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Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing

The 27-page article, Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing (2017), was written byMargaret Jane Pitts, Kate Kenski, Stephanie A. Smith, and Corey A. Pavlich, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “This study examines the potential that shared political documentary viewing coupled with public deliberation via focus group discussion has for political sensemaking and civic engagement”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

While the field of political communication has paid attention to the importance of entertainment media in the last decade (e.g., Hmielowski, Holbert, & Lee, 2011; Young, 2004), little research has focused on political documentary as an influential medium and source for public deliberation and meaning-making (Nisbet & Aufderheide, 2009). A few studies have shown that political documentary has the potential to influence public perceptions and behaviors. For example, Howell (2011) found that UK viewers became more pro-environmental after being exposed to a film depicting the negative effects of climate change. Stroud (2007) found that the viewers of the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 were more likely to discuss politics with friends and family than were non-viewers. Related research has demonstrated that mass media generally, and political film and documentaries specifically, can enhance learning in the classroom (Krain, 2010; Sunderland, Rothermel, & Lusk, 2009) and influence the electorate (LaMarre & Landreville, 2009). Additional research has shown that combining media viewing with deliberative discursive engagement can further increase positive civic outcomes (Kern & Just, 1995; Rojas, Shah, Cho, Schmierbach, Keum, & Gil-De-Zuñiga, 2005). This may be in part due to the greater potential for collaborative sensemaking—the negotiated and discursive engagement in shared meaning making that happens during public deliberation (see Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). However, opportunities for collaborative sensemaking and public deliberation centered on a popular text are rare. Thus, we were interested in exploring focus groups as a potentially rich context for discursive engagement following the shared viewing of a political documentary (i.e., 2016, Obama’s America). We argue that when placed within the context of viewing popular political documentary, focus group discussions offer a meaningful site for public deliberation and collaborative sensemaking and as such should be added to the toolbox of deliberative pedagogy.

Download the full article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public DeliberationJournal of Public Deliberation
Spearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen-friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol13/iss2/art6/

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