The Promise and Problems of Online Deliberation
We highly recommend this 2011 working paper by NCDD member Laura Black of Ohio University’s School of Communication Studies. The 50-page paper focuses on digital media’s usefulness and limitations for deliberation. It provides one of the best overviews of how online media can be used for real citizen deliberation that we’ve seen, and is accompanied by a wonderful infographic we hope to see shared widely in our field.
The paper covers important considerations like how issues are named and framed online, the role of facilitators, and the persistent debate about anonymity. It takes an honest look at some of the online tools that have been designed specifically for deliberative discussion. And it discusses what’s possible and what’s challenging in using technologies like chat, discussion forums, web conferencing, social media sites, wikis, virtual worlds, mobile devices, and budgeting tools to attempt to engage people in thoughtful discussion about contentious issues.
Many civic and deliberative organizations are working to take advantage of the tremendous potential that new and digital media offer for citizens as they attempt to discuss and address problems at both the local and national levels. We know that many of these media (Facebook, Twitter, online forums) are used effectively for self-expression and organizing.
There are challenges, however, in taking true deliberation—recognizing tradeoffs, considering other people’s experiences, and making choices—online. This 2011 Kettering Foundation working paper by Laura W. Black focuses on the question: To what extent can digital media truly offer potential opportunities for deliberative decision making, particularly the practice of deliberation itself?
To address this question, this working paper assesses features of online deliberation by reviewing online deliberative tools, examples of other potentially deliberative websites, and relevant academic research. Black describes several different design choices that are commonly used in online forums hosted by deliberative organizations, including:
- discussion boards
- real-time chat
- web conferencing
- social media
- virtual environments
Black assesses the deliberative affordances properties of the different forum design choices. The report concludes by analyzing the implications these choices hold for designing and hosting deliberative decision making as the Kettering Foundation understands it.
Laura Black is an assistant professor at the Ohio University School of Communication Studies. She works with the Kettering Foundation in their studies of digital deliberation as well as deliberation in everyday speech.
Resource Link: http://kettering.org/publications/the-promise-and-problems-of-online-deliberation/ (free download)
Link for the Infographic: http://kettering.org/publications/the-promise-and-problems-of-online-deliberation/screen-shot-2012-05-25-at-10-35-45-am/ (great to share on Pinterest or Facebook)