question: “How might we design civic technologies for citizen empowerment and evaluate their impact on this goal?” To answer this question, it explores on a case study of SeeClickFix, a civic technology company that builds tools enabling citizens to report infrastructure problems to local governments. It proposes two solutions: 1) empowerment-based design principles for civic technology and 2) a prototype toolkit for evaluating the impact of civic technology on political efficacy.

In an especially competitive year, the committee found that Dr. Graeff’s dissertation stood out in several respects: Its research topic is timely, meaningful, and impactful. Civic technology and people empowerment/engagement have shaped numerous socio-political movements in recent years. The dissertation identifies the problems with current development of civic technology and proposes concrete solutions and directions for future research. In addition to its strengths in theory and evidence, this dissertation speaks to issues – of technology, participation, and power – at the heart of AoIR’s intellectual mission.

The committee has also recognized, Dr. Ariadna Matamoros-Fernandez’s dissertation, “Platformed racism: The Adam Goodes war dance and booing controversy on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook” with an Honorable Mention.

The committee congratulates Dr. Graeff and looks forward to reading more of his future research.

AoIR is grateful for the hard work by this year’s Best Dissertation Award committee: Colin Agur (Chair), Eugenia Siapera, Carmen Lee, and Aram Sinnreich.