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Alice Fubini will present a paper at the next ECPR General Conference

The paper discusses the main findings of a systematic literature review on digital media to foster transparency and counter corruption from the grassroots

24 AUGUST 2020


ECPR General Conference - Online


What Do We Know About Them? A Systematic Literature Review of Digital Media and Their Uses in Anti-Corruption from the Grassroots

In the past decades, grassroots struggles against corruption became more and more relevant across the world, ranging from small-scale efforts of specific civil society organizations to large-scale demonstrations involving social movements’ coalitions. Often times, these grassroots opposition against corruption deeply intertwined with a wide range of digital media. The literature on this topic is flourishing, but it is fragmented, and, for this reason, it is not very easy to appreciate its overall findings. To understand which are the overall trends in this fast-developing field of studies, we engaged in a systematic literature review of the extant literature on the subject matter.

The paper, developed in the framework of the BIT-ACT research project, hence presents the results of a systematic literature review of 134 peer-reviewed articles published from 2009 to 2019 in the field of political sciences, political sociology, media studies and cognate fields of research. We obtained the sample of publications following a bibliographic search on four central indexed scientific literature databases (Web of Science, Scopus, Ebsco, and ProQuest) through the construction of a search query based on Boolean logic. We formulated the query along three conceptual axes - digital media, civil society, and corruption - and we then associated with each axis a list of relevant keywords and synonymous. The initial sample of 1726 publications was then reduced to 134 studies, taking into consideration only those that are coherent with the three main topics.

We then analyzed the resulting sample along five analytical dimensions. First, the longitudinal dimension, captured through the number of articles published yearly during the selected period. Second, the type of research design, making a distinction between qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and action research studies. Third, comparative or noncomparative works, specifying for each of the countries studied. Fourth, the specific field of research, also taking into account the interdisciplinary nature of the topic. Finally, the units of analysis around which the investigations developed, making a distinction amongst individuals, groups, and institutions. Overall, the systematic literature review reveals that more than half of the studies adopt a qualitative research design; only a few studies rely on a comparative approach and, amongst those based on one case studies there is a predominance of research conducted on India, China, Egypt, Russia, and Spain.

Furthermore, the literature on this subject matter is highly multidisciplinary, whit publications spanning from media studies to social movement studies, from innovation technologies studies to public sector management studies. Also, the articles tend to favor political institutions and political organizations as units of analysis. Overall, the systematic literature review reveals a cleavage between studies that focus on grassroots engagement against corruption through digital media either from the top-down side of governmental institutions and e-governments experimentations or from the bottom-up side of social movement organizations and activists’ engagement.