Predicting Civic Hackathons in Local Communities: Perspectives from Social Capital and Creative Class Theory

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Presented at the ISTR Conference, Stockholm
The growth of technology-led voluntary efforts has blossomed in the past decades. While some of these are online, others are face to face. Hackathons are a part of the latter group. Volunteers come to work on community problems that involve technology. They are mostly short term face to face events. While they might be considered instances of episodic volunteering, they represent a regular series of volunteering opportunities for others. Hackathons are generally associated with the Civic Technology Movement, which aims at involving citizens, nonprofits and other stakeholders in reinventing government. Civic hacking is a new phenomenon, and the literature is limited. An important issue that has not been explored is why certain communities have hackathons while others do not. In this research effort, we hope to fill that gap in the literature by exploring the following questions: 1) Are there variations among communities in their use of Civic Hackathons to solve community issues? 2) Which factors account for this variation (if any)? Theoretical Framework: To explain this variation we will need to account for differences in community problem-solving and labor-force characteristics. The theoretical framework uses Social Capital Theory (Putnam, 2000) and Creative Class Theory (Florida, 2003). Social capital theory speaks to the participatory nature of community problem solving while Creative Class Theory deals with the nature of the labor force. Methodology: This is cross sectional study using secondary data. The unit of analysis is U.S. counties. The dependent variable is the presence or absence of a Hackathon. The independent variables are an index of social capital and an index of creative class employment. Statistical analysis is accomplished with a generalized linear analysis using logistic regression. Findings: The results suggest that creative class workforce and location in a metropolitan area are better predictors of the location of a Hackathon than social capital.
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Hackathons, E-Government, Civic Technology