In this paper we introduce policy informatics as an emerging research space. Policy informatics is the study of how information systems are leveraged towards solving complex public policy problems. Leveraging information systems requires: (1) platforms for citizens to participate and engage in policy processes and with public agencies; (2) public agencies to utilize technologies to take advantage of information reservoirs for evidence-driven policy design; and (3) public agencies to be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Presented in this paper is one illustrative application of policy informatics. We explore human centered participatory platforms for facilitating deliberations on policy issues. When individuals and groups seek to collaborate to resolve policy issues, competing interests and adversarial positions on issues as well as an unawareness of the others’ perspectives often result in poor outcomes. Empathy is the act of imagining, understanding, and actively responding to the conditions and perspectives of another related to a particular situation. Therefore, generating and disseminating a strong feeling of empathy among members in these policy networks is crucial for mitigating conflicts. However, empathy generation and transfer is a complex challenge that requires systematic research within the design of participatory platforms. A thoughtful application of information systems (IS) can help bring diverse stakeholders together and promote cooperation. Human centered IS platforms facilitate richer communication channels and timely feedback to generate a sense of shared community to pursue shared goals. Interactive computer simulations is a form human centered participatory platform, which enables construction of synthetic environments for policy deliberation, and provides participants with an opportunity to jointly explore the decision space to understand the claims of other participants as legitimate.
Reference: Krishnamurthy, R., Desouza, K.C., Johnston, E.W., and Bhagwatwar, A. “A Glimpse into Policy Informatics: The Case of Participatory Platforms that Generate Synthetic Empathy,” Communications of the AIS, Forthcoming.