Tobias Escher

 Tobias Escher

Tobias Escher has interests in citizen-government relationships online (eParticipation, eGovernment), in political representation as well as e-Social Science methods. He has a background in Communication Studies, Computer Science and Politics.

Profile

Tobias Escher is a DPhil student in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences as well as a part-time researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Tobias has interests in citizen-government relationships online (eDemocracy, eGovernment) - in particular their evaluation, in political representation as well as e-Social Science research methods. He is currently dividing his time between Oxford and Berlin.

Before coming to Oxford he worked as a Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science at University College London. Tobias holds a Masters degree in Globalization and Communications from the University of Leicester. In addition he has an extensive background in Media and Communication Studies as well as Computer Science from Freie Universitaet Berlin.

Tobias's academic work is focused primarily on the use of Information and Communication Technologies for politics, both from a government perspective (eGeovernment) as well as from a citizen perspective (eDemocracy, eParticipation). He also develops tools to collect and analyse data from the Web.

Tobias's doctoral research is an empirical analysis of German and UK e-democracy websites, assessing whether they bring in people not otherwise involved in political debate, or whether they simply reinforce the influence of those already active in politics. By taking a comparative perspective involving Germany and the UK this work aims to assess the potential of online contacts between citizens and representatives for reducing biases in political participation patterns and in this way for contributing to more equal political representation. The case studies are WriteToThem.com in the UK and Abgeordnetenwatch.de in Germany.

Beyond his doctoral research he has (co)produced a number of reports evaluating efforts in electronic participation. These include work for the German Parliament (evaluating its platform for online petitions; with Zebralog), the UK National Audit Office (evaluating the online presence of UK government; with Prof. Helen Margetts as well as the Public Policy Group of the LSE), the UK Prime Minister's Strategy Unit (research of the 'Power of Information' report) and for mySociety, a not-for-profit whose evaluation efforts he is currently leading. He also teaches on the subject of the Internet and democracy.

See Tobias's Website for more on his current research.

Research interests

democratic participation, political representation, e-government, evaluation, social implications of the Internet, user experiments, webmetrics, social network analysis

Positions held at the OII

  • DPhil Alumnus, December 2012 -
  • DPhil student, October 2006 - December 2012

Research

Current projects

  • OXLab: Oxford eXperimental Laboratory

    October 2006 -

    Oxford eXperimental Laboratory is undertaking laboratory-based experiments (eg information-seeking tasks) on networked computers in two disciplines: Economics (interactive decision making) and Political Science (evaluating government information online).

  • Government on the Web

    October 1999 -

    Research dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of e-government and the impact of web-based technologies on government.

Past projects

Publications

Articles

Chapters

  • Escher T. (2010) Wi(e)der die üblichen Verdächtigen? Politische Beteiligung via Internet. In: Emmer M, Seifert M and Wolling J (eds) Politik 2.0? Die Wirkung computervermittelter Kommunikation auf den politischen Prozess. München: Nomos, pp. 131-150.

Conference papers

Presentations

  • Escher, T. (2008) Keep Your Friends Close: Using MySpace to Analyse the Geography of Social Networks. Presented at OII-Nuffield Social Networks Seminar, University of Oxford, 24 November 2008.
  • Escher, T. (2008) WriteToThem.com - An Analysis of User Demography, Motivations and Usage Patterns. Presented at Politik 2.0, Annual Conference of DG PuK, Section: Computer-mediated Communication, Ilmenau, 7 November 2008.
  • Escher, T. (2008) Agenda Setting Online - Developing a Methodology to Assess Whether Bloggers Rate Topics Independently from Media. Presented at General Online Research Meeting, Hamburg, 12 March 2008.
  • Richter, W. and Escher, T. (2008) The Performance of Online News Aggregators. Re:Publica 08, Berlin, April 2008.
  • Escher, T. (2007) An Introduction to Web 2.0 (and What it Might Mean for Public Sector Information). Presented at Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information, Oxford, 12 November 2007.

Reports

Theses

Working papers

Thesis

Escher, T. (2012) Does use of the Internet further democratic participation? A comparison of citizens' interactions with political representatives in the UK and Germany. DPhil Thesis, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Supervisor

Blog

  • Out Now: Evaluation of TheyWorkForYou.com and WriteToThem.com

    Tobias Escher on 15 Jun 2011 20:09PM

    Today I am very proud to announce that mySociety have published my very detailed reports on two of the most successful eDemocracy projects worldwide: You can download these evaluations of TheyWorkForYou.com and WriteToThem.com from the official mySociety [...]

  • Harvard, Oxford and now Berlin? A new research centre on the Internet & Society (by Google)

    Tobias Escher on 22 Feb 2011 10:24AM

    There are not many high profile research institutions in the world that focus explicitly on the social aspects of the Internet. Arguably the most prominent but in any case the oldest one is constituted by our friends at the Berkman Center for Internet [...]

  • Did Dominic Raab MP have a right to complain and Was he right to complain?

    Tobias Escher on 15 Sep 2010 16:40PM

    About a good month ago, Tory MP Dominic Raab hit the news as he was demanding removal of his parliamentary email address from a campaigning website (this even made it into the headlines in Germany). The story so far The story itself is quickly told: [...]

  • Get to know the Institute’s main donor: Dame Stephanie Shirley aka Steve

    Tobias Escher on 25 May 2010 08:46AM

    One very British radio show that I very much enjoy is Desert Island Discs, a programme on BBC Radio 4 that asks its guest which eight records they would choose to take with them to a desert island. Thanks to this concept, the presenter Kirsty Young and [...]

  • Congratulations Max!

    Tobias Escher on 17 May 2010 09:37AM

    Honour where honour is due: Our colleague Max Loubser got his PhD from Oxford just last week and this is really just to say: Congratulations! Well done! So  proud. And just that little bit envious Read more about Max and his work.

  • Are software developers political? Or should they be?

    Tobias Escher on 24 Feb 2010 11:01AM

    So there is this nice guy Jeff Gilfelt, a software developer from Reading, who has made some headlines with his iPhone/Android application called ASBOromoter which gives you simple access to government data on the number of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders [...]

  • The joy of a searchable Hansard or Why open data matters for research!

    Tobias Escher on 17 Feb 2010 16:41PM

    It is no secret that I’m a great admirer of mySociety’s work and I even try to contribute a little bit to it myself through some of the research I do for them but today I would just like to share briefly an example of how much difference it [...]

  • An online tool for rating the difficulty of government forms

    Tobias Escher on 13 Jan 2010 11:28AM

    Today we launch a new online toolkit that allows rating the difficulty of paper, online and phone-based forms (you can find infos on the launch event here). It is intended for government departments but most of the categories apply to non-government forms [...]

  • Sunlight for Eric Schmidt

    Tobias Escher on 15 Dec 2009 09:58AM

    Last week someone said this: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Now of course it will be immediately obvious to most people that this is simply wrong and [...]

  • A new social contract for authoritarian regimes

    Tobias Escher on 7 Dec 2009 10:39AM

    In the latest issue of UK magazine Prospect, Georgetown University fellow Evgeny Morozov offers his critical take on what the Internet will do to democracy. Under the title “How dictators watch us on the web” he gives various examples in which [...]

  • Government on the Internet – everywhere but not everytime

    Tobias Escher on 2 Sep 2009 11:49AM

    Poor Gordon Brown: There are currently 4,553 petitions open on Downing Street’s ePetitions site and all of them need to be checked personally by the Prime Minister – at least that is the impression you get. These days, if you visit the site to [...]

  • Lessig, Wales, Doctorow & Escher in Berlin

    Tobias Escher on 26 Mar 2009 15:46PM

    From 1 – 3 April Berlin is again hosting re:publica a social media cum activist conference which is now in its third year and that attracts well over 1,000 people. This year’s line-up includes among others Lawrence Lessig (Code is Law, [...]

  • Old technology, fresh minds: OII DPhil trip to Bletchley Park

    Tobias Escher on 10 Mar 2009 13:59PM

    It is the time of year again where we (as doctoral students of the Oxford Internet Institute) have the sudden urge to get out from our dark, only LCD screen-lit cellars of the institute into the real world. To this end we have been organising an OII DPhil [...]

  • Internet & Democracy workshop wrap-up

    Tobias Escher on 10 Mar 2009 09:45AM

    The Internet & Democracy workshop here in Oxford has been filled with very valuable presentations and discussions. Corinna di Gennaro, who was instrumental in setting this up, has a good summary on her blog. I presented results from the recent [...]

  • The Internet and Democracy workshop

    Tobias Escher on 5 Mar 2009 12:10PM

    Happening just now: A two day workshop on the Internet and Democracy “Lessons Learnt and Future Directions”, organised jointly by the Berkman Center, the Oxford Internet Institute and the Reuters Institute. Of course this is not the first [...]

  • eDemocracy at work – A user perspective on WriteToThem.com

    Tobias Escher on 17 Nov 2008 14:43PM

    At last week’s eDemocracy’08 I talked about the users of WriteToThem.com and their experience when trying to communicate with their political representatives because this is what WriteToThem is about – making it easy for people to find [...]

  • Are mainstream media the future of citizen journalism?

    Tobias Escher on 13 Nov 2008 14:59PM

    Last Tuesday I have been listening to a talk by Helen Boaden, the Director of BBC News. She was speaking at the eDemocracy’08 conference about the role of citizen journalism for established media such as the BBC and you can find the full talk on her [...]

  • How to find out whether eParticipation works or not

    Tobias Escher on 27 Oct 2008 12:10PM

    Under the title Effectiveness of E-Participation: Rules Of Engagement I have written a short piece for the E-Government Bulletin, a large email newsletter for practitioners and researchers interested in digital technologies and government. Given the short [...]

  • Internet Research 9.0

    Tobias Escher on 23 Oct 2008 14:54PM

    Realising that it has been rather quite on this space I felt compelled to give at least a small sign of life – which is about the only real reason to blog about a recent conference I’ve been to. Internet Research 9.0 took place in Copenhagen [...]

  • Chinese Internet filtering – maybe not so sophisticated after all?

    Tobias Escher on 23 Aug 2008 11:15AM

    Ever since the first stories broke about the Chinese filtering Internet access for foreign journalists at the Olympics Main Press Center (MPC) I have been wondering why the relevant Chinese authorities would be so stupid. After all, it was more than [...]