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Living Room Conversation Guide: Guns and Responsibility

Living Room Conversation published the conversation guide, Guns and Responsibility, which was released October 2017. The guide gives pointers on how to hold living room conversations in order to develop a deeper understanding between participants around gun beliefs, gun safety, and responsible gun ownership. You can read the guide below, find a downloadable PDF here, or the original on Living Room Conversation’s site here.

From the guide…

Overview
In Living Room Conversations, a small group of people (e.g. 4-7) people come together to get to know one another in a more meaningful way. Guided by a simple and sociable format, participants practice being open and curious about all perspectives, with a focus on learning from one another, rather than trying to debate the topic at hand.

The Living Room Conversation Ground Rules
Be Curious and Open to Learning
Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning.
Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment
Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better
enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground and Appreciate Differences
In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on
some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others
Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and (more…)

How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? (Issue Advisory)

The 4-page issue advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? was published September 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the tragic realities of mass shootings that are occurring in our communities. The issue advisory is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

The tragic attacks in Orlando, Florida, San Bernardino, California, and other places have raised concerns among many people across the nation. Other violent episodes, such as a teenager who was gunned down after returning home from the president’s inauguration, have also drawn attention. While mass shootings are infrequent, they may be increasing. Each event has devastating effects on the entire community.

Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in locales where people ordinarily (and rightly) feel safe—movie theaters, college campuses, schools. How can we stop these violent acts and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?

This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks:

​Option 1: Reduce the Threat of Mass Shootings
The problem is that we are too vulnerable to violence. Communities and homes should be places where people are safe. The means for carrying out (more…)

Review of Democracy, Deliberation and Education

The 5-page review written by Stacie Molnar-Main of Democracy, Deliberation and Education (2017), by Robert Asen was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the book, Asen compiled and analyzes case studies of three school boards’ deliberations over a two-year period and how they addressed concerns of accountability and policy change. Read an excerpt of the review below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the review…

Democracy, Deliberation and Education is comprised of case studies of three school boards’ deliberations over a two-year period, during which board members addressed local educational concerns in the context of accountability and market driven state and federal policies. Through these cases, Robert Asen demonstrates how theoretical issues in deliberative decision-making manifest in the work of local boards as they decide how to approach issues like district extra-curricular activities, finances, personnel and open enrollment. Drawing on the work of deliberative theorists such as Habermas, Rawls, Dewey, and others, the book explores themes raised by the boards’ deliberation and argues that school boards are positioned to play a pivotal role in advancing the “Great Community” that Dewey envisioned.

The book includes five theme-based chapters, in addition to an introduction and conclusion. Early on, Asen references public sphere theory when he describes school boards as “strong publics” – publics engaged in both opinion formation and policy-making. As such, they serve as sites where “participants might engage one another to develop collectively perspectives and positions that each might not hold individually and to act on these perspectives and positions in charting a common course” (p. 35). Asen argues that school boards are distinct from most other examples of strong publics because they operate within an “education policy network.” This requires them to spend time interacting in state and federal policymaking environments, as well as in direct interaction with local constituents. From this unique space, the book explores how board members—as interlocutors— negotiate a policy environment which may constrain deliberation, while responding to contingent developments, localized needs and contested matters within (more…)

Review of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments

The 5-page review written by Nancy A. Vamvakas of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments (2017), by Jürg Steiner, Maria Clara Jaramillo, Rousiley C. M. Maia, and Simona Mameli, was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the book, the authors analyze group discussions from three distinct conflicts in Colombia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Brazil; and discuss the various approaches to deliberation in each area. Read an excerpt of the review below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the review…

Indeed, this book is the result of a very ambitious undertaking; Jürg Steiner et. al. have compiled and analyzed group discussions among ex-guerrillas and exparamilitaries in Colombia, among Serbs and Bosniaks in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and among poor community residents and police officers in Brazilian favelas.

The discussions were facilitated by passive moderators who posed a general question about peace, but did not intervene; facilitators did not ask further questions and did not ask participants to speak up. In the case of Colombia, the groups were asked: what are your recommendations so that Colombia can have a future of peace, where people from the political left and the political right, guerrillas and paramilitaries, can live peacefully together? (p. 24). The Bosnian groups were asked to formulate recommendations for a better future in BosniaHerzegovina (p. 31). Finally, in Brazil, discussants were given the following question: How is it possible to create a culture of peace between poor community residents and the local police? (p. 36).

Steiner et. al. advance the on-going debate between those deliberative theorists who stress a purely rational approach and those who adopt a softer focus which incorporates finer threads of emotions. The authors argue that (more…)

The prism of the public sphere: The COP15 coverage by the Brazilian media system

The 30-page article, The prism of the public sphere: The COP15 coverage by the Brazilian media system (2017), was written by Diógenes Lycarião and Antal Wozniak, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors provide an analysis of the contributions media provides for the public to understand and engage with deliberative and governmental processes, as exemplified in the Brazilian coverage of the 15th UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP15). Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

In studies of political communication, news media are often regarded as a locus for what Page (1996) calls “mediated deliberation” (for an up-to-date overview, see Rinke, 2016), i.e. the sphere in which “communication professionals convey information, values, and diverse points of view to the mass public, which then deliberates vicariously through the give-and-take and to-and-fro of these various professionals” (Gastil, 2008, p. 50). Based on this paradigm, increasingly sophisticated methods and analyses have been developed to assess the “deliberativeness” of media content (cf. Wessler & Rinke, 2014; van der Wurff, Verhoeven, & Gadellaa, 2013).

This strand of literature offers valuable contributions to comprehending in a more nuanced way the different conditions under which the quality of deliberation in the media system might improve or decrease. But in our understanding of the news media’s role in the division of labor in modern societies’ “deliberative systems” (cf. Mansbridge, 1999; Parkinson & Mansbridge, 2012) a number of questions remain unanswered, especially when it comes to problems posed by increasing social complexity (cf. Bohman, 2007). This is because while most studies concerned with mediated deliberation have been focusing on deliberativeness of media content, its mediation dimension (or systemic function) has received less (more…)

Deliberative Technology: A Holistic Lens for Interpreting Resources and Dynamics in Deliberation

The 34-page article, Deliberative Technology: A Holistic Lens for Interpreting Resources and Dynamics in Deliberation (2017), was written by Jodi Sandfort and Kathryn Quick, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors “introduce the concept of deliberative technology as an integrative framework to encapsulate how facilitators and participants bring different resources into use in deliberative processes.” Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Public deliberative processes can create many positive results, including enabling participants to understand substantive issues, appreciate other perspectives, and build their abilities to develop or act upon solutions (Gutmann & Thompson, 2004; Jacobs et al., 2009; Mansbridge, 1999). To readers of this journal, this almost goes without saying. Yet, attempts to create these results often fail (Fung, 2006; Nabatchi et al., 2012; Quick & Feldman, 2011). No single dimension explains success or failure; the results of deliberation arise through a complex mixing of contextual and design features. However, as deliberation becomes an increasingly expected mode of governance (Leighninger, 2006), there is a thirst for more practical guidance about how to make deliberation efforts more successful.

Seasoned practitioners have a healthy skepticism of how-to guides. They know there is no “master recipe” or set of rules that will reliably produce successful public deliberation. Instead, they are aware that a variety of deliberative techniques exist to serve particular purposes (Creighton, 2005; Kaner, 2007; Leighninger, 2006), and are able to draw nimbly on a wide palette of them to design each deliberation to suit particular purposes (Bryson et al., 2013; Carson & Hartz-Karp 2005). Indeed, as skilled practitioners think through how to accomplish the goals of deliberation, they may experience a diminishing return on investment for advanced planning in deliberation. Many find the unpredictability of deliberative processes not only inevitable, but also inherently desirable. As they gain more experience and judgment, they actively read, respond to, and shape emergent dynamics in deliberation to steward productive deliberation. Thus, a variety of modes of engagement emerge from (more…)

Reason, Deliberation, and Democracy in Divided Societies: Perspectives from the Jafari School of Thought

The 25-page article, Reason, Deliberation, and Democracy in Divided Societies: Perspectives from the Jafari School of Thought (2017), was written by Nicolas Pirsoul, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, Pirsoul talks about how the Jafari school of thought promotes deliberative democracy and provides an opportunity to promote peace in a deeply divided society. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Jensen Sass and John Dryzek suggest that practices of deliberative democracy are universal political practices and happen in unlikely socio-cultural settings such as the one marked by the “Islamic Revival” in Egypt. They argue that “culture meets deliberation where publicly accessible meanings, symbols, and norms shape the way political actors engage one another in discourse” (Sass & Dryzek, 2014, p. 21). Here, I take their argument one step further and focus on these symbols and norms. Instead of focusing my attention on the deliberative process arising from civil society’s interpretations and disagreements over the theological and social significance of Islamic texts in a contemporary environment, I turn my attention towards the motivational basis for deliberative practices as they appear from within Islamic sources themselves, namely the Koran and Ahadith (sing. Hadith).

More specifically, I will focus my attention on Shia narrations embedded within the Jafari school of thought, also known as the Twelver Shias. There are three main reasons for narrowing down my investigation to that particular group. First, Twelver Shias represent a minority in the West (as migrants) and in the Islamic World (they represent 10 to 15 percent of the total Muslim population) (Nasr, 2007, p. 34). Second, they have suffered and still suffer from harsh persecutions at the hands of Sunni rulers ever since the Ummah split shortly after Muhammad’s death. These first two reasons are relevant if one wants to explore the significance of (more…)

A Randomly Selected Chamber: Promises and Challenges

The 26-page article, A Randomly Selected Chamber: Promises and Challenges (2017), was written by Pierre-Etienne Vandamme and Antione Verret-Hamelin, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the authors discuss the lack of confidence people have in contemporary democracy and hypothethize the hopes and challenges of how a randomly selected chamber of representatives would address this. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Contemporary democratic representation can be considered to be in crisis as indicated by the fact that many people express mistrust towards the political class in opinion surveys (Norris, 1999; Rosanvallon, 2006). As a consequence, voter turnout to elections is decreasing in most established democracies (Mair, 2013) and party affiliation and identification have become marginal (Dalton & Wattenberg, 2000). We interpret this as the result of two factors: 1) people do not believe that their representatives act in their best interests (problem of representation); and 2) democratic states have lost a lot of regulating power in a globalized economy characterized by capital mobility (problem of scale). We believe that the problem of scale partly explains the crisis of representation, but not entirely. This paper, however, will limit itself to addressing the problem of representation. Consequently, we acknowledge that the proposed solution might not be enough to tackle the identified crisis.

In this paper, we will use the term representation in two distinct senses: “statistical” or “descriptive” representation means mirroring the diversity of the people; “active” representation means acting in the best interests of the people (Pitkin, 1967; Przeworski, Stokes, & Manin, 1999, p. 2). Part of the contemporary crisis of representation stems from the fact that (more…)

From Code to Discourse: Social Media and Linkage Mechanisms in Deliberative Systems

The 37-page article, From Code to Discourse: Social Media and Linkage Mechanisms in Deliberative Systems (2017), was written by Benjamin A. Lyons, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, he explores about how deliberative democracy functions on social media and examines the ways that these platforms facilitate discourse. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Online deliberation has largely been evaluated by face-to-face standards, drawing on Habermas (1984, 1990, 1996). Some researchers (e.g., Coleman & Moss, 2012; Dahlberg, 2001; Dahlgren, 2005; Freelon, 2010; Graham, 2015; Zimmermann, 2015) have critiqued and looked beyond this approach. Instead, expanded views of deliberation have been employed (Conover & Searing, 2005; Mansbridge, 1999; Young, 2006). Implicitly, this approach is informed by a systemic view of deliberation (Mansbridge et al., 2012): Not every discussion space needs to meet every criterion, but the spaces must be linked. Unfortunately, these studies do not explicitly examine how forums might connect. Digital media studies meanwhile look at actual objects of connection as it occurs online, such as through hyperlinks, follower networks, semantic tags, and memes. By integrating these bodies of research, scholars can better evaluate deliberative functions in digital communication environments. At the same time, scholars of digital media can better frame the contribution the objects of their study make to the broader political system.

This article lays the necessary groundwork for studying social media-enabled linkage mechanisms in deliberative systems. In the first section, I overview the central tenets of deliberation, how it has been evaluated in online contexts, and recent expansions of definitions that coincide with the system or network view of deliberative democracy. The next section discusses (more…)

Discourse Quality in Deliberative Citizen Forums – A Comparison of Four Deliberative Mini-publics

The 30-page article, Discourse Quality in Deliberative Citizen Forums – A Comparison of Four Deliberative Mini-publics (2017), was written by Steffan Himmelroos, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the article, the author compares the findings from four deliberative citizen forums in order to better understand the quality of deliberation that tends to take place and suggests there are groups that have less influence in these processes. Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Since democratic theory took a deliberative turn in the early 1990s (Dryzek, 2002), there has been a growing interest in deliberative political practices where citizens resolve their differences through talking rather than voting. It has even been suggested that the deliberative ideal of a reasoned, respectful and open-minded argumentation is most likely to be attained in carefully designed citizen forums, like deliberative mini-publics (Fishkin, 1997; Fung, 2007). To gauge the promise of these deliberative mini-publics, researchers have looked into how policy opinions change as a result of taking part in deliberations (Hansen & Andersen, 2004; Himmelroos & Christensen, 2014; Luskin, Fishkin, & Jowell, 2002; Setälä, Grönlund, & Herne, 2010) and how deliberation might empower the participants (Andersen & Hansen, 2007; Gastil & Dillard, 1999; Grönlund, Setälä, & Herne, 2010; Nabatchi, 2010).

There has, nevertheless, been a lack of studies examining the quality of deliberative process (De Vries et al., 2010; Ryfe, 2005). Considering deliberative democracy’s emphasis on the quality of the process by which we reach a decision, one would think that standards of rationality, respectfulness and reflectiveness would be at least as important as the outcome. The good news is that we are seeing a growing number of studies looking into the content of discussions at deliberative citizen forums (Caluwaerts, 2012; Dutwin, 2003; Marlène Gerber, 2015; Karpowitz, Mendelberg, & Shaker, 2012). However, like most studies of deliberative forums, they still tend to (more…)

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